Gnnnf.....I....do....need.....more.....horse....gnnnf....power......more......torque.....damn! Curve is coming, curve is coming. Tuck in head, trying to get a glimpse of what might come from above, anticipating what will come next. Down shift, push metal, hoping for those revs, where is the turbo? One more shift, click clack, whirring cogs, screaming engine, full lock, .....almost there....made it. Another hairpin and still many more to come. This hurts, this soaks energy, this is fun! Welcome to Pass Masters.
Driving a car on the autobahn at high speeds is exciting, this weekend though we play a different ball game. It is all about curves, altitude and a magnificent scenery. ....., our playground a twisty strip of tarmac, draped over the Alps.
Our destination? Who cares, these days are made for driving. We will cross borders, visit four countries within two days, but most of all scratch some limits, be it grip or our own driving capabilities. Timing, rhythm, tempo. Mastering the passes is like a dance. Get into the groove and you experience a high where everything seems so easy. Get thrown out of it and things can become nasty very quickly.
This years edition I have joined the Pass Masters crew with a co driver at my side. The right decision. Before I get too excited I hear a voice. "Kodak moment!" My co driver seems to have guardian angel qualities. At yet another of many summits we find ourselves snapping some fresh air and enjoying the scenery. We wait for the colorful train of cars to pass by to shoot some pictures. When the road seems clear we jump in the car, slam the doors and hit the metal for another set of custom cut curves.
Protect me from what I want!
Does this not sum up the grand total of carfreakishness?
We love 'em - and just can't help it. Even without sound, the mere sight of them makes us defenseless; cars, cars, cars... we just have to be near them!
Despite the Olympic spectacle being right around the corner, we opt for kidneys instead of rings this time (sorry Matt and Steve) because BMW's unique and ever-expanding Art Car family just never ceases to impress.
So here's a little encore for you carfreax and art lovers. Jenny Holzer would've given her blessing, given the cultural context, I'm sure. Big thanks again for the hot reporting and perfect pix by Naud!
- Geert S.
London – 2012
With a big roar the turboprop leaps forward into action. Sunny blue skies have already been replaced with drastic rainstorms, it’s still hot and very humid. I’m in an almost empty plane with nothing more than a small weekend back-pack, but none the less I’m on my way.
On my way... to London, on my way to London on the opening night of the Olympic games. My ETA is 19:05, which theoretically is just in time to catch the opening ceremony.
Althoug I like ‘the games’, my plans for this weekend are somewhat different. Carfreak as I am, or better even as ‘we’ are, my brother (Geert P.) and me both noticed a small article on the Top Gear Facebook page, telling about an extraordinary exhibit in London.
So after watching the obligatory opening ceremony from a London park, and after a good night’s rest we’re on our way. Geert’s blue mean machine is the tool for the mission today. Seems only fair I get to ride it at least once before it’s doomed to get sold, or is it? Anyway, roof down, sun up and we’re off to London. After a bit of agony we arrive at Shoreditch. Loudly painted walls all around and the quiet atmosphere are a bit contrasting. Then again, the £ 1,- parking fee we have to pay to park the car in the middle of London seems out of place as well.
In mere seconds (the exhibition is free of charge, what on earth is happening to us today) we arrive at the top floor. After punching in the e-mail address in an iPad we get a free bag of goodies which include a magazine on the Art Cars, a magazine on art, and a free Andy Warhol poster.
No need for me telling you guys it was awesome. Just browse the pictures!
Molsheim, Muellheim, Monsheim, Mulhouse, our navigation was lost in the Elzas. Late. Too little time and so many cars. We have entered a Walhalla and the clock is ticking. Time stands still in the old textile factory. Endless rows of exotic metal from different epochs, fantastic craftsmanship, a feast for the eye. Icons and strange experiments. An automotive historic overview with a french touch. The Schlumpf Collection, a hobby of a local manufacturer that turned that into an obsession. I have lost oversight, but will come back one day.
