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

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

Another visit to Classic Throttle Shop

CTS_June_14 (63)There are some things you just do without question; acts that are almost mandatory given another related occurrence. You never change oil without also changing the filter, and you never get behind the wheel without first belting up. In what’s becoming somewhat of a similar ritual, you never make a visit to Sydney without also stopping in at Classic Throttle Shop.

CTS_June_14 (2) In the 21st century we are connected to the world in an unprecedented way – I’ll bet at least some of you are even reading this from the bathroom. The impact of technology is changing the world forever and can be felt everywhere in our society; even frontiers seemingly unrelated are being forced to adapt or die. For example, the internet is replacing newspapers as a primary method of news delivery which leaves the door open for magazines to deliver a material experience, and online shopping is apparently devastating the retail industry. Adapt or die, right?

CTS_June_14 (6)Any smart business person will tell you that a threat is often opportunity in disguise, and what we’re learning is that technology can’t deliver an experience. Industry leader Deus ex Machina is brilliant at delivering an experience, and new players like Zen Garage are fast catching up. I’m sure the Peel Microcar sitting on the shelf in this image is a hint at where I’m going with this, which is why Classic Throttle Shop has quickly become an essential Sydney destination. I wonder how many people with the necessary means stop by for a relaxing Saturday morning coffee only to spot a lithe Porsche 911 in the corner, stew over it for the weekend and then return during the week to make a purchase.

CTS_June_14 (72)Case in point – this track inspired but oh-so-clean E30 M3. It made me weak at the knees on first sight, and had I the means it would be eating away at me right now. And the fact that it was converted to right-hand drive at brand new in the UK by the dealer just sweetens it further. Continue reading

Car hunting in Nouméa

Noumea (3)Cars aren’t usually what initially springs to mind when you think of think of New Caledonia, the tiny collection of idyllic tropical Pacific islands situated 1,200km East of Australia. At the mere mention of the place any normal person would immediately visualise palm trees, azure blue oceans, grass skirts, ukelele’s and drinks with little umbrella’s in them. But Noumea is a city that hosts a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, so there’s gotta be at least a few gearheads about the place, right? With a rainy Thursday free to explore the city last week, I kept my eyes open for any automotive treasures I could chance upon.

Noumea (8)Less than half an hour after arriving I stumbled upon probably the coolest thing I would see all day – this camouflaged Suzuki Jimny. With a replacement nudge bar, big mud tyres, flares and a snorkel intake it looked like the perfect tool to explore the tiny dirt roads and discover deserted tropical beaches.

Noumea (9)The Jimny was pretty rough but what it lacked in polish it made up tenfold in charm, and it struck me that this is a vehicle perfectly suited to its location. I’m struggling to think of more appropriate transportation for this place, assuming a dash of fun is a requisite.

Noumea (1)New Caledonia as we know it was settled by the French, in a similar way to how the English settled Australia. In the capital city of Nouméa the French influence is felt everywhere, and it’s easy to forget how close you are to Australia. French is the most commonly spoken language, the architecture is commonly Parisian and there are tons of simply incredible pâtisseries and boulangeries scattered about for connoisseurs of fine breads. However anyone with an inclination towards cars will no doubt notice the sheer number of Peugeot’s, Citroen’s and Renault’s getting about – more than half of cars on the road are French. Most of them are sacked out hunks of junk, but occasionally you can find something cool like this 205 GTI. The little details are interesting too, like how the automotive sections of the newsagents contain more single marque French car titles than you ever knew existed. I picked up an issue of a magazine devoted just to the Peugeot 205 for some friends back home.

Noumea (5)How often are you walking down the street and find a Ligier dealership? I got a little excited when I saw images of the company’s fine and detailed history on the building facade.

Noumea (4)Motorsport anoraks will of course know of the company started by racing driver Guy Ligier in 1968 in Vichy, smack in the middle of France. Their JS2 road car used the same Maserati V6 as the Citroen SM, and they competed at Le Mans from 1970 until 1975. Not only that, but they fielded a Formula One team from 1976 until 1996 whose highlights included running the famous Matra V12 in 1976 and winning a race in 1977 with Jacques Laffite.

Noumea (6)So how did they fall from these dizzying heights to become the worlds second largest manufacturer of microcars and the largest manufacturer of drivers license exempt vehicles? I don’t know, I don’t even want to know. These things are only one step away from a gopher. It’s not even a case of another company buying the Ligier name – Guy Ligier’s son is still the CEO.

Noumea (2)As it turns out Nouméa still is a place devoted to the art of Pacific Island living, outside of major events at least. And whilst palm trees, azure blue oceans, grass skirts, ukelele’s and drinks with little umbrella’s in them were the primary reason for Any Given Reason’s visit, it still pays to keep an eye out, right?

