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Imagine you and the other 20 off-roaders in the local fun rally have just pulled into the servo for some juice, a few smokes (not while you’re filling your tank), a few dozen chocolate bars and a nice cold can of Diet Coke when some lads from the local drug cartel dressed in baddies gear turn up in a black Infinity van, fire 253 rounds from 13 different guns, kill 10 and wound another 10.

Yup, this tragedy happened last weekend in the seaside city of Ensenada on the Baja Peninsula during the fifth Cachanillazo 2023.

While car sports aren’t in the top 10 most dangerous sports in the world (think base jumping, skydiving, golf and underwater dominoes), this has probably given rallying a boost in the hit parade of death and injuries.

So, contestants in next week’s Baja 500, which passes within gunshot of Ensenada, have probably already stocked up with a few Henry Big Boy Classic 41 Magnums and at least six P365 High-Capacity Micro-Compacts, the revolutionary new concealed carry pistol.

With the P365, no one will ask you that embarrassing “are you carrying?” question again.

The 230 entrants in the Baja range from serious racers to LA private equity suits who are deliriously happy to swap bling for bang as they cross the border.

But the Baja 500 (804km) and the next race in the series, November’s Baja 1000, don’t need guns to kill and injure. TheDrive.com’s Mike Guy calls the Baja 1000 “the single most dangerous race in North America, and one of the bloodiest in the world.

Together with its still formidable warm-up race, the Baja 500, the races have claimed dozens of lives.

The first Baja 500 was started in 1969 with Steve McQueen’s stunt double, Bud Ekins, winning and Steve vanishing. The race then, as it is now, is mainly Ford and Chevy, and a whole heap of specialist buggy builders you’ve never heard of.

But you should know the two Australians in both Bajas. Paul Weel (yes I know, a great name for a racer) has a serious team that includes our own Lawrence of the desert, Toby Price. Paul and his dad started the ASX-listed PWR Advanced Cooling Technology, which I’m not allowed to recommend but PWR is just moving into space and war stuff as well as high radiators, so at a very low $7.37, I’d say (if I could) they’re a screaming buy.

Then there’s our own version of Dakar and Baja, the Finke Desert Race. Also starting in early June, also featuring Toby Price, the car section nearly didn’t happen after a coroner’s critical report. But Motorsport Australia has issued a permit for the race and “will implement a host of specific safety measures”.

Basically, spectators won’t be able to camp next to the track.

Talking of danger, let’s look at another crook ownership experience wrought on an unsuspecting owner by the service department of what otherwise is a good brand.

How good? I liked the brand so much I bought two of them. Poor old reader 16, Philip Muscatello, didn’t share my experience. In fact his first Skoda Superb caught fire on a shopping trip with his 90-year-old mother. His insurance company, Budget Direct, was a star on the first one and Phil bought another. Bad mistake.

“We were motoring happily in the second Skoda until a typical Sydney downpour before Easter. The passenger side was flooded and we now have a $5200 quote from Skoda for repairs and an ­insurance claim that is being ‘considered’ but unlikely to be successful,” he said. “The concierge at Skoda told me that this is a common problem with sunroofs of all makes and models.”

So, the consumer’s friend (me) rang the PR boss at VW (VW owns Skoda) who is normally very good and said he would get the heavies at Skoda to talk to Phil.

Go Phil: “I received a call from Anna at Skoda on Friday – she seemed to be a low-level functionary. Basically, asking what I was after and mentioning that the car was out of warranty and this is not the kind of problem that would be fixed by Skoda. I mentioned the car catching fire story. She said she would get back to me.”

Look Skoda, I don’t have 20 readers for no reason. Next week we will name and shame the dealer and we’ll keep going on problems with Skoda until someone serious has a chat with Phil.

Now in less depressing news. RM Sotheby’s just finished it’s biggest ever Villa Erba auction.

Bidders from 37 countries got the moths out of their pockets, threw talk of recession to the wind, couldn’t give a stuff about the jump in electricity prices and put $90m into the pockets of RM and its sellers.

No prizes for guessing eight of the top 10 were Ferraris. Star was the 1972 Ferrari 312 PB, one of the most significant competition sports prototypes built by Ferrari. Yours for $20m.

Older readers would have been bidding on the 1952 Jaguar XK 120 Roadster, first owned and driven by Clark Gable. JP from Perth tells me I have to explain that Clark was the George Clooney of his time and that George, who lives down the road from Villa Erba, may well have been the buyer at only $636k.

If you haven’t been to the Villa Erba auction lately, then plan for next year. Como car week is going off. Apart from the auctions there’s the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the Prelude Tour from Milan to Cernobbio, and the ­FuoriConcorso.

I think the FuoriConcorso series is one of the great metal celebrations in the world. Every year, since 2019, it demonstrates how creative the industry can be with rare and previously unseen custom cars and prototypes.

This year the focus was on the more than 30 cars that wrote aerodynamics history. Cars like the Diatto 20S “Torpedo”, the BMW 328 Kamm Coupe, with an aluminium body streamlined by Carrozzeria Touring for the 1940 Mille Miglia, and the Abarth 1000 Record car.



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