Paris, Place Charles de Gaulle, the point of gravity of this metropole. History meets modern times. Look right and one can feel Versailles, look left to spot la Defense on the horizon. A collection of landmarks on a string. Around the Arc de Triomphe the traffic hectically turns its cycles like a never ending washing program. So what is mobility like in this town? We are here to find out what makes the parisians tick.
During our hike up to the old arc we have spotted a street full of dealerships. Motorcycles and scooters that is and everything that can be put into this niche. Mp3 anyone? This city is made for it. Scale up the product and you end up with a smart before things get serious. Our final conclusion after three days in the french capitol: you better be smart over here. We wonder why the French did not invent this micro car.
La France, think of cars and you think of bumps and scratches. How does big and beautiful fit in this picture? We make a turn into the Avenue Foch to search for an answer. We have heard that somewhere beneath this broad street Paris rich park their cars. It takes a little while, but finally we step into an underground walhalla. The floor is oily and the atmosphere petrol-esque. Garage Foch, something between a barn full of forgotten exotics and louis vuitton on wheels. A changing collection of cars, old and new, its size overwhelming.
Tuck in your car or let it rust away in the dungeons of Paris, here you will find both ends of the spectrum. And yes, someone with a very soft spot for de Tomasos must live just around the corner. Some high lights. Garage Foch, definitely worth a re-visit some day.
Have we been here before? Virtually yes, but let's hit it one more time. Another CFX visit to a place full of hidden pleasures. It is the beginning of december and to top off an exciting year with a dose of inspiration we have decided to head north, direction Nuernberg. Somewhere in a little village we hit our target, dressed up your average industrial complex. Here one would expect a company specialized in milling machines, elevators perhaps or even tooling parts for the industry.
Behind these doors you will be blown back by a tsunami of heavenly metal. To cut it short, we are visiting the Dauphin Collection, a private party, an oasis of car history, packed, cramped, stuffed into a 21st century barn. The cars are lined up side to side. This is not not your usual museum tour or car show. A collection of cars, ranging from German, Italian to British. A feast for the eye and a hard one for the man behind the camera. One hundred cars in the first our and after that a walk through the second floor, filled up with more than 250 motorcycles. Details, details, details. A photo impression. Enjoy.
With a group of colleagues and a bunch of cars we are on our way to Salzburg. Traveling the b roads of Bavaria, swapping cars every half an hour. Know your product.
Lunchtime in Amerang, a green and sleepy village east of Munich, close to Chiemsee. After a good meal we take a dive into history at the local car museum. The collection is bigger than I thought. Some lost tourists and a group of designers. The museum is under reconstruction. Cars are being moved across the different halls. A good chance to get up close with some classics.
A big section is reserved for long forgotten brands of the early years. Normally not my favorite material, but I have to admit the simplicity and innovative construction methods are fascinating. Interior essentials, minimalist luxury.
Micro cars and sport coupes in bright colors or shades of white. Beautiful steering rims. Everything on display is pre airbag and in immaculate condition. Worth a visit if you are on your way into the Alps.
A saturday in may. Dashing the autobahns in a TT RS. Four automotive cities in one day: Ingolstadt, Muenchen, Stuttgart, Zuffenhausen. The short list for a museum trip through Germany. That concept is on another page though. Today we head towards the 125 Jahre Auto Event in the center of Stuttgart. Nevertheless we manage to visit one of the museums to top of a fantastic day.
We still have a little hour left after finishing the concours down town. Porsche or Mercedes, let's toss a dime. Shortly after we stand in front of a white geometric crystalline building. A nice contrast with the cars inside. The place is empty. The final hour. And yes, some of the cars have left their podium for tomorrows event.
The escalators upstairs and then a jaw dropping scene. An immaculate collection, cars in a more than perfect condition, presented in a black and white scenery. This is insane! A string of high lights. Little time to think, carfreax in the candy store, kneeling down for each icon, trying to grasp the spirit. Martini and Rothmans, Pig and Sunoco. A landscape of 917's with accompanying soundscapes and historical graphics.
