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motorsport monsters Soak up some NASCAR noise, love a rally hero & go Atomic Mikkola Mk1 › Neil Cole Column › Sequential Atom




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ell, it’s that magical time of year again and what a Christmas gift we have for you lucky people, FREE, as ever, from Team Road Magazine & Blog – this month, celebrating motorsport monsters! We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a fabulous festive frolic and very Happy New Year. And also to say a big thanks for all the support, kind comments and best wishes we’ve received over the year. We love doing Road’s monthly magazine and daily updated blog for you, and we are so glad you all enjoy it so much. Do share us with your friends, join us on Facebook ( and Twitter @roadmagazine. As we enter our third year as the UK’s original digital car magazine and blog, we’ve lots of exciting new things to entertain you – starting with the introduction of TV stars, Gemma Scott (testing green eco cars for us) and Neil Cole, who’s doing a motorsport column for us. And you can read Neil’s first one, from the epic Race of Champions in this issue. It’s fabulous! Also this issue, we celebrate some motorsport monsters: Road USA correspondent, Ashley Van Dyke reports on the illustrious, jawdrpping NASCAR Sprint Cup series from the desert city of Avondale – rumbling V8’s, huge speeds and concrete walls and all. Yee-haa! We also report from Bedford Autodrome, where news has broken that PalmerSport will be running a fleet of amazing Ariel Atoms in 2012, with new Sadev sequential gearboxes in tow. OMG! And we’ve already booked a seat to set a hot lap time there in 2012, to see if Team Road can get up the top of the new “Supergrid” leaderboard. Bring it on! We love Atoms. Finally, we’ve got a wonderful shoot by Road staff snapper, Neil Denham, on Hannu Mikkola’s Safari-rally-winning Mk1 Escort, and an exacting replica, built by rally lover, Gordon Currie. Ace! Merry Christmas guys & gals! Road Editor, Phil Royle


nasty Nacsar

Ashley Van Dyke reports from the top-of-the-NASCAR-tree, Sprint Cup Series in the desert city of Avondale, Arizona, for the 24th Annual Kobalt Tools 500. V8-Tastic!


n the thick of everything going on recently – a trip to Shanghai with David Cheng, the SEMA show in Las Vegas, the Los Angeles Auto Show – I did manage to squeeze in a NASCAR race that was guaranteed not to disappoint. Things were already hot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series before the teams arrived in the desert city of Avondale, AZ for the 24th Annual Kobalt Tools 500. Phoenix International Raceway was recently paved and although testing was done by the majority of the teams since, there was no actual race data and so many variables to factor. Many called this event a wild card in the chase. I

couldn’t wait to get to the race track to get my last taste of big boy circle track racing for the year and bear witness to a championship battle about to unfold. “It is obvious when you see what is going on out there that the grip level is low and so it plays a factor of what your decision making is and I just tried to come off pit-road as hard as I could, get as much heat in the tires as I could, and came to the green decent, but I could tell the grip was not quite there – but I was

not expecting what I had in turn one! It was just completely sideways going in there! I never had any of that throughout practice, so it is going to be interesting to watch and see what happens,” stated Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet. There was also a threat of rain, adding to the heady mix. So, when I arrived on Sunday morning, the jet dryers were hard at work on the track surface. The race track was surely washed of all the rubber laid down from the Nationwide race

and practice sessions from the day before. This wasn’t good for the drivers and meant for dangerous slick racing conditions. “The track is real slick, we just tried to go out there and do the best we could,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr, No. 88 Retro Mountain Dew/ National Guard Chevrolet. “I think the track is going to

keep improving and guys are going to get faster and faster. We struggled yesterday in practice, but felt like we improved a little bit. It is real slick and you just kind of go out there and take care of yourself.” Things did dry up quickly and thankfully the race pace wasn’t set back. The stands were packed with fans and

the atmosphere was resonating with a real NASCAR buzz and excitement. Matt Kenseth was the first to the green flag, having won the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 26.258 seconds, 137.101mph. This marked three Poles total in the year for Kenseth which is a season best for him. It was a great race with

all the adrenalin and action a NASCAR race fan, like me, craves: The two drivers battling for the points were neck and neck at the end. It was a strong race for Carl Edwards and he demonstrated pure strength the entire race, coming up with a classy 2nd place finish. Tony Stewart brought it home right behind him

in 3rd place. And it was refreshing to see Kasey Khane score his 12th career win and take the Red Bull team with its uncertain future to victory lane. It’s no secret Tony Stewart knows how to turn up the volume in the later segment of the racing season. As the series made its final trek back across the USA to

Homestead-Miami Speedway there was just three points separating him from Carl Edwards and his Ford Fusion. Tony Stewart went into this race programmed not to fail. He not only won the 2011 NASCAR Spring Cup Championship, but he took the race win and ate the cake too. Happy 100th birthday to Chevrolet!

