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 CURRENT ISSUE  Vol. XIX No. 23 Friday
 June 10 - June 16, 2011
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Updated every Friday by Saichon Paewsoongnern
AUTO MANIA: by Dr. Iain Corness

Canadian GP this weekend

The Grand Prix circus returns to Canada, a ‘real’ circuit for ‘real’ drivers, and none of the imitation glitz of the Monaco processions. The circuit is the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, constructed on a man-made island which had been used originally in the 1967 Expo. Previously called the Ile Notre Dame circuit, it was renamed in Villeneuve’s memory after his death in 1982. The location is one of the loveliest in Formula One since the track threads its way through lakes and parkland. It is a narrow, medium-fast, 4.4 km circuit with 13 corners. Some corners were eased for 1979, a new corner before the pits was added in 1991 and a chicane was added in 1994. And, it is possible to pass, as opposed to Monaco! With a well placed DRS, it will make passing even more probable. However it does have a couple of corners with some very unforgiving walls at the edge of the bitumen, which a few champions have tried out for size.

It will be interesting to see if McLaren use some brains and put in a banker lap in qualifying, and whether Red Bull can now handle Velcro tyre warmers.

I will be watching in front of the new and even big screen at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova Park, come what may. Qualifying is at midnight on the Saturday (groan), but why don’t you join me on the Sunday at around 11 p.m. for the midnight start with a couple of drinks first. The real enthusiasts do enjoy this late night race, as we get the pub to ourselves. I promised Landlord Kim Fletcher we would make sure the fridge doors are closed and will turn off the lights and lock the front door on our way out!

A website to remember with nostalgia


I really do feel that motor cars and the driving of same has regressed over the years. Take Porsche for example. A 1973 Carrera was quite a performance vehicle in its day. To get to the other end of your journey gave the driver a feeling of achievement. The car had performed, and so had he (or she). Today, with electronic everythings ‘mollycoddling’ the driver from ABS to traction control, upwards and downwards, that same feeling of accomplishment is no longer there.

However, fortunately many books have been written about what we all refer to as the ‘good old days’ and one publisher with a host of titles is Veloce Publishing in the UK.

The great days of GP racing

One obvious example is:

1 1/2 -litre GP Racing 1961-1965 by Mark Whitelock at Ł 39.99

This book covers the story of a Grand Prix formula largely overlooked due to the perception that the cars were underpowered and hence unspectacular. This perception ignores the significant technical developments that took place, the domination achieved by British race-car constructors and the rise of British drivers Jim Clark, Graham Hill and John Surtees. Also includes evaluations of the following drivers: Dan Gurney, Ritchie Ginther, Bruce McLaren, Phil Hill, Jack Brabham, Lorenzo Bandini, Jackie Stewart, Wolfgang von Trips, Tony Maggs, Innes Ireland, Stirling Moss, Jo Bonnier, Giancarlo Baghetti, Mike Spence, Jo Siffert, Peter Arundell, Trevor Taylor, Tony Brooks, Bob Anderson, Denis (Denny) Hulme, Ricardo Rodriguez, Godin de Beaufort, Jochen Rindt, Olivier Gendebien, Jack Lewis, Willy Mairesse, Gerhard Mitter, Jim Hall, Pedro Rodriguez, Roy Salvadori, Chris Amon, Maurice Trintignant, Walt Hansgen, Ronnie Bucknum, Richard Attwood, Masten Gregory, Neville Lederle, Lodovico Scarfiotti and Mike Hailwood.

Go to and you will see this book and pages of others. It seems to be the best motoring ‘bookshop’ around.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I asked what rally had five starters? Clues: the winner waited 50 km from the finish so that a lavish reception could be arranged. Three of the remaining cars arrived three weeks later, and one broke down 12 km after the start. It was the Peking to Paris of 1908, sponsored by the Le Matin French newspaper. It was won by Prince Borghese, driving a 40 hp Itala and it took him two months to get to the finish.

So to this week. In the Italian Job (the first one in 1969) apart from the three Mini Coopers there were three other British cars. What were they? Hint, two of them were the same model.