A short and intense visit. This place should be your Mecca if you are into cars. Within 60 minutes you will experience that Porsche is a religion.
The scenery, the cars, it all looked great on the pictures. The first edition of an exhilarating event. A bunch of cars slicing the Alps in three days. That was last year. It is the beginning of June. One year later things look different. No longer am I limited to see the aftermath, I am in the middle of the action! Cars tagged with numbers and stickers. This is not a race, but a extremely well organized get together of passionate car enthusiasts.
Pass Masters 2011. Friday morning, I arrive late in Munich at the Haus der Kunst. The parking lot is closed, or better, reserved for a private happening. The lady at the gate looks at me with a slightly grim face. "One of them I guess?" The gravel cracks as I slowly roll around the corner. It is raining. Action. A jaw dropping colorful avalanche of metal. My pulse rises, excitement. Finally I am awake. This is amazing. Exotic and classic cars parked all over the place. People putting stickers on the flanks of their beauties.
A couple of minutes later I return to my car. Road book, "racing" numbers and some Carfreax.com stickers, a last minute action by me and Steve with the help of Florian. The latter is one of the style police crew, giving the event a graphical identity and in charge of documentation. I wonder why I am given number 77, a late arrival or does it just looks great on a TT Mark I? It mimics the name of the car. During the event one can undoubtedly see the the concept looking at the other cars. Designers at work that is.
No time to take pictures. In a pack we leave the compound, cruising through Munich. Bystanders point fingers, smiling faces. Soon after I got lost, followed by a Porsche. "One of us" I think. Together and with the help of the soft voice from the navigation we make it to the autobahn, direction south. We catch up with other members of the group. A first flexing of muscles, ready for the Alps, hungry for some hairpins.
A regroup at a Raststaette. The whole bunch together. More than seventy cars, about one hundred petrol heads. Magnificent vibes. Click click. A final call, "let's take it easy guys, this is not a Gumball trip". No space to speed. Soon after we are struck in traffic. An opportunity to open the stylized lunch package and let the pack of cars slowly pass by. Mustangs, Beetles, Porsches, Italian classics. To much to name all of them.
On the other side of the border, after Garmisch, the group of cars thins out quickly. After I stop for some pictures I am on my own. Every now and then I grab the road book from the passenger seat. Still on track, with my own pace, aiming for the end of stage 2. First steep climbs. "Over crest, cows, maybe" I think as I speed through the "Kuh Tal".
At the Oetztaler Glacier I catch up with the others, just in time. Or not. It rains and its cold. We won't go through the clouds today, but still, heaven is just some miles away. Direction Italy. A pearl necklace of passes, swinging asphalt and twisty roads. Don't have the rhythm yet, but slowly it's coming. The quattro feels great, grippy and eager for more.
Goodwood is just one week ago. The images still burn on my retina. This, though, is my private hill climb. Pure action. With every curve the bond between men and machine gets more intense, almost intimate. No squealing wheels, over- or understeer so far. A certain respect for road, car and my own limits. Ups and downs, I am getting in the flow, cutting the curves sharper by the minute.
Finally Italy. A quick look in the road book. Miles away from our destination and still quiet a bit to travel. Am I ahead or behind the pack? I can only guess. Did I take to many stops trying to freeze the moments when the amazing landscapes unfold? The play of light and shadows, the stony tectonic breaks and amazing formations of rocks. It all flies by in a rush. A kinetic experience, hard to nail down in a picture. I up the speed, hoping to be one time for the end of stage 3.
Carfreax in the mist. At the top of one pass I meet some others. Steve and I take some quick shots in a blurry environment. His R8, numbered 88 parked next to my 77. The tuned beetle passes, fighting for speed. "Ready to go?" "Damn, I like this!" A gray windshield, no sight. Soon after the stinging breaking lights of Steve dilute into the fog. A different league, or attitude.
