Quietly awestruck at Festival Automobile de Mulhouse

Mulhouse_Festival_Auto (15)Anyone from overseas who has experienced the European classic car scene will be familiar with the feeling of discovering the rarest and most interesting vehicles in the world and marveling as they are almost ignored by jaded locals who seemingly take them for granted. Just another classic car show in France? Worth a look, I guess.

Mulhouse_Festival_Auto (4)Last year I was traveling through France, and on my way to Switzerland I made a detour through the industrial city of Mulhouse to visit the famous Schlumpf collection. I was only intending to stop for a day or two, however it soon became apparent that I had chanced my visit to coincide with ‘Festival Automobile de Mulhouse’, a weekend classic car festival beginning the next day. It seemed to be one of those government tourism commission type events which usually aren’t very good, but I didn’t have any firm plans and I needed to catch up on some writing, so I decided to hang about and take it in.

Mulhouse_Festival_Auto (47)Festivities kicked off on Friday evening with a small display of cars in Place de la Réunion, the historic town square. It was an odd mix of largely B-list modern supercars that was punctuated by a Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse Roadster. I’m not sure what to make of the Veyron. I don’t really like it, but I also can’t help but appreciate the engineering that goes into a fully street legal factory road car with 1,200hp that does 0-100 in 2.6sec and will crack well over 400km/h. And the build quality is superb to match. Continue reading

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Formula 1 Gran Premio d’Italia 2013 Monza

F1_Monza_2013 (43)With the famous Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix taking place at Monza this weekend, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look back at the 2013 race, which Any Given Reason attended. If you can’t be there in person you might as well be there in spirit, right?

F1_Monza_2013 (38)This post won’t attempt a blow-by-blow account of the race because you can find that elsewhere, written by far more knowledgeable and experienced scribes than myself. This post aims to give a glimpse of what it’s actually like to attend the Italian GP; information that doesn’t make the international broadcast.

F1_Monza_2013 (67)The Monza circuit is situated near the city of Monza, around 50km north of Milan in northern Italy. Below it sits Italy’s motor valley and the homes of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Pagani are all less than a couple of hours drive away. Around 30km north of Monza sits Lake Como, the gateway to the Alps and the rest of Europe. Monza is the spiritual home of modern Formula 1, and is the only circuit to have held a round of the World Championship every year since its inception.  Continue reading

Out with the old and in with the new

GF8_MX5 (4)The AGR garage has had a shakeup, with the old MX5 replaced by an old WRX.

It all began back on Australia day (late January for our international friends) when an old high school friend phoned and invited me along on a day of kayaking he had planned. I hadn’t taken my kayak out in years and had been meaning to for a while, so I excitedly made my way to the shed and began removing it from the rafters.

Until I finished dusting the forlorn kayak off, it had somehow escaped my consideration that with my Fiat X1/9 still in a state of restoration disassembly and an NA Mazda MX5 as my daily wheels, I didn’t actually have any method of transporting the vessel. I studied my MX5 and its roll bar carefully, it becoming like one of those team-building problems so favored by corporate learning facilitators on office training excursions. With no apparent way of affixing the kayak to the MX5, and no tea break filled with dull coffee and Scotch Fingers to escape to, I was forced to call up and cancel my attendance at the kayaking trip.

GF8_MX5 (7)In four years of ownership, this was the first time I had ever admitted defeat. That MX5 has carried road bikes, complete sets of wheels, large rolls of plastic sheeting, a Fiat engine block and even a gearbox or two. But the kayak was not to be.

I sat lazily in front of the television that night with my girlfriend Chantelle, and with a bottle of wine cracked we put on a Top Gear special for some mindless entertainment. And it was there, watching Hammond sliding that old world rally blue Bug-Eye WRX hatch through the wilds of Africa, that the mind-cogs began to turn. After Chantelle went to bed I stayed up late that night scouring Carsales in detail. It turned out that old Rexes were actually a lot cheaper than I expected. Uh-oh.

GF8_MX5 (1)The fascination with Rexes wasn’t completely fresh, mind you, as I was a wide-eyed ten-year-old at the height of WRX madness in the late 90’s. I spent hours watching replays of ARC rounds I’d taped from channel 10’s RPM program, where Cody Crocker would slide his Group N GC8 to endless third-places behind the WRC spec weapons of Possum Bourne and Neal Bates. I cheered them in person with excitement at the local Coopers Pale Ale Rally SA. I made my Dad take me to Eblens Subaru to collect sales brochures, and then tried to convince my elderly grandpa to buy a WRX when he was shopping for a new car. I even read about the modifications the Osman Brothers were pioneering in Hot 4’s magazine. At $40,000 the WRX was the ‘performance bargain of the century’ in 1999, but as a penniless kid still six years away from possessing even a drivers license they might as well have been a million dollars. They were out of reach. Continue reading

Preparing for a wet (and snowy?) Rally of South Australia – 1st -3rd August

ROSA_2014_Recce (17)This was pretty much going to be just a post with a few links to maps and the spectator guide for this weekend’s Rally of South Australia, round three of the South Australian Rally Championship and round four of the Australian Rally Championship. But that would have been pretty boring, right? Luckily Henry Nott and the NOTTRacing crew stepped up and invited Any Given Reason to their Wednesday test day, so I strapped in for a sideways blast down the muddy test stage in Henry’s seriously quick little Lancer Evo 6. But more on that in a moment.

