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

Charleston – French racing blue in the morning sun

French_Vintage (1)Last weekend, friend of Any Given Reason Luke Jaksa and I were rushing through the hills chasing rally cars around as part of Scouts Rally SA. We were on our way to a jump out behind Nairne and we simply couldn’t be late as it’s always the first cars that jump the hardest. We had empty stomachs and an empty fuel tank, but nothing could stop us. Except, perhaps, a group of vintage French cars stopped on the side of the road. How often do you happen to see a Bugatti Type 35A and a pair of Amilcar’s in the wild?

French_Vintage (10)Rally cars be damned, this was WAY more interesting.

French_Vintage (13)The trio were out for a Sunday morning drive and had stopped just out of Charleston when one of the Amilcar’s suffered a puncture to its front tire. You sometimes forget just how different vintage cars are to the more modern stuff we’re used to. Who even packs a brass hammer when they go for a drive anymore, let alone actually needs to use one? Brass and hickory, a winning combination. Continue reading

Scouts Rally SA 2014

ROSA_2014_Saturday (46)Scouts Rally SA once again returned to the Mount Crawford Forest and the northern hills over the weekend of August 1-3 for three heats of intense gravel rally action on some of South Australia’s most challenging roads.

ROSA_2014_Sunday (12)Taking the outright event win and victory in round four of the Australian Rally Championship was Scott Pedder and Dale Moscatt in the Walkinshaw Performance prepared Renault Sport Clio R3. The pairing narrowly claimed victory in all three heats which was enough to snatch the lead of the ARC.

ROSA_2014_Saturday (50)Claiming second place was Brendon Reeves and Rhiannon Gelsomino in the quick little G2 Mazda 2. It was a close battle for much of the event however the Mazda 2 was struck with problems, including non functioning windscreen wipers in heavy rain and the loss of a rear wheel on SS20 when the studs broke, forcing Reeves to tripod back to service. Reeves was able to match the pace of Pedder when everything was working correctly, but these niggling problems kept him down at this crucial point in the championship. With two rounds remaining, Pedder managed to snatch the championship lead. 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

Driving the APR supercharged Audi R8

R8 (18)They say you should never meet your heroes, and I think the same goes for the solving of the world’s seemingly great automotive problems. We curse and swear at the time, but unbeknownst to us it is often these problems that define the cars we love. Lamborghini’s, as a rule, have terrible rear vision and the owners of Lotus Exige’s are often far more acquainted with their chiropractors than they’d care to admit.

R8 (1)The obvious solution is just to build a supercar that somehow negates these dramas, right? We live in an age where we can 3D print exotic metals into any shape that our brains can concoct, so surely we can just build something that can be backed out of the shed without raising a sweat?

R8 (15)Audi (or more specifically, Quattro GmbH) should be commended for building the R8, for by any rational measure it is the best baby supercar you can buy. They have approached the R8 in a typical Germanic manner – calmly and efficiently solving the myriad of supercar problems to arrive at the mathematically best solution. It has the rock solid quality of an Audi, found from the carryover switchgear to the way the 4.2 V8 fires instantly, every time. It has good vision, usable ground clearance and a somewhat respectable boot. The navigation system is intuitive and the gated six-speed manual provides just enough of a challenge to reward but not so much as to put off a newcomer. 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