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JANUARY 2008 ISSUE 1 VOLUME 4

JANUARY 2008 ISSUE 1 VOL 4

ACTION! Bullitt Mustang is back

M I D D L E

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E D I T I O N

DREAM WORLD EXCLUSIVE

DRIVE New Alfa, Ferrari & Maserati V8 coupés blast from Monte Carlo to Modena

MX-5 NOW IN THE GCC

We drive iconic Mazda roadster HÄKKINEN

F1 champ in Dubai THE DEFINITIVE VIEW

LAMBORGHINI REVENTON ‘the car that Darth Vader commutes in’ JANUARY 2008 AED10 Issue 1-4 BHD 1 KWD 1 OMR 1 SAR 10 QAR 10

■ JAPANESE CIVIC TYPE R ■ JEEP CHEROKEE ■ LAMBO JALPA ■

OUR CARS: LR2

9 771817 142009 An ITP Consumer Publication


COVERSTORY FEATURE CAR

FLAT OUT AND FANTASTIC!

M Mika Häkkinen cheated death on his way to two F1 crowns. Shahzad Sheikh met him at the Dubai Motor Show

MIKA HÄKKINEN AND I HAVE A LOT IN COMMON – somewhat presumptuous I know, but, we were both born in 1968, he has a boy and a girl – so do I, and what’s more, even they were born in the same years. Plus of course we’ve both driven Formula 1 cars. I drove a Renault F1 car (see November 2007 issue) for two very tentative laps around Paul Ricard in France, and he won the Formula 1 world championship with McLaren Mercedes. Twice. Actually, he raced in F1 from 1991 to 2001, won twenty races, with 51 podium finishes, earning 420 points. Truth be told, the sad reality is that he and I have very little in common. He’s better looking and considerably wealthier for example. But more to the point, as my own F1 experience proved, the real-life racers are simply supermen, and being in the presence of the quiet and thoughtful, somewhat shy, extremely polite and impeccably groomed and attired double world champion left me rather star struck. How would it be to meet Superman in real life? Somebody you’ve watched overcome a life and death struggle, no less, to finally take on and beat a formidable adversary, conquering his own demons in the process. There was no hint or sign of brooding intensity or angst in the man settled before me and giving my ramblings his full attention. Mika was clearly enjoying his retirement (announced just a few days earlier) from competitive motor sport, having competed in the German DTM tin-top series between 2005 and 2007. 

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MERC MAN He may have raced his last F1 GP in 2001, but Mika Häkkinen remains closely associated with the McLaren Mercedes team, with whom he spent so much of his F1 career. He even tested Alonso and Hamilton’s race car at the end of 2006

‘I’VE ALWAYS SAID THAT THE BEST THING WOULD BE TO GO TO F1, DIRECTLY FROM GO-KARTING’ 00 SEPTEMBER 2006

Mika laughed at my feeble comparison of our two lives, but responded to my revelation of the Renault F1 experience with immediate enthusiasm and interest: ‘I’m sure that was quick!’ Well yes, it was for me. For him it would have been like doing the whole thing in slow motion. So how do F1 drivers attain superhuman status – as they must to cope with the speed, the complexity and the sheer g-forces of a modern Grand Prix? ‘Take a GP like Monte Carlo. That is one of the most demanding races that you can do, because you have to concentrate for two hours, driving the car, adjusting the balance, at the maximum speed, which means flatout. So what does it take it? It’s simply many years practice. Concentrating and understanding how to handle the car. When I did the race in Monaco, I’ll never forget, I made two mistakes in two hours. Some might think that’s a lot. But think about it, flat out, for two hours and just two mistakes. That comes from many years practice. That’s what it’s all about.’ And the years started early, when his parents let him have a go at karting at age five. On the first lap he crashed. But the racing bug had bit him. By 1986 he’d won five karting championships. Then he graduated to single seaters and won the Formula Three championship. Is it really worth starting with karting though? ‘I’ve always said that the best thing would be to go to F1 directly from karting, because that is the closest feeling that you can have to F1. A go-kart is a completely solid machine, no suspension, slick tyres – it reacts really instantly. In Formula 1, it’s the same thing. If you go from karting to Formula Ford or Formula Renault, you have suspension settings, and braking and power to weight ratios aren’t as high. But the problem is that when you finish karting you are 15 or 16 and it’s too early to go to F1.’