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

The UK still loves a Lexus

Each year the J.D. Power’s annual ownership satisfaction survey is done and Lexus has topped the charts for the 11th year in a row. That is certainly outstanding.

Brands and makes of cars are ranked on a 1000 point scale, with the Lexus scoring 845 to beat fellow Japanese rival Honda (833) and European brands Skoda and Jaguar both scoring 825. BMW’s Mini ranked fifth, with a score of 822. The industry average was 794.

At the other end of this review scale were two General Motors-owned brands, Vauxhall (763) and Chevrolet (766). Suzuki (764), Peugeot (771) and Mitsubishi (773) rounded out the bottom five.

Honda definitely did well, with the Jazz and Accord topping their respective classes (small and upper medium). Lexus’ IS range topped the compact executive class, beating BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. In the lower medium class it was the Skoda Octavia and BMWs 5-Series (luxury) topped the luxury class.

The J.D. Power study measures levels of satisfaction across four criteria with different weighting for each condition. The most important aspect is vehicle appeal, at 37 percent, which encompasses performance, design, comfort and features; quality and reliability accounts for 24 percent; ownership costs make up 22 percent, and include fuel consumption, insurance, servicing/repair and dealer service satisfaction. The results are based on the answers of 16,500 participants after an average of two years ownership, so the survey really is on 2009 models and older, so the low scoring brands and models may actually be better in 2011, than they appear.

The study, which was conducted in conjunction with UK magazine What Car?, also found that owners are becoming increasingly switched on to vehicle design and pay closer attention to quality issues than ever before.

“It’s great news that people are more satisfied with their cars than ever, and it proves that car makers are getting things right more often,” says magazine editor Jim Holder. “Lexus tops the study with outstandingly reliable cars and dealer back-up that is truly exceptional.”

Thunder from Down-Under at Bira

Falcon V8 at Bira

The Supercar category will have two additions this year in the form of Australian Falcon V8 Supercars, driven by two New Zealand drivers Craig Corliss and Dwayne Carter. The Ford Falcons have six liter engines and churn out about 700 BHP.

Local star Thomas Raldorf in his Subaru had the mettle of the V8’s but a broken coil stopped his run for glory, after he had secured pole position for the race.

The Falcons were originally built for the Australian V8 Supercar series, including the famous Bathurst race. Craig Corliss’ car was the pole sitter in 2002, driven in those days by John Bowe. It also held the lap record for a couple of years.

Specifications are:
Carter Falcon
Ford Supercar Falcon BA, 6L V8
780 HP at flywheel
Hollinger 6 speed sequential gear box with flat shift
Launch control
Traction control
AP 6 pot brakes
The Corliss Falcon is a:
Ford Supercar Falcon AU 6L V8
700 HP at flywheel
Hollinger 6 speed H pattern gear box with flat shift
AP 6 pot brakes

I spoke with Craig Corliss at the Bira Circuit while they were preparing for rounds 1 and 2 held at Sa Keow and he confirmed that they will be up here for each Supercar round, including Bang Saen later in the year.

A very brief road test

The family Fortuner clicked over 75,000 kays the other week. It is the 3 liter diesel, and was the top of the line when new and cost 1.4 million, complete with ‘gold’ badges and leather upholstery.

Family Fortuner

It has been all over Thailand, up to the Isaan areas a couple of times, Bangkok many times, and Kanchanaburi. On the trips it has been fully laden with at least seven people on board (and more).

To date, nothing has fallen off, broken or otherwise stopped, apart from a windscreen from a rock thrown from an overbridge. The mentality to do this amazes me. It has been serviced regularly and has had a change of tyres and new brake pads and windscreen wiper blades.

To all intents and purposes it is as good now as it was then. The fuel consumption remains around 9.7 L/100 km around town, and being a diesel that makes it very economical to run.

There are reports which suggest that the Fortuners are uncomfortable to ride in, and I cannot agree, as our Fortuner handles the dreadful roads around Pattaya with ease, cruises at 100 clicks on the highways very easily, quietly and comfortably.

Would we buy another one? On the basis of the experience in the one we have, we most certainly would.







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