Some hours and many hairpins later the last pass before Bolzano. Penser Joch. I have seen the Veyrons taking a break and have been chasing a MX5. The group is mixed up once again. Lost the feeling of time and space. This must be the concept of the Pass Masters. The last stint is a hard one. Curvy stretches of mountain roads, pushing the clutch every couple of seconds. It is getting late and I am craving for some pizza.
The journey is the reward. I flip through the maps to get a feeling where the f#*k I am. Must have taken the wrong turn somewhere. The Seisser Alm is our final destination for today. After some u turns I coincidentally bump into a pack of Pass Masters, chasing the Italian hills. We stop a couple of times and decide to let the navigation be our master for the last miles of the day. In a rather adventurous way we reach our destination. The road through the woods gets narrower with every curve. A look in my rear view mirror to check if the wide Diablo is able to make it. Vrooop Vrooop.
A phone call to number 88. Steve must be behind me. Must have been quicker than I thought. We re-unite at the local pizzeria, craving for food and sharing impressions of a fantastic first day.Tired after an intensive.day one. One hundred petrol heads with empty stomachs, but loaded with stories. Along the way we have lost some cars and we will loose some more the day after.
The saturday will be another ride through heaven, crossing the holy grounds of motorists walhalla. The Dolomites are the decorum with its impressive rock formations. Another 300 Kilometers of passes. This time with a co driver. Bernd's quattro has a troubled fuel pump. We listen to jazz music as we slice through the greens of northern Italy. Another perfect day, topped with a neat dinner in the middle of nowhere. Petrol holidays.
1200 Km. Those are the back lid numbers as I return home on late sunday evening. These are just the facts. I spastically open the door in Ingolstadt, the gear changes still reverb in my nerves. 4th, 3th, 2th, a quick turn, throttle. I mastered the passes. Man meets machine.
With an Audi S8 V10 routinely parked in front of our house (hey, it's even frozen in time on GMaps), with R32 Golfs as 'shoppers' parked around the corner and with daily spots of Astons, Rollses and tons of Porsches - this funny little runabout here still managed to catch our eye, and win our sympathy every time we strolled to and from our nearest tube station.
London - you guessed it. Chiswick to be precise, a nice and upmarket residential area where we've set up our holiday camp this week.
The car: a Triumph Herald, Michelotti-bodied and rather successful in its days. It was built for more than ten years - out-phasing its own successor, the 1300. All Heralds sported a separate chassis with bolted-on body panels, enabling the engineers to quickly convert their design from hardtop/coupe to sedan, convertible - or even an estate and van spinoff. This version here is a second gen convertible with 'angry eyes'; in that sense you could even call it ahead of its time - Peugeot, eat your heart out!
The Herald and its beefier 6-cylinder Vitesse sister always hit kind of a soft spot with me. Don't get me wrong, I don't particularly like 'em, but -next to a blue 356 coupe and a white Mark 2- a pale coloured Herald is one of my earliest childhood carfreak memories. A friend of my aunt's drove it and used to bring it round our place a few times. I guess already then I thought it was different.
I guess it still is.
This particular Cockney item was moderately tuned with some nice period details. Couldn't tell if the engine (61 bhp standard) had been tickled also, but the Minilite rims and bullet mirrors go well with the red paint job. The body coloured bumpers were standard kit on certain models. On the inside, note the full wooden dash and substantial door panel trim. The after-market steering wheel rim seems a bit on the beefy side also, so these 'lightweight design' holes seem well justified.
...And do mind the slightly mouldy smell - if you're getting too close.
Oh well, then again, what do you expect from an island-born convertible? All character, mate.
There, I said it.
It’s Friday evening, It’s May and Summer has started early I’ve just discovered there’s a major car event at the ‘Neuen Schlosses’ Stuttgart this weekend. 125 cars will line up to celebrate 125 years of automobile history. I phone Mattijs “what you doin’ this weekend” I blurt. “er nothing, why?” replies the bewildered voice. I explain what’s on and spring the clinching final words “we can visit the Porsche museum, as well”. Mattijs thinks about it for 2 seconds, before answering “I’m in!”