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

Sri Lanka Revisited – Part One

SL (58)Back in February 2011, my girlfriend and I traveled to the idyllic island of Sri Lanka for a month of backpacking adventures. Any Given Reason didn’t exist back then and I’d only had my DSLR for less than two months, but even without the looming task of compiling a blog report I still felt the compulsion to document the motorsport I found. It ended up being probably the craziest trip I’ll ever be lucky enough to do, and it wasn’t until I was recounting a tale the other night that I realised I’ve never properly published the full story. So, here goes.

SL (3)It was Chantelle’s idea to go as she had organised a work placement there as part of her Veterinary Science degree, so I agreed to come with her without really knowing anything about Sri Lanka. We booked flights, and my poor Mum was almost beside herself when we told her we were going to a country less than two years out of a brutal, bloody, three-decade long civil war. But the place looked simply stunning in pictures and everybody said that the South-Western regions were safe now, and we were excited. Combining travel with motorsport is one of my biggest passions, so before our departure I did some Googling to see if there was any racing there. I found the website of a local driver named Dinesh Deheragoda, and emailed for a quick bit of advice.

SL (83)Fast forward and I’d been in Sri Lanka for less than 48 hours, and Chantelle is on the other side of the country at a Vet school. It’s 430am, and I’m standing in the rain on the side of the road in a distant suburb of the capital Colombo, waiting to be picked up by a car load of locals I’ve never met. Dirty trucks whizzed by just inches away, and zooming Tuk Tuk’s sliced their way through the traffic. When I told the guest house clerk of my plans that morning he almost didn’t let me out the door, which did nothing to allay my fears. It was the first time I’d traveled on my own, and I was feeling more helpless and out of my comfort zone than ever before. I’d been communicating with Dinesh for a few weeks via email and he made the generous offer to take me to a local race, but he had some issues with his car and couldn’t pick me up as planned. He’d organised a ride for me with some friends of his and I rationally knew I had no reason to be concerned, but the mind does wander on occasion. Continue reading

Around Maranello and a visit to Museo Ferrari

Museo_Ferrari (86)Ferrari is a brand that captivates the imagination like no other. Careful cultivation and strong ties to the legendary racetracks and drivers of decades past means that the Prancing Horse holds an almost mythical status today, arguably outstripping the material value of the cars that wear its badges. These days the commercialization of the brand verges on cringeworthy – how many airport Ferrari apparel stores and red co-branded Puma shoes do you need to see before you’re left with no option but to run into the arms of some obscure hipster car manufacturer that nobody has heard of? I mean, who actually buys a Gumpert for any other reason than Ferrari escapism?

Museo_Ferrari (63) But who am I to comment? Ferrari is and always has been the be-all-and-end-all sports and supercar manufacturer for me. I know that some of them aren’t actually that good, aren’t that reliable and the wrong one can make you look like a drug dealer or attention seeking poseur, or both. But I don’t care. I dream of driving them, I dream of owning one. My pulse rises every time I see one. I regularly check Carsales to see what the cheapest Ferrari is, and then ponder the realities of dropping fifty large on a thirty year old hunk of rusting Italian steel with dodgy wiring. Would I? In a heartbeat if I could.

Museo_Ferrari (2)When I set out on my recent Vespa trip around Europe I had almost no plans – I didn’t even know what countries I was going to visit. The only thing I had was a small handful of places in the back of my mind that I wanted to experience, and number one was Maranello.

Museo_Ferrari (1) Because you don’t really visit Maranello – you experience it. Museo Ferrari is the hot-ticket tourist attraction, but the rest of the small industrial suburb of Modena, steeped in so much legend, sits there waiting to be discovered. Just around the corner from the museum are the famous factory gates, looking almost identical as depicted in period photos of the 60’s and 70’s. Continue reading

Small engined Fiats on the Gerlos Alpenstrasse

DSC_0113Sitting at the base of the Gerlos Alpenstrasse in the Austrian Alps lies the small village of Hainzenberg. As alpine villages go it is largely unremarkable, which given the stunning beauty of this part of the world is no slight against it. It is just another breathtaking little town full of guest houses and quaint little shops, but it isn’t a destination in itself so unless you’re in need of a coffee break or a place to rest your head you typically keep meandering on through. After all, the best roads in Europe are found right here in Austria and one of its crown jewels, the Gerlos Alpenstrasse, is just a few minutes away. Better to spend your time driving than shopping for knick-knacks.

DSC_0140Of course, there’s always an exception to any rule and a chance encounter with a branch of an Italian Fiat 500 Club is as good an exception as any. These are the cutest cars in the world and the passion the Italian’s have for the Cinquecento is almost beyond belief.

DSC_0101In fact, the passion the Italians have for anything automotive is almost beyond belief. Whilst the Formula One liveried 500’s were what first caught my eye as I rode past on my Vespa, it was something a great deal rarer that caused me to stop.

