Mount Alma Mile Hillclimb 2014

MtAlma2014 1276Kevin Mackrell has thundered his way to another consecutive 4WD outright victory in the Mount Alma Mile hillclimb, held recently at Inman Valley on the scenic Fleurieu Peninsula. Behind the wheel of his all-conquering V8 powered Datsun 260Z, Mackrell held a firm grip on the two-day event, overcoming a five second penalty to take the win.

MtAlma2014 1277The 2WD category was won by Clinton Faustmann in the REVS/Faustune prepared FD RX7, who wrangled the flame spitting rotor up the hill slightly quicker than Jason Unkovich, who claimed third outright 2WD in the same car.

MtAlma2014 1320The big battle all weekend was between Mackrell and the Supaloc Racing Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera of Kevin Weeks, now sporting a fresh twin turbo setup. Weeks was still a fraction off Mackrell’s times, but the noise of the forced induction Italian V10 outclassed the 260Z in every way. It was spine tingling and worth coming just to listen to it alone. Continue reading

Driven – AMG G63

Sebs_G63 752Somewhere in AMG’s headquarters deep in Affalterbach, there’s a team of engineers responsible for the recently updated AMG G63. A team of engineers who looked at the old model, the supercharged V8 G55, and thought ‘that needs more power’.

Sebs_G63 744Let’s just put this into context for a moment. The G-Wagon is Mercedes-Benz’s entry to the military off-roader market and was released way back in 1979. It’s still used by armies all over the world, by the likes of NATO and the UN, and it even saw duty for many years as the official Popemobile. It was transformed into a civilian off-roader at the request of a group of cashed up Arab sheiks and since the early eighties has gained a reputation as the most unbreakable, hard core off-roader there is.

Sebs_G63 743The world cracked a wry grin when AMG announced their intention to cram a 370kw supercharged V8 into it, at which point the new G55 simultaneously became the most awesome and pointless vehicle on the planet. Any Given Reason came to this conclusion when tarmac rallying the G55 a few years back, which is why the notion of an even faster G-Wagon seems even more hilarious right now. Continue reading

Driven – Mercedes-Benz AMG A45

DSC_0012The official tuning arm of Mercedes-Benz, AMG, has a reputation for building slightly bonkers cars. It began back in the early 70’s with the 6.9 V8 500SEL built for the European Touring Car Championship and continues today as the company stuffs gruff V8’s, usually with a supercharger or twin turbochargers added for good luck, into whatever Mercedes-Benz product they can lay their hands on. So what exactly is the AMG badge now doing on the side of a medium sized four cylinder hatchback? It may be turbocharged and have four wheel drive, but still…

DSC_0037Rest assured, this is still a proper AMG and one look at the numbers reinforces that. The turbocharged 2.0 engine produces 360hp (265kw) and an astounding 450nm of torque, making it the most powerful four cylinder production engine, ever. 100hp/litre used to be the old benchmark – the A45 smashes that out of the ballpark with 180hp/litre and it races to 100km/h in just 4.6sec. The Haldex 4WD drives the front wheels around town for fuel economy, but can divert up to 50% to the rear when the pace picks up.

DSC_0093Hmm… a fast, turbocharged, four cylinder, all wheel drive small car – haven’t we seen this before? Well, yes. The concept isn’t exactly new, but the A45 brings a lot more to the table than the others. It offers style, build quality and levels of refinement that makes an Evo X or STI look and feel quite crummy in comparison, and the AMG brand brings benefits you don’t get with a Golf R or BMW 1M. It may be keenly priced (on the AMG scale), but make no mistake – the A45 is a legitimate AMG. That means your hand crafted engine bears the name and signature of its builder. You also have access to the same program of customer benefits, like drive days and product launches, that SLS buyers get which is possibly one of the greatest marketing ploys ever. The A45 will attract new buyers to the brand and when it comes time for them to upgrade, of course they’ll buy another, more expensive AMG. Who’d give up the lairy track days you now look forward to? Continue reading

Welcome to the Green Hell

DSC_0270Dangerous. Challenging. Rewarding. Unique. The last of the proper old school race circuits, the Nurburgring Nordschleiffe is all of these things.

DSC_0334Formula 1 stopped coming here in the 70’s because it was too dangerous, which seems oddly juxtaposed against the thing that today makes the Nordschleiffe, or North Loop, so famous today. Anyone, and I mean actually anyone, can simply turn up and drive it as fast as they like.

DSC_0047Buy a lap ticket for 26 Euro…

DSC_0067…validate it in the boom gate and you’re away. Here’s the worlds most challenging racetrack – go nuts! No scruitineering, no helmets, no license checks, no speed limits. And, uh, try not to kill yourself.

DSC_0224It doesn’t matter what you drive. Obviously a GT3 RS is probably the best tool for the job…

DSC_0161…but if you’re just with your mates on a campervan road trip, well then that’s cool too. Continue reading

Supercar hunting in Dubai

DSC_0319Dubai is known the world over as a hotbed of supercars and vehicles of the mega rich. Whilst the country officially claims that just 6% of GDP comes from oil revenues, one look at the place seems to suggest otherwise. I guess it’s all in the accounting.

DSC_0313Whatever the case, its still fun to walk around camera in hand, and see what you find. I had a 12 hour stopover in Dubai the other day, so with stories of the legendary abandoned Ferrari Enzo fresh in my mind I decided to head out and see what I could find.

DSC_0085Other than a passing McLaren MP4-12C, there wasn’t a whole lot happening this particular Tuesday morning so I decided to visit a few dealerships I’d spotted from the train. I ended up walking for over 2 hours, which I can tell you isn’t a lot of fun in the Dubai heat. 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