Saturday morning 8.45 a.m. Were streaking down the A8 towards Stuttgart in a TTRS. We're late! Breaks in traffic allow us to hit 260 km/h occasionally. The event starts at 10 and we want to get there before the crowds start. Finally we arrive at 11 and the place is packed! The Schloss is in the middle of town, it’s Saturday, there’s a flea market and everyone wants to go shopping. Parking? Forget it! We finally leave the insect covered TT hot and ticking in an empty corner of an underground car park.
It’s not worth rushing anymore, and we decide to have a quiet coffee, or so we think! For the next twenty minutes were bombarded by the sight and sound of exotic metal driving past, not just the local Porsches and Merc’s, but Lambo’s, Lotus’s, Ferrari’s and even a Spyker. If this is the starter, what’s the main course like?
Time to hit the Schloss! A feast of shiny metal and chrome is laid out before us, the only problem are the crowds, this is going to be a challenge for our photographic skills!
The variety of cars on show is amazing, from huge American barges to tiny Fiat 500’s, Fast Ferrari’s to Meandering Microbuses and Muscular Supercars to puny Economy cars. The sun is shining and there’s a lot of cars to photograph. With no real plan Mattijs and I split up heading for our favorite cars, we bump into each other occasionally drooling over the same cars, both of us trying to find just the right angle to photograph while negotiating those goddamn crowds!
At the end of the day celebrity judges from the world of car design officially judge a Porsche 356 Carrera GT as the winner of the day. The spectacular RUF CTr is a runner up, winning the sports car category. This beautifully detailed Kermit green supercar packs 745 PS, It’s chassis no1 and surprisingly the only one in Germany.
It’s not quite the end of the day for Mattijs and me yet. We hit the road again and set the navigation to the Porsche museum, but that’s another story.
Why is it that formula cars and Sports 2000 racers appeal less to the imagination than other track weapons?
This theory works for me. Comparing the typically pointy, sex-less expressions of many formula cars around with the older, open-mouthed 'cigars' in the paddock convinces. The presence of just that mouth in the anonymous face already makes a big difference. Having said that, upon closer inspection there is actually lots to see on these lean machines' bodies; this is even the case with the skinny 'Formula Kent' series. Flo and I take our time and soak up the wealth of details; from purposeful tight packaging bulges to massive NACAs - and the odd leather strap. Even duct tape can be beautiful on these bare, functional fuselages. Yet the difference, made by well-executed graphics, is phenomenal. Most owners are either running traditional race colours (good!), a non-discript pale livery which was probably developed for their truck fleet (bad!) or a detonating combination of the favourite colours they had as kids (ugly!). Most cover their monoposto in random clouds of stickers and decals.
A manga-style track fighter stands out, however - graphics with almost military intent, properly designed. Good job, studio 54!
While the last strips of duct tape are applied to squeeze those last drops of aerodynamic drag out of the fiberglass shells, we slowly move on - to check out the action in pit lane. A semi-pro blue crew is manning the wall as one after the other racer rolls out of its box - proudly carrying the latest technical approval stickers, while the engine barks deafening, raw and brutal soundbites. Back to the action!
Not much later we find ourselves further down, on the opposite paddock side, where we choose to stroll down the other, older pit lane with its many small boxes. This is where the touring cars live these days. Many of them are jacked up, wheels removed. Must be the weather - unreliable as always down here. You never know which type of tires you need until it's too late. Pushing back the decision. Many pit boxes are deserted, in some cases a bored wife is sipping coffee while hubby (Austin Powers?) is making final adjustments to the car - or trying to relax, if he still can. The atmosphere is friendly, sometimes candid. Open door policy - no questions asked when we walk in to admire the machinery.
When the formula cars have finished their laps, our interest is back to the races again. Must be the face thing - can't help it. It's also brilliant to see that the cars that we've only just looked straight in the eye have now all come to life - to fight it out on the track. Sleeping Beauty has transformed into Speed Beast. Pedal to the metal.