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open-face helmet - wide-eyed, gurning and snarling as he fights a KTM X-Bow around a tight 1.2km parallel circuit. All four of us burst out laughing at the Le Mans’ legend’s extreme facial expressions. “TK – you’re an ANIMAL!” says JB. (Initials are the usual abbreviation, just ask DC) and everybody laughs, again. This is the spirit of Race Of Champions. It has the feel of a millionaire’s stag weekend: Yes, all the drivers are there to WIN, and to represent their sponsors and charities, but ultimately it is the closest we get to the “Good Old Days of Motorsport” where gentlemen drivers would walk out of the pub, stub out a cigarette, jump in the cockpit, spit on their hands and RACE. Also, much like a bachelor party am standing in an underground hitting the karting track, there are car-park, shoulder to shoulder private beefs about which vehicle with Jenson Button, Andy Priseems quicker than the rest, which aulx and Travis Pastrana – three one has a dodgy clutch, which men at the very top of their individ- one has just come out on cold ual trees. We are watching the live tyres – except these aren’t little TV output of a race... a race taktwo-stroke karts – they’re massive ing place about 40 feet and sevV8 stock cars and Audi R8s and eral thousand tonnes of concrete, Skoda Fabia S2000s. The scale of grass, metal and tarmac above machinery is diametrically different our heads. The camera cuts to an but the same grievances still apply. onboard shot of Tom Kristensen’s In fact, young WRC wizard Sebastface - clearly visible in HD & an ien Ogier – who’s just defected

Neil Cole is Road’s new motorsport columnist: “Clipping all the apexes, and dotting all the Ümlauts!” Neil, a man of many talents – part comedian and part TV presenter – has appeared on our screens covering WRC with Dave, motorsport on ESPN, Motors TV, the BBC, ITV, C4, MTV, AXN, UKTV, Extreme Sports Channel, The Audi Channel and Sky One. He is also a producer for World Series by Renault. Top guy & talented scribe...


from Citroen to Volkswagen for BIG money, and was dressed in his VW finery for the first time here in Düsseldorf – threw a little tantrum when he heard his first race in the final would be in the little 190BHP RoC Car “Non! But I’ve only driven it for like two laps on Friday! That’s not FAIR!” he stropped. But he needn’t have worried; he won. And became Champion Of Champions 2011... just like his prime nemesis – Seb Loeb – did in 2003, the year before HE won the World Rally Championship for the first time. Watch this space for Seb2.0... Interesting to see both Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean on their best behaviour in their black & gold Lotus Renault overalls – clearly both feeling Race Of Champions might be their last chance to impress Eric Boullier. If it was, I’d say RG clearly did something right... Off the track, there are two things that are legendary about Race Of Champions – Saturday night’s party, which is exclusive to the drivers. It usually has Schumacher as ringleader and has been the ruin of many a poor boy. (This year, David Coulthard didn’t go out on Saturday night. Sunday morning: “This is the first time I’ve done Race Of Champions without a hango-

“This is the Race of Champions: It has the feel of a millionaire’s stag weekend” ver. Feels terrible!”)... and Sunday night’s party, where Travis Pastrana gives the other drivers a freestyle make-over – ripping sleeves, pockets, trouser seams... Last weekend it was hilarious to watch newcomers like Jan Kopecky & Sebastien Ogier, in their best designer jeans, steadfastly trying to keep this ‘Restyling By Pastrana’ at bay. No chance. By the end of the night, most men in the room have jeans flapping open like chaps and shirtsleeves wrapped around their heads Rambo-style. It’s an affectionate initiation ceremony. Welcome to the club, boys!

“Our” Neil does what he does best, amusing Jenson Button


Sequential ATOM bomb lands @ Palmersport

Ariel Atom 3’s with new sequential gearboxes line up for the 2012 PalmerSport evnnts at Bedford Autodrome, with new “Supergrid.”


marriage made in heaven is born! A fleet of normally-aspirated, sequential gearboxequipped Ariel Atoms has been chosen to be the 2012 flagship for the legendary PalmerSport (PS) driving event based at Bedford Autodrome – and we’ve already booked our day to test them. Sweet! The Atom 3’s – built specifically to suit and head-up these PS events – will come with the normally aspirated 245bhp Honda Type R Vtec engine, now matched to an

all-new six-speed sequential gearbox by Sadev, similar to that found in the eye-wateringly-fast Atom V8, which features a paddle shift cutting shift time to around 0.06 of a second! And there’s new electronics, dual brakes and instructor controls, allowing the expert PS instructors to encourage guests to push to the limit, and beyond. Nice! PalmerSport was launched in 1991 by ex F1 driver Jonathan Palmer – aiming to give “the very best corporate motorsport driving event.” It’s since grown to be the