DSC_0105When was the last time you saw a Lombardi Grand Prix on the road? I must confess that this little bus had me completely stumped – I had no idea what it was and it took an email to some friends in the Fiat club back home in Australia to identify the car. The owners, and in fact everyone on this run, were warm and friendly toward me but unfortunately their enthusiasm didn’t translate into a single word of English. My Italian ran only to ordering uno espresso, so sadly despite my best efforts I wasn’t able to learn anything at the time about the sleek little sports car. Continue reading

Sydney-London Classic Marathon Rally 2014

Syd-Lon2014 (7)There’s an undeniable attraction to long distance rallying. Combining motorsport and travel with the adventure and challenge that comes with rallying every day for over a month, the opportunity to compete in an event like the Sydney-London is a once in a lifetime opportunity. When it passed through South Australia’s Barossa Valley recently, Any Given Reason just had to get out and see it.

Syd-Lon2014 (26)The Sydney-London is mooted as a reverse direction re-run of the famous London-Sydney rallies of 1968 and 1971, the likely never to be seen again pinnacles of long distance competition. Unfortunately the modern interpretation is far from the original, but that’s more a sign of the world we live in than anything else. The 1968 original raced through Turkey to Iran stopping in Tehran, through Afghanistan stopping in Kabul, and through Pakistan to Delhi. The route then traveled through India to Bombay (now Mumbai), where the cars boarded a boat to Perth. The Middle East is a stunning part of the world but sadly these days it’s more renowned for war and violence than anything else, and the thought of running a car rally through some of those countries seems vaguely laughable right now.

Z_Syd-Lon2014 (3)Hopefully in our lifetimes we’ll see these countries politically stable enough to host a car rally, but that isn’t the case right now so for 2014 the Sydney-London flies over that part of the world. Legs 1 & 2 last for 12 days and sees the competitors travel 7750km from Sydney to Perth, with 33 timed Special Stages (1133 competitive km). After an airlift the rally resumes in Ankara (Turkey) with 6000km through Europe comprising Leg 3 to Rijeka, and then Leg 4 with some classic stages through Wales on the way to the London finish. Continue reading

A visit to Sportscar Workshops – Richmond, Virginia

SCW_Richmond 1266What exactly is a sports car? The definition varies widely and stretches ever further these days, and can possibly have a number of meanings. Is it a car built specifically for sporting endeavors? One adapted for sporting endeavors? Or should the definition be expanded to include any car used for sporting endeavors?

SCW_Richmond 1267The definition doesn’t really matter; what does is the passion of the people that own and work on them. Some may argue that a BMW E30 isn’t a true sports car by definition, but who cares. The term sports car and what it conjures in the mind is more tied up in romanticism, enthusiasm and a certain degree of escapism than anything else, and it is those three things you’ll find in spades at Sportscar Workshops in Richmond, Virginia. That, combined with solid experience and a huge assortment of just about every type of sports car you can think of from all corners of the globe.

SCW_Richmond 1288Our story actually starts with a 1986 Alfa Romeo GTV6 in New York City. Continue reading

Welcome to Sant’agata Bolognese. Home of Lamborghini.

SantAgata 771It’s quite common to be disappointed in a product or angered by the service received from a company. ‘It’s my money’, you cry, ‘and I could do a better job than these monkeys’. Most of the time these resolutions remain mere dreams, however in the early 60’s an unknown Italian industrialist named Ferruccio Lamborghini somehow turned his dream into reality. So angered was Lamborghini at the poor quality of his Ferrari’s and the shocking treatment he received from Maranello, that he set up shop just an hour down the road with the specific goal of beating Enzo at his own game.

SantAgata 876Situated in the heart of Italy’s ‘Terra dei Motori’ (motor valley) between the cities of Bologna and Modena, Lamborghini is within an hour’s drive of Ferrari, Maserati and Pagani. Don’t let the building’s fresh facade fool you, because behind it lies essentially the same factory that has produced every Lamborghini model since 1963. It sits in the tiny village of Sant’agata Bolognese, a village surrounded by agricultural farming land and one that takes no more than a couple of minutes to drive through. It’s all refreshingly humble – you can be lost on a back road in sun drenched wheat fields and an Aventador on Italian ‘Prova’ (testing/proving) plates will blast past you, just as the Muira and Countach and Diablo would have done in decades past. It helps that speed limits are negotiable in these parts, too.

SantAgata 773The museum sits opposite the main administration building and design centre within the factory, and begins on the ground floor by chronicling each Lamborghini model produced. The gleaming yellow Muira SV steals the show on entrance, but the story begins with Lamborghini’s first car – the 3.5 litre V12 350GT of 1964. Continue reading