You probably think you go to countries like Scotland to look at castles.
Look, if you’ve seen Game of Thrones, you’ve seen all the castles you need to. Basically, they’re all the same. Lots of stone. Lavish but cold living quarters for the rich owners heated by environmentally unsound practices with beds covered in the skins of mainly dead animals. Crook living conditions for peasants. Better conditions for the animals. Weirdo serial killers knocking on the front door all the time. Hey, that sounds just like Adelaide.
(Talking of Adelaide, don’t forget to come and see the Weekend Australian Rally Team on November 22 at the start of The Shannons Adelaide Rally, the largest tarmac rally event in the known world. Mick will be selling his books including signed copies of Carma Sutra: the Auto Erotic Handbook; Hookers or Cake: Animal Spirits, Pop Culture, God and EVs; and How to Train Goldfish Using Dolphin Training Techniques. All come with the old bloke’s personal online coaching offer and a free copy of the Sunday Australian from 1971.)
Anyway, the real reason you head off to Edinburgh, apart from the generally crook food and super whisky, is Scotland’s national racetrack Knockhill. The only bad news is that it’s owned by a temporary Scotsperson, Derek Butcher, and head coach is another temporary Scotsperson, former British superbike champ Denny Hobbs. Anyway, now being partially indoctrinated into the motorbike sect by our own temporary Australian, world superbike champ Troy Corser (and don’t forget to book a place at Troy’s new local riding a bike fast school), I guess I have to accept that, like EVs, motorcycles will catch on one day.
It’s 48 minutes by Toyota CHR (ours came from Hertz at full freight) from Macbethville to Knockhill. Quick car review just like real motoring columns: The CHR is a hybrid that is not all that frugal on gas but really fun to drive. Has all the tricks, handles like all front-wheel drives but for the price in Australia (about $34k) you could buy something better.
Anyway, at Knockhill you can drive a Ferrari F430 coupe ($430), do 17 laps in a very hot prototype Honda Civic Type R ($500), sit low in an F1-looking formula race car ($300), but being a person of the people I went for the working person’s Legend (I paid $280). Developed at North Carolina’s Charlotte Motor Speedway, to provide low-cost racing with little maintenance time and cost, Legend bodies are 5/8 -scale replicas of American automobiles from the 1930s and 1940s, powered by 100kW Yamaha bike engines. In Australia they can also be Holdens and Falcons.
Sorry, I can’t resist telling you that this week’s nominative determinism award goes to the person who first let the Legend loose on the world back in 1992 and who is still the CEO of Charlotte Motor Speedway: wait for it, Humpy Wheeler.
If you suffer a sprinkling of claustrophobia, leave Legends languishing. When drivers, like me, whose bodies are of the more luxurious style, try to get in a Legend, the picture of trying to stuff an elephant into a sardine can springs to mind. Just think of the Legend interior as half a small coffin where the soon-to-be-deceased person sits upright surrounded by a sequential gearbox (a word for the true believers there), a removable steering wheel that, when in place, threatens your hooter, and wire mesh for a front window. It comes complete with a fixed rear axle, no electronic or mechanical driving aids and no subtlety in power application. In other words, the engine is idling or in super warp speed. Adding to the fun was the decision by Scotland’s most powerful god, Beira, the Queen of Winter, to make the rain bucket down on an already oily track.
Once I dropped Troy Corser’s name, temporary Scotsperson and Superbike champ (and as it turns out, touring car champ) Danny Hobbs thought he could let me loose with minimum coaching. Twenty readers, one friend and eldest son who is not so sure he wants to be in the will if he has to keep reading this column, you already know the ending. I’m sure a Legend is nowhere near as fast as, say, a Bugatti. But sitting in a coffin cleverly disguised as a 5/8th scale 1935 Ford Coupe with a roaring engine, roaring wind coming through the wire mesh window with the roaring rain, bouncing along the main straight at 190km/h while trying to work out which of the five gears you could be in before you have to make a sharpish right hand turn down a steep hill, would make any grown man, woman or other weep. I did.
Knockhill provides one of the best track experiences you can buy anywhere in the world. They flog time in karts, rally cars, Aston Martins, E-Types and lots of other kit and at pretty good prices for lots of track time. Book at www.knockhill.com but don’t mention my name.
Hamilton and Mercedes – the most dominant combination in F1 history – are still waiting for their first wins of the season after falling behind following the rule changes.” But you’re not here for the on-track action when off track is where the real action is. Danny Ricciardo is odds on to sit out next season. Pete Gasly will probably leave Alpha Tauri for Alpine. Ferdy Alonso has gone to Aston Martin. Mick Schumacher may lose his seat at Haas. Nick Latifi will probably leave Williams. So, applications are being taken for drives at Alpha Tauri, Alpine, Haas and Williams.
Next week: a big reaction to last week’s speed camera rip-off; the app a reader has invented to stop you being a speed camera victim, and did you buy into the Porker IPO? In a clever move, VW sold 911 million shares (get it, 911) or about 12 per cent of the company. Too late if you didn’t. And if you didn’t pay the top price of $123 a share you had no hope anyway. On my calcs this values the Porker company at $112bn or about the same as the market cap of Ford and GM combined. Imagine if Humpy Wheeler floated Legends!