Home  /  February 2022  /  Comment

I know you are in deep mourning. Weeping and gnashing your teeth. How could Felicity Ace do it to us?

The Captain and I blame electric vehicles. About 4000 pieces of serious metal including 1100 Porkers, 189 Bentleys, a few dozen Lambos including some end of model runout Aventadors ($850k drive away no more to pay) and heaps of EVs with lithium batteries that catch fire whenever they feel like it and can’t be put out with water or anything else have been going up in smoke just off Portugal.

Sensibly, the 22 crew on board bailed the first chance they had.

How bad is the fire problem in your death trap? Don’t let me put you off buying a car that will probably spontaneously ignite like the burning bush on Mount Horeb (aka Willow Peak: travel tip – if you see the burning bush a voice from inside the flameageddon will tell you to take your thongs off, so wear nice socks), but in a series of tests run by Andy Blum for the not-for-profit (much like this newspaper and online platform) National Fire Protection Association, fire in lithium batteries kept flaring up even after it appeared to be extinguished.

In one test, a ­battery fire reignited 22 hours after it was thought to be extinguished.

“Everything looked normal,” recalled Andy. “When we looked at the battery through a thermal imager, everything was back to ambient temperatures; the fire was extinguished, but there was something going on internally in the module and we just couldn’t tell.” Spooky.

Anyway, the Felicity Ace is a one-owner (Mitsui Takatoshi), 2005, 200m Panama-registered car carrier with a single diesel Mitsubishi engine that the manufacturer claims is good for 22 knots with 4000 cars on board. I think before the fire you could pick it up for $35m, but ask for a discount for smoke damage.

Talking of crashageddons, how good was last Sunday’s Daytona 500? Of course, it’s already the event of this year or any other year because our big boss waved the green starting flag. Yup it was 200 laps of all high-banked, door-rubbing, wheel-losing, cars upside down at an average speed of 228km/h with an occasional leap to 291km/h.

At the end of 3½ hours of only turning left, the lead had changed 35 times, 40 starters had become 27 and rookie 23-year-old Austin Cindric beat Bubba (don’t you wish there were more Bubbas in Australia? Bubba Morrison? Bubba Albo?) Wallace by 0.036 seconds in overtime to deliver a great happy 85th birthday pressie to his car owner, Roger Penske.

A nice segue to your WART team’s outing in the Wakefield 300, also on last Sunday but not televised to nine million fans. As we always tell the kiddies, participation is more important than just winning, so let’s focus on the wonderful staff and volunteers who make grassroots motor racing great in Australia. After six years at my (nearly) favourite track, my favourite events administration officer/race secretary, Ruth Walsh, has selfishly decided to get married and start a new career in the health caper. Ruth, there’s no future in health but plenty in dealing with the kinds of maniacs that frequent racetracks. Good luck.

In a huge upset the Hamo of local enduro racing, Todd Herring in his MX-5, barely finished and the Mad Max, Benny Tran in his Honda, joined us for an early mark in the pits. Winner was long-time campaigner Dan Kap­etanovic in his Beemer.

Full confession, we did do a small spell in the naughty corner.

Talking of business news rather than stuff you don’t care about, newly listed car dealer Peter Warren lifted net profit 35 per cent for their first half year as a public company. Pete and the team have moved to an agency model on their Merc franchises, have – like many new car sellers – a big order backlog and, unlike others, have recently moved into Victoria picking up, among other brands, Mazda. Good luck with that. There’s very few dealers I’m a fan of, but Peter Warren (good to see Pete’s son Paul on the board) is one. For a list of others, send me a stamped, addressed envelope.

Our team here think the real future is the subscription model.  Porsche, Mercedes, Cadillac, Jaguar, Volvo and BMW all offered a Netflix-for-cars program in the US. Porsche is one of the few still in business. Interestingly, the Porker people are now offering rentals in Australia. Rent a 911 for $911 a day. Part of the lack of success was the manufacturer’s Netflix cost you three times their normal lease costs. Australia’s Carbar, started by Desmond Hang and a few uni pals, offers everything from 2017 Hyundai Accents for $676 up front and $152 a week including rego, insurance and servicing. A 2021 Beemer is $3.3k upfront and $700 a week.

If you’re not joining us at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and Dave Gooding’s auction on March 4, then head straight off to the AXA Sydney Harbour Concours d’Elegance at the heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney. On Friday night there’s the regular collectors cars auction, with free Pommery Champagne (the Coopers of the French wine caper). My favourite in the Concours is the 2008 Morgan Aeromax. One of 100, one of 28 with right-hand drive and one of six with the six-speed manual gearbox, this was built for Top Gear’s Richard Hammond, who sold it to Australian champion motorcycle racer Chris Vermeulen, who sold it to its current owner. Around $350k new.

Look I thought Toyota had gone out a limb and offered me the olive branch of goodwill by inviting me, through the In The Media PR company, to exclusively test drive the Kinto (I think named after the Lone Ranger’s side kick) and an exclusive interview with boss Mark Ramsay. But no! The In The Media PR company thought I wrote for the AFR. OK, back to Mercedes and MG.



Support great journalism and subscribe 

Recent articles from this author