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INTERVIEW MIKA HÄKKINEN

RESPECT Häkkinen describes Scott F1 racer David Coulthard (right) as a very tough team mate. He also shares a strong bond with McLaren team principal Ron Dennis (below) who supported his comeback after the near-fatal crash in Adelaide in 1996

What staggered me most about the F1 car was the aerodynamic grip, something quite beyond my comprehension as someone used to road cars. ‘If you have aerodynamics in a race car which work logically at every speed, it’s a fantastic machine,’ confirmed Häkkinen, ‘but if you have a racing car which aerodynamically works perfectly at certain speeds, and at other speeds it’s a disaster, then it’s a nightmare. That’s why you have good racing cars and bad racing cars.’ And that’s why the McLaren is so good? ‘It’s fantastic!’ – one of Mika’s favorite words. ‘You can drive it slowly or fast and have great balance.’ He should know, he drove it at the end of 2006. Clearly he’s still associated with F1, does he miss it? ‘No. Not really. I miss the people. I miss the atmosphere and the mechanics. But it’s very demanding. You have to sacrifice a lot from your life to be able to be the top top F1 driver. When you are getting close to 40-years old, you don’t want to make any more sacrifices. You want to enjoy your life. Especially when you have achieved what you had been working so hard towards.’ It wasn’t easy. There was a long period in F1 without wins, before the long-standing tie up between McLaren and Mercedes in 1995 brought with it the promise of victories. But in the same year, Mika crashed in free practice at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide, after a tyre failure. The violent impact with the wall left him in need of an emergency tracheotomy performed at the side of the track. ‘My career has been very special, starting in F1 in 1991 and having my first GP victory in 1997. It took a lot of time. It involved a lot of psychological war, a lot of physical war, a lot of learning about the full procedure of F1. I think one of the most important things I learnt was never give up.

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Always keep pushing – flat out. After winning in 1997 it was a fantastic situation. It was the last race of the year, so I was a winner all winter!’ How was it to return to the race car cockpit after that terrifying crash? ‘It’s like if you are a kid and you fall off your bike, the best thing to do is to get back on. Yes, this was a bit more serious. Naturally I’d have to thank Ron Dennis and his wife, the whole team and of course my wife, my parents and a lot of other people who supported me. ‘But in the moment that you going back to the car. You are really scared. You’re scared about what you might feel. It’s not a question of crashing again. When they started the car and I was driving, I remembered how fantastic driving an F1 car is and then everything was under control.’ The bravery paid off, a couple of years later and the championship was finally his: ‘Winning in ’98 wasn’t just for me, but the whole team. We all celebrated together and I’ll never forget, the whole city of Woking [where McLaren is based] stopped to celebrate!’ I couldn’t let Mika go back to his duties with Mercedes (he was in Dubai to launch the SLR 722 GT at the motor show in November) without getting his thoughts on motor sports in the Middle East. ‘People here are crazy about cars, and crazy about motor racing. But I think they don’t yet know enough about what actually is motor racing. It’s important to give people information about it, get them to come to the track, see what it’s about, smell the atmosphere.’ And would he help out in that? ‘Maybe, we’ll see. I do have a great time here. The people are really nice and polite. Maybe one day I can give them the opportunity to join me on the track.’ Alright everyone, form an orderly queue – behind me.