undisputed market leader, with a reputation for providing guests with the freedom to push to the limit in an outstanding fleet of cars. Jonathan Palmer explained the choice of the Atom: “The standard of our PalmerSport event is so high that selecting another sensational vehicle to upgrade the event has become a virtually impossible task! However, when I drove the latest Atom I knew we’d found the answer – it was just so exhilarating, so fast and crucially, so controllable. With its speed and

chuckable handling, the Atom PalmerSport really is going to be the ultimate adrenaline rush!” The Ariel Atom 3 will head a dazzling line up of cars on PalmerSport 2012, including the BMW M3 GTP, Formula Jaguar single seater, Palmer Jaguar JP-LM sports prototype and Caterham 7. Every guest will drive the Atom with expert instruction on Bedford Autodrome’s North circuit, each one against the clock, with on-board video recording and an award for the fastest time.

Ariel’s Managing Director Simon Saunders commented: “The combination of Atom and PalmerSport is a fantastic fit. The PalmerSport facility and events are simply the best of their kind, bar none, and the Atom is the ultimate trackday car. Drivers will be able to push the car as hard as they can on a fantastic circuit which is fast becoming a second home to the Atom. “To head up the line up of the PamerSport garage is a great honour for Ariel and will allow many more driv-

ers to experience the unique thrill of an Atom flat out on track. A lot of big grins are guaranteed in 2012.” We can’t wait to give both these amazing brands a go.   New – PalmerSport “SuperGrid” The introduction of the Atom also introduces the new PalmerSport “SuperGrid” – a new programme for celebrities to set their fastest lap time at Bedford Autodrome. The Ariel Atom PalmerSport will be used for the SuperGrid time and Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell, Johnny Herbert, Jason Plato, Rob Huff, Tiff Needell and Jake Humphrey are some of the names set to put their pace to the test and kick off the leaderboard. And with some of the best drivers to be found amongst the motoring media a special MotorMedia SuperGrid section will include lap times from the leading motoring press hot shoes, to pit their skills against the stars. And little old Road Magazine is already signed up! So - who’s going to be the fastest to get an Atom around Bedford?



In 1972, Hannu Mikkola drove a Mk1 Escort to an historic victory on the East Safari Rally, and won by a whopping 23 minutes. We found the car, and a talented man who has built an exact replica to enjoy, sideways!


here’s no denying the talents of Mr Gordon Currie: Successful architect (, car restoration garage owner, clubman rally driver and creator of this exacting replica of Hannu Mikkola’s 1972 East African winning Mk1 Escort - a luscious slice of rally history. The original 1,850cc legend used to rest, with just 3,500 miles on its clock, in the foyer of Cumbrian rally giants,

M Sport, owned by rallying hero and Ford Motorsport team boss, Malcolm Wilson - a friend and fellow rally competitor of Mr Currie. “I got rather drunk with Malcolm at a party in the early 1990’s, and managed to persuade him to allow me part-ownership of the original Mk1, until two years ago, when I bought the car outright,” says Gordon. “It had not been run in 15 years or so,” he adds. Gordon’s love of the classics in rallying, the Mk1 being his favourite (and he has competed in Lancia’s infamous Delta Integrale, Metro 6R4’s and C-Type Jags, to name but a few), led him to rightly cherish and preserve the original, which he has done, to perfection. But Gordon also wanted to enjoy Clubman rallying in the Mk1, and so set about the painstaking process of creating an exact replica of Hannu Mikkola’s East African victorious Escort... the one you can see at full opposite lock on this page, blasting around broadside in this Tarmac quarry in

Northumberland (thanks ever so much to Graeme Hall). The standard of workmanship on the replica is so proficient and precise, only a true rally geek or bodywork specialist would be able to tell them apart. This is a work of true genius, a labour of love and a fine testament to Gordon’s skilled car restoration garage technicians, and him. And, as Gordon aptly demonstrated driving full chat, broadside around the gravel

quarry, showing off his years of rally experience, it drives and is set-up just as well as the original too. Time spent in the company of lovely people, with a passion for cars is always good in my book. And time spent sideways, in a rally car, on the loose, better still. This was, without doubt, one of the grandest days out I’ve had in a long time: More than making up for the dull 600-mile road trip in a modern C21st, soulless machine, to get here.

The BMW 123d and this Mk1 Escort are polar opposites. Yin and Yang. ROAD can not praise Gordon enough for not only preserving the life of a perfect rally legend, but worshiping it so finely, building this perfect carbon copy to such high standards, and then using it, in its rightful environment - totally sideways through forests, on gravel, at serious speed and with that unmistakable snarl and bark from the 1,850cc BDA engine. Rally heaven.

Road Issue 22: Motorsport Madness  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Team Road! In this month's FREE magazine, we're celebrating motorsport monsters! Road USA correspond...

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