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

Bathurst 12hr 2014

B12hrSat_Sun 1115It’s easy to become complacent but our very own Mount Panorama circuit, just two hour’s drive from Sydney, is firmly up there in the small handful of the world’s truly great circuits. The only problem is that if you’re not a dedicated V8 Supercar fan, there isn’t really a lot of other top-class racing that happens there to attract your attention. Outside of the main game it’s mostly a calendar of club racing and corporate drive days.

B12hrSat_Sun 1100That was, however, until the arrival of the Liqui-Molly Bathurst 12hr and its rapidly growing momentum. Finally The Mountain is now graced with a sports car event exploiting the most of its undulating, twisting, climbing and dropping 6.2km of smooth, freshly laid tarmac. An event/circuit combo that attracted 13 top level international teams, building a bumper field of 44 cars.

a_B12hrSat 1204There have been endurance races for production cars at Bathurst before (notably the 12hr events of the early 90’s and a pair of excellent 24hr races in the early 00’s), but those races never really managed to gain the traction the current 12hr has. That’s probably because of a few factors, the primary of which being that we now have a solid international GT3 class which enables these cars to be raced all over the world under the same rules. That’s a big deal for manufacturers, because the likes of Nismo Japan can build an R35 GTR for Le Mans and also get race mileage (ie promotional value & return on investment) from it in other smaller events. Continue reading

An Aladdin’s cave of Ferrari’s in Switzerland

LausanneFerrari 788I’ve discussed the concept of serendipity before on Any Given Reason, and the adventure and discovery to be found in being lost while traveling. The best things are always unexpected, and it pays to keep your eyes open to possibility no matter how discouraging your circumstances may seem.

LausanneFerrari 776Recently, I was traveling through the Swiss lakes on my Vespa with the unlikely goal of reaching the holiday town of Lausanne by nightfall. My tent had flooded the previous night in Italy which meant that all of my possessions except the clothes I was wearing were packed sodden in my bags, and I was lost. I had a ferry booked on the other side of France for a 4am Thursday morning Channel crossing which I had to make in order to not miss the Goodwood Revival Meeting; it was 6pm on Monday night and I still had close to 1000km of Switzerland and France to cover. The small 125cc capacity of my Vespa meant I couldn’t ride on the Autobahn, and whilst it was tempting to give it a crack anyway, I decided to play it safe and take the slower route through the towns.

LausanneFerrari 789Long story short, all of those circumstances sent me on an unexpected path that saw me ride past an Aladdin’s cave called Garage Zenith, and then discover another equally impressive workshop a little further on. I really didn’t have the time to justify stopping for a coffee let alone a walk around a car dealership, but when I saw Michael Schumacher’s own factory personalised Ferrari Enzo and a 1957 Maserati 250S sitting on the showroom floor, I just knew I had to stop. To hell with the schedule. Continue reading

Driven: Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari

DSC_0415A few months ago Any Given Reason took a closer look at the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari. Without the ability to take one for a drive at the time we were left to arrive at our conclusion based on looks and assumptions alone, which was that it seems like a cool, fun little car, but its eye wateringly expensive price made it not very good value.

DSC_0365So when the chance arose to take one for a spin through the hills, I jumped at it. I was keen to answer two questions: how does it drive in comparison to the regular Abarth 500, and is it worth the money? For this story I’ll avoid re-hashing the minute details of the Tributo (you can read that here), and will instead look to answer these questions.

DSC_0428The first thing you notice as soon as you climb into the Tributo are the seats and how fantastic they are. Made in Italy by racing specialist Sabelt, they bear hug you in the corners yet remain comfortable in the commute. They’re easily the most similar to fixed back race seats I’ve found in any road car, however they are juxtaposed against the upright city-commuter driving position which shines through from the 500’s origins. It feels slightly odd for the first few kilometers, but the driving position is actually pretty good once you get used to it.  Continue reading

Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari

You’re looking at a $70,000 Fiat 500. Well, $69,990 to be precise.

Okay, so now that we’ve pointed out the obvious elephant in the room, lets forget the price and take it for what it is.

So, what is the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari? It’s the ultimate Abarth 500, a car built as homage to big brother Ferrari and designed as the perfect accomplice to the other thoroughbred stallion you have in your garage. It’s built to solve the ultimate first world problem: You’re sick of driving the 599 to work, but you feel you must still drive something with a prancing horse.

Any Given Reason has already flung the regular Abarth 500 esseesse around Winton Raceway so we know the Tributo Ferrari will be a hoot to drive, but does it offer anything more other than special badging and 430 Scuderia inspired graphics? Well, yes. It’s been carefully tweaked and subtly enhanced in a way only the Italians know how.

Under the bonnet it has a larger Garrett turbocharger, a revised dual mode exhaust and a BMC sports intake system that delivers an extra 14kw and 20nm over the regular Abarth 500, for a total of 132kw and 250nm. That’s quite a bit given that the Tributo Ferrari weighs in at a scant 1000kg, and results in 100km/h from rest in a shave under 7 seconds. Huge 4 pot Brembo calipers (red, of course) clamp down on 305mm drilled and vented rotors, and the car now sits slightly lower on revised suspension that features special Koni dampers. Continue reading

Track time – Abarth 500 esseesse

I’ve gotta admit, I was a little apprehensive when I first heard the news that Fiat were building a new 500. The old 500 is an icon of motoring, an icon of Italy and an icon of all things fun and lighthearted. In this day of crash safety regulation, emission regulation, mass production and the growing size of cars, how could Fiat possibly do the badge justice? The news worsened when Fiat announced that the new 500 would have an engine mounted at the front, driving the front wheels.

Like the rest of the motoring world, I was genuinely surprised when I saw the first pictures of the new 500. It was a thoughrougly contemporary design, it was small, it was light and it was affordable. It was unmistakeably a Fiat 500. And from the first test drives, word came through that it was also genuinely good fun to drive. It gave the driver a feeling of ‘con brio’, just like the original did. What we had here wasn’t a retro modern car, it was the new Fiat 500. Continue reading

Top Gear Live – The Supercars

The best part of Top Gear Live was what they called ‘The Stig’s Garage’, a segment where they just parked a whole lot of desirable cars in a line and walked around talking about them for a while. It was the usual assortment of high end exotica, but there were two standouts….

Continue reading