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FEBRUARY 2008 ISSUE 2 VOLUME 4

FEBRUARY 2008 ISSUE 2 VOL 4

WANT ONE? Land Rover

LRX

M I D D L E

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STORMING! EXCLUSIVE TEST

Toyota’s FJ Cruiser takes on Jeep’s Wrangler and the Hummer H3

JAGUAR XF

Our verdict THE DEFINITIVE VIEW

NEW FOR 2008 Great cars coming our way this year

CSV CR8 Smoking 400bhp Chevy Lumina

■ R8 VERSUS NSX ■ FERRARI SCUDERIA ■ NISSAN XTERRA ■ MASERATI GHIBLI

FEBRUARY 2008 AED10 Issue 2-4 BHD 1 KWD 1 OMR 1 SAR 10 QAR 10

9 771817 142009 An ITP Consumer Publication


FIRST DRIVES

Trust me, this is no big deal The CSV CR8 is average, says Shahzad Sheikh. Is he hiding something?

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LL YOU NEED TO KNOW about this Chevrolet is that it’s a practical family saloon. It has a huge amount of cabin space. There is generous accommodation for not only the driver and passenger, but there is also limolike room and cosseting comfort for the rear occupants – there’s even an optional roof-mounted DVD player. Plus there’s a massive boot, that’ll swallow just about any amount of stuff you want to throw in there. And all of this, of course, is inherently true of any model in the Chevrolet Lumina range, upon which this is based. What is also true is that these Chevys are all great value for money, so the downsides are possibly forgivable, despite being many – relatively speaking. Where to start? For one the trim materials used inside are not the most inspiring. The build quality appears decent enough, but is brought into a question when you experience a glovebox that occasionally flies open under acceleration, a rear ashtray compartment that went into a brief fit of refusing to close and the way open windows rattle in door frames on slamming them shut. Australian construction isn’t quite up to Japanese and German standards just yet, then. So what else? Well the mirrors are too small and the manual gear lever can be a reach for taller drivers. Sound quality from the 11-speaker 230W Blaupunkt is surprisingly average and as for the disappointing orange-peel paint finish… By this point in the review one of three things have happened. You’ve either lost interest and flipped the page, or made a mental note to recommend a Lumina to that friendly but rather thrifty and dull neighbour that was asking you about what new four-door he should replace his Camry with. And then flipped the page. Or you’re still reading. And that’s because you have an inkling of the secret I’ve been trying to keep from you, for rather desperate and selfish reasons. You’ve noted the pictures on these pages, clocked the deep front bib, the huge rear spoiler and bullish stance. This particular incarnation of the

Lumina sits above our current Sports Saloon of 2007, the SS, wearing an intriguing new sub-brand – CSV CR8. There is clearly more to this car than the average Ali might suspect. And I was rather banking on that. If people dismiss this as a simple Chevy, GM will have unsold stock sitting around the back of its dealers, and then perhaps they’ll let me have one for next to nothing! So much for that ploy. Whatever its foibles, I want one. And badly. Why? Does HSV Clubsport R8/GTS mean anything to you? How about the Vauxhall VXR8 (see November 2007 issue)? That’s what you are looking at here. Still nothing? How about these facts: six-speed manual, rear-drive and traction control that you really can turn off. Open the bonnet and gasp. A bulging engine cover with red highlights announces that this V8 LS2 alloy unit serves up 6.0-litres. Extraordinarily, there is even a little graph stamped to the cover depicting power and torque curves: 400bhp and 406lb ft of torque. In fact the torque curve is fairly flat with around 300lb ft available from 1000rpm. Through those quad rear exhausts you get a menacing deep-throated burble at idle, and a staccato metallic drum roll on throttle that’ll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as you catapult towards your next speeding ticket, having lit up your rear tyres and left enough smoke for the weather bureau to issue a poor visibility alert.

