Car hunting on the Isle of Man

IMG_4655It’s all about motorbikes on the Isle of Man during TT week, from sunrise to sunset. But at other times of the year motorsport of the four wheeled variety is also very popular, and the Isle of Man has a higher than average percentage of interesting cars given its small size. Whilst most of them stay hidden away during the two weeks of the TT, I did manage to spot a few interesting rides during my visit.

DSC_0434So why is there so much interesting metal on this small slice of land in the Irish sea?

The island seems to be a giant playground designed for the sports car. There’s over 500km of twisting roads, and outside of the big race weekends they are almost always deserted. Couple that with a very lenient and understanding police force and no speed limits outside of the towns, and you have a supercar dreamland. It’s probably the only place in the world where you can exercise these cars as their makers intended.

DSC_0270The Isle of Man also benefits from some very lenient tax laws making it a haven of a different kind also.  There’s plenty of money about on the island, so the proportion of people able to own something special is much higher. You move to the island to save on your tax bill, and the side benefit is miles of driving roads right at your doorstep. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

DSC_0331Another thing I noticed was the complete lack of poseurs. Cities like Singapore and Dubai are filled with supercars, but there’s nowhere to drive them properly. This is contrasted by the Isle of Man, where there’s no point trying to pose in a supercar outside of race week because there’s simply no one to pose to. Pure driving is the only reason you’d own one here, and that’s the way it should be. Continue reading

Clipsal 500 2013 – The Race Days

DSC_0540After what felt like a week of waiting, Saturday was finally race day for Australian GT and the Koala Motorsport team.

However the first race wasn’t until 530pm on Saturday, which left a little time in the morning to get out and do some spectating.

DSC_0294Everyone seems to have their favorite spots to watch from around the track, and mine is the tight series of corners from Turn 4 to Turn 7. The only real downside is the lack of big screens, however free grandstand seating, lovely shade trees, nice surrounding houses and for some reason fewer bogans than other parts of the circuit make it top of my pick.

DSC_0295The slow corners also give you time to get a good look at the cars.

DSC_0377It also gives you the opportunity to have the most interesting conversations with other punters. I met one guy, drinking a beer at 930am, who told me he’s going to buy an Aussie Racing Car as soon as his work compo payout comes through, and another chap who informed me that some of the V8 Supercars have CD players so the drivers can listen to music to ‘get them in the mood for racing’. DSC_0420DSC_0421At Turn 7 you can stand practically right on the apex of the corner. As a normal spectator, it’s about as close to the action as you can get.

DSC_0615The Saturday crowds were huge, and the majority of our morning was spent letting people look over and sit in the 360. I have a memory as a 12 year old kid of a race mechanic letting me sit in one of the Ferrari’s at Clipsal, probably in about the year 2000. This time, a 12 year old kid came up to me and started asking about the Ferrari. First thing I did was ask him if he wanted to sit in it, and he jumped at the opportunity. I see it as just paying back the favor! Continue reading

Clipsal 500 2013 – a flaming day 1

DSC_0221After the relaxing day that was Wednesday, we approached Thursday with a great deal of excitement. Everybody was sick of waiting around, and just wanted to get out on track and get the event proper underway.

DSC_0003Yesterday’s post highlighted that we were one of the few crews who made the driver take his own tires to the Pirelli truck. This morning we even made him clean his own windscreen!

DSC_0014But before we could get out on track, we had a drivers briefing to attend. It was actually a bit of an interesting experience. The only circuit racing drivers briefings I’ve been to have been for low level club events, and they seem to feel the need to go through everything in the most minutest of detail. This one was different – the race officials assumed a basic level of competence and experience to be racing at this level, and kept the briefing short and sweet with just the points relating to this specific circuit.

DSC_0013However it was still a drivers briefing, which by default means the drivers have to show at least some level of boredom.

DSC_0019The briefing was finished by a talk from driving standards observer Steven Richards. Most of his talk focused on the notorious Turn 8, which has been responsible for more than its fair share of wrecked vehicles over the years. You can really only go single file around that corner, so it was decided that whoever has the nose in front at the 150m braking marker gets the corner, and the other has to back out. Continue reading

A visit to Maranello Motorsport

I had a few spare hours in Melbourne the other day so I decided to head down to Maranello Motorsport in Richmond for a look around.

Maranello Motorsport (MM) is just a 10 minute train ride from Flinders Street Station. From the Richmond stop it’s just a five minute walk down the funky and arty Cremorne Street. It’s quite a surreal walk – the street is very quiet, you pass a whole collection of small designer furniture stores and boutique legal practises and then Bam, there’s an F40 sitting right there.

Mark Coffey, Managing Director of MM, is surely living every car enthusiasts dream. MM are primarily Ferrari race preparation specialists. They are responsible for most of the Ferrari’s you see racing in the Australian GT Championship and field their own entry for regular driver Alan Simonsen and a host of other drivers who are lucky enough to be partnered alongside him. Their bread and butter is preparing 360 Modena and F430 GT3’s for GT racing and private track days, and they also offer a complete arrive and drive race or track day service. They have a showroom where they sell high end Ferrari’s and offer scheduled servicing and repairs for Ferrari road cars. Continue reading

Henley Square – Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

This evening I was on my way home from Bikram Yoga when I found my dream (semi) attainable Ferrari parked on Seaview road – a 360 Challenge Stradale. 360’s are and have always been my favourite of the modern era Ferrari’s. The 458 is a stunning automobile but it a little ‘sci-fi’ for my tastes, and I think the F430 looks a little underwhelming (I’m sure it isn’t underwhelming at all to drive though). For my tastes the 360’s Pininfarina lines are simply jaw dropping, and from what I’ve read they contain enough of the old school hairy chestedness to make them exciting to drive. Devastatingly quick if you’re good, but a 360 will spit you off if you stuff it up. There’s no real computer there to save your ass or make you look like Schumacher when you’re plainly not. The Challenge Stradale is the ultimate 360 and a stripped down racer for the road, so therefore it’s the one I lust after.

So what makes this story funny is that I was on my way home from a Bikram Yoga session. For those that are unaware, Bikram is a 90 minute yoga class conducted in a large room heated to around 45deg. As you can imagine you finish a Bikram class quite sweaty (that’s the idea, to sweat the toxin’s out), so once the sweat dries you just plain stink.

Continue reading