One of the best fights we witnessed that day had to be towards the end. After having ventured into new territory, by walking up the hill from Pouhon towards Rivage. We cross a big welcome sign, at the back of the track, that seems to represent the main entrance for a more important audience - the F1 circus? We make our way back to the best part of the circuit - along the long straight towards Kemmel, Raidillon and ...Eau Rouge.
The decision to first stop halfway down the straight appears to be a good one. This is where some big m*****f*****s are going to be screaming their rebel yells only a matter of minutes later. The best howl must be from the viper-green-and-black Dodge Challenger; independently Floris and I get visions of a World War Two fighter blasting past us, as it chases a bright blue 911 RS up the hill towards Les Combes.
Shivers down the backbone!! (Shakin' all over!)
Saturday 11th June, 10 AM.
The citizens of Francorchamps have already had their involuntarily early start to the day over an hour ago, by the time we finally arrive at the track. The day's second session is already well under way. As with previous editions of the Summer Classic, the brutal noise of race cars shifting down for the La Source hairpin is almost lost in the naturally quiet Ardennes surroundings. It surprises us -again- how little public is attracted by these fantastic Francorchamps race day events. After our two-hour road trip, we opt for a cappuccino and pain au chocolat on the paddock restaurant's balcony, while we take in the high paced laps of the CSCC 'Swinging Sixties' machines. A bright red Camaro soon becomes our favourite, but it can hardly keep up with the canary yellow TR7 it is chasing. But wait - wasn't that a seventies car?
But that's the Summer Classic; while the contenders do race as hard as in any other competition, the various classes are such a rich mix of vehicles that it is often a challenge in itself to try and guess its common denominators. But then, who cares? Certainly not the mixed bag of drivers: captains of industry, their well-off 'sons-of', a rich variety of smaller company owners (judged by the obscure sponsor names, written in large on their cars and trailers) and numerous plain enthousiasts who have probably put most of their savings in a Caterham Seven or, say, a Lotus Cortina. Which is often maintained by a bunch of even more enthousiast mechanics - seemingly from the local town workshop. They often race in various classes simultaneously and are all just here for a few days of undiluted fun. And for the fans that we are, the Summer Classic, as always, is a great way to come oh so up close and personal to the cars and their drivers.
This rich mix of pedigree seems slightly off balance when the Formula 3 series get ready to rumble. The average age of formula car drivers seems well above 50 (60?), judged by one after the other grey-moustached, well-weathered face that we spot through most helmet visors. Nevertheless these guys mean the business. Some cars look like miniature Formula 1 racers and the attention to detail -as the level of tech support- is impressive.
As the weather changes, sometimes dramatically, in an almost hourly rhythm, we do our best -as the drivers do- to anticipate and plan our obligatory track walk. You don't want to get caught in one of those sudden Francorchamps rain showers! Before you know it, the shimmering hot and sticky asphalt may change in a soaking wet and slippery slide. Which will consecutively heat up so quickly again that steam rises from it, thick as smoke. The air will be hot and humid once more, with ten degrees centigrade difference in a matter of minutes. Ah, Francorchamps!
We alternate watching the races with deep-diving into the paddock and pit lanes. Every tent, every pit box its own atmosphere, nationality and -in many cases- family feel. Lots of Brits today! A bit further down, we chat with the 2 meter tall Dutch driver of a tiny orange mint condition Elan, who explains us why the car looks so good: it was built up all over again after a recent dramatic crash. Changed my opinion on shiny race cars once and for all! "It's all in the game", he smiles, indifferently. Later that day, he would finish third - his cheeky little Lotus snapping at the tail of a big, bad 'Vette.
It's those unexpected stories and meetings, together with the ever-inspiring hunt for details, brilliant war paint and graphics, that make these days so great. On top of the continuous speed kicks and eargasms that is.
What a wonderful day!