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This ‘saloon-next-door’ has some other neat party tricks up its tailpipes too. One is the ability to swing out its backside on demand – traction off of course, though even switched on it’s delightfully unobtrusive and will let you go play up to point before the subtle ‘hand of God’ intervenes. If looking out the side window is not your thing, but lazy straight line acceleration is, then try this. Stick it in fourth gear and move off from standstill – with a little judder it will go. Then keep it planted. When the gear change warning bong sounds and the limiter finally kicks in you’ll be doing 224kph! That’s zero to faster than most cars will ever do, in just one gear. PLASTIC Admittedly the meaty clutch can be a hamstringIgnore the chunky aching chore in traffic, and whilst the gearchange sports wheel, white dials and is far better than you’d expect, it still demands handy manual shifter, and let the respect. But the opportunity to stoke the torque brittle trim put with this magic stick more than makes up for the you off instead effort. And there’s self-evident toughness to the drivetrain that gives you the confidence to know that you could abuse this beast on a daily basis and it’ll just keep coming back for more. The brakes are strong, and the steering is weighty if not exactly precise. Handling is astonishingly benign and forgiving for what you might think is just a big dumb stupid brute. Slow in, fast out has never been truer, and the ‘out’ bit needs MIDDLE EAST

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FIRST DRIVES NO FINESSE Grange follows the tried-and-tested formula of a big V8 driving the rear wheels – we like

progressive, measured application of power if you want to keep it tidy (where the fun in that?). But once the combined forces of torque and grip take hold, VAPORISED The CR8 has there’s few cars that will keep up with it. many faults, one On the other hand, for big grins, whoops and of which is the hollers from passengers and bystanders, just boot alarming rate as which it goes it out of the corner and hold it in a spectacular through 275/35 powerslide thanks to the standard limited slip R19 rear tyres differential. It feels remarkably easy and natural to do this in this chunky Chevy, and very few cars will give you that level of delinquent pleasure. This characteristic alone could see you rushing to your nearest dealer – I almost did until the CAR team tied me to my chair and brought me to senses with a bucket of cold water. Still can’t wipe the grin off my face though. And yet there’s more. Last year I also had the chance to grab a few laps on the short circuit of the Bahrain NEED TO International GP track in one of these. It’s just as KNOW entertaining in that environment as it is on the Price: $44,400 public highway (not necessarily quick you Engine: understand, but fun). And that’s not always true. 5967cc 16v V8, 400bhp @ 6000rpm, A lot of good road cars can be hopeless on the 406lb ft @ 4400rpm track and vice versa. Transmission: Six-speed manual, Full-on and fantastic for when you let the bad rear-wheel drive boy-racer in you out to play, yet refined and Performance: 4.9sec respectable enough for work, shopping and school0-100kph, 270kph Weight: 1831kg drop tours of duty, the CR8 is a great two-in-one On sale in ME: package for the driver who can’t justify a Corvette Now sitting on his drive, but hasn’t quite grown up. Rating: ★★★★★

Big, but not clever

Noel Ebdon looks to the future as he ‘guess drives’ the Holden HSV Grange

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VEN AT STANDSTILL HSV Grange doesn’t do subtle. The deep front valance, huge air intakes and a body kit thatwould make Michael Knight proud, all combine together to give you one seriously mean looking car. And things don’t change much on the road either. The huge V8 snarls from its quad tipped exhausts and the car corners flat with surprising levels of grip. GM’s Australian-based tuning arm HSV, which is also responsible for the CSV CR8 you’ve just been reading about, has taken the workhorse Statesman (that’s a Caprice to you and me) and tuned it to within an inch of its life. HSV has had to work hard to get this car to keep a firm hold on the road. But despite its immense power, the Grange is still a Caprice underneath and it shows in the heavy handling and some of the interior trim. Push it too hard and

NEED TO KNOW HSV GRANGE Price: Price in Australia is $72,450 ME price $48,000 (est) Engine: 6.0-litre 16v V8, 412bhp@ 6000rpm, 406lb ft@ 4400rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear wheel drive Performance: 5.5sec 0-100kph (est), 270kph (est) On sale in ME: Not yet! Rating: HHH