ROSA_2014_RecceRally is arguably one of the hardest forms of motorsport to take photos of because you can’t just simply rock up and start shooting. Before you even get to thinking about camera gear and knowing how to use it, you need to be in the right place at the right time. And with literally hundreds of competitive kilometers stretching the entire Adelaide Hills over just three days, you can’t be everywhere at once.

ROSA_2014_Recce (26)The only real way to do it is to drive the entire course beforehand and make educated guesses about which spots will deliver the results. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you mess it up completely, but at the end of the day that’s half the fun. So with the competitors out there completing their recce and writing their pacenotes, we grabbed a forestry key to the Mount Crawford Forest and joined them in my WRX to go have a look. Continue reading

Porsche, rally weapons and odd Italian cars – A chilled Sunday on the road.

Sunday_27 (23)There’s a lot to be said for organised events and races but sometimes it’s fun to just cruise around on a lazy Sunday and see what you find. With my own Fiat X1/9 project finally hitting the roads after seven long years in the shed, I used the vague excuse of the media briefing and scruitineering for the upcoming Scouts Rally SA Australian Rally Championship round (happening this weekend) as a way point and took the X1/9 for a drive.

Sunday_27 (7)It’s not uncommon to see a few Porsche’s in the hills on a pleasant Sunday but after about the sixth in a row I figured something must be up, so I followed them just down the road to Longview Vineyard in Macclesfield.

Sunday_27 (4)When it comes to Porsche it’s usually that trademark classic style that steals my heart, and even though this left hand drive 912 was definitely a looker there was something else that stopped me dead on this occasion…

Sunday_27 (1)… this stunning 964 Carrera 4 sitting on a set of OZ Allegerita‘s. Continue reading

Guy’s new Tarmac Rally project: The 1964 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint

2600Longtime Any Given Reason readers will be familiar with Guy Standen and his 1974 Fiat 124 Sport tarmac rally car. With a couple of Targa Tasmania’s already to his name, I stepped into the co-drivers seat and did Classic Targa Adelaide in 2011 and Targa Adelaide in 2012 with Guy. We had a blast, the 124 performed faultlessly, sounded fantastic and in both years we walked away with Targa plates for beating the base time on all of the special stages. Those two events were fantastic experiences that I’ll never forget.

Targa Adelaide Day 4 31 of 39After that last Targa in 2012 the 124 sat dormant; I was traveling overseas last year and it wasn’t practical to come home for Targa Adelaide 2013, and Guy made the logical decision to retire from competition and sell the 124. He’d already achieved everything he wanted and had developed it as far as possible, a Fiat Dino road car restoration was slowly peculating in the background and he wanted to spend more time with his family. It was a tough decision but the 124 was sold into Sydney and now resides with some enthusiastic Fiat club members who are gearing up for their first Targa Tasmania in 2015.

2600 (16)Over the past few months Guy and I have been talking about future rally cars, but I hadn’t taken any of our discussions terribly seriously until I logged onto Facebook one morning to find a message waiting for me: ‘Would you be interested in doing a Targa Tasmania?’ What!? You can’t ask a question like that with no explanation, so I got straight on the phone to discover that Guy was a little more serious about getting back into the game than I thought. His ‘retirement’ had lasted exactly three and a half months. Continue reading

The new California T at Adelaide Ferrari

California T (15)In the late 50’s Ferrari was faced with a problem. It made some of the fastest and most technically advanced racing cars, and its road cars were pure works of art. But there was one problem – some customers, particularly in America, viewed the road cars as too focused. They wanted a car that enabled them to enjoy the wind in their hair and the company of a special passenger. With old Enzo surely seeing a cash-cow ripe for milking, the solution was the now infamous 250 California Spider, a vehicle that combined the mechanics of their latest GT racer with a svelte Scaglietti designed convertible body style. Just 106 were built, and today they are some of the most collectable Ferrari’s in existence.

California T (7)Its contemporary namesake, the California T, was previewed to an assembled group of Ferrari owners and enthusiasts recently at the new Ferrari Adelaide showroom on West Terrace in the city. Whilst I’d certainly argue that the modern car doesn’t live up to such a storied name (a 599XX V12 powered, lightweight, limited production racer for the road would be more fitting), the modern iteration certainly embodies the concept if nothing else. Here’s a Ferrari with just enough practicality to be considered for daily duties; with enough luggage space to escape for a weekend away and a folding hard top that can be hidden away for sunny drives.

California T (4)At $409,880 the California is the cheapest way into a new prancing horse, and the Australian distributor expects a whopping 70% of California’s to be sold to first time Ferrari owners. To facilitate this the California T is some $50,000 cheaper than its predecessor, indicating a business model already utilised by several manufacturers to attract buyers to their high-end brands. Ferrari is world famous for its brand loyalty and repeat purchase, so how many of those 70% first time owners will go on to purchase a second or a third Ferrari, maybe something more focused like a 458? It’s a smart growth strategy.

California T (14)You can certainly see the resemblance to the outgoing California, however everything is new save for the folding hard top. It looks leaner, edgier and sportier. I find some of the detailing a little fussy, particularly the mesh used in the bonnet and guard vents, but overall it is a harmonious look communicating its intended purpose and the sporting ideals of Ferrari. It’s a huge improvement over the old car.  Continue reading