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Australian-built HSV Grange would make a welcome addition to the CSV Chevrolet sub-brand in the region

the weight will start to take over and everything gets a bit messy. The gearbox does its job and the 10-way adjustable front seats are amazingly comfortable. All it needs is a more refined feel and better trim to really take on the Germans. So is it any good? Well, it may be big, but it certainly isn’t clever. This is a simple case of sticking a mighty V8 into a tried and tested chassis and then upgrading the other bits to try and cope. Show the Grange an Italian thoroughbred or a German milemuncher and it’ll run off and hide. But that’s not what this car is all about.Thisisarelativelyinexpensive super performance saloon with a shovel-load of attitude. If you want finesse then buy an AMG. But if you like your thrills loud and proud, then the HSV Grange is all that and more. If GM dares to add this awesome saloon to their new CSV Middle East line up, the showrooms will be invaded. Nothing sells in the Gulf like a big, fast saloon, and this is one of the very biggest and fastest on the block.


BLACK IS THE First meeting of the two most unlikely mid-engined P h o t o g r a p h y

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NEW BLACK supercar heroes ever conceived. By Shahzad Sheikh S t u a r t

C o l l i n s

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21st century tech suggests you are experiencing a visitation from the future. As the R8 comes to a dramatic halt in front its spiritual ancestor, the WHAT A STORY. A CA CAR MANUFACTURER NSX, you almost expect it to hiss and glow from sportscars, stuns the world by takion particles dripping off its flanks. not known for sportsc revealing its first mid-en mid-engined beauty. Grudgingly, Coincidentally both our unrelated twins are black dyed-in-Rosso-red critics concede that and standing nose-to-nose it’s as if each is looking even the dyed-in-Ross it’ss better looking than a contemporary mid-engined through some sort of time-shearing mirror reflecting Ferrari. rrari. Meanwhile tthe established supercar class back a different version of itself. These cars may pauses ses merely to raise rai an eyebrow and dismiss the represent different eras, different manufacturers new car as a good fi first effort. The smugness is short and even different engineering philosophies but lived. When the keys are thrown at the motoring share more than just the similarity of their k press, supercar rivals find they need to sit down extraordinary conception. r and recover over from fro a dynamic sucker punch. But before donning the g-suite and jumping into Too Hollywood ollywo for real life? It actually did happen the R8, a quick blast down memory lane is in order. – and nott jus just the once. In 1990, a Japanese car So it’s on with the string-backed driving gloves in maker specialising in revvy little hatchbacks tore tribute to a former CAR writer the late, and still ci up the form book to give us the giant-slaying Honda legendary, LJK Setright. He was a Honda aficionado NSX. Seventeen years later history repeats itself who once described the NSX as ‘unquestionably and that purveyor of quality sensible saloons for the safest, fastest, best-made luxury car in the world’. execs in business suits, Audi, relishes the results Years ago I found myself an uncomfortable first of having sent its product planners to one too many hand witness to Setright reducing a senior Mercedes matinee showings of Blade Runner. chassis engineer to self-doubt through brilliantly Swooping in through Dubai’s dunes like a low argued debate. So his words were not to be taken flying UFO, Ingolstadt’s entrant to the exoticar lightly, then or now. club appears as if it’s just zapped in from Setright also believed that his time CHASING the future. Everything about it, from its would come when it did (he died of HISTORY First mid-engined LED eyeliner to its spec sheet laden with lung cancer), so the bearded one drove supercar a hit for everywhere like a boy-racer. Audi. Honda NSX amazed everyone in Cameron Webb has fulfilled a life-long exactly the same dream of owning an NSX, finally way 17 years ago hunting down the car he wanted but wasn’t as big a commercial success through the NSX Club of America – an immaculate 1991 Berlina Black example with, thank the Lord, a manual transmission and an ‘Acura’ badge (Honda’s upmarket US

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LEGENDS AUDI R8 VS HONDA NSX

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LEGENDS AUDI R8 VS HONDA NSX

brand). Despite being a cherished recently acquired possession, Webb firmly believes in regularly kissing the stratospheric 8000rpm redline and doesn’t flinch when I emulate Setright’s flat-out philosophy. The last one I drove featured an autobox that contrived to turn the much anticipated wheel-time into an almighty anti-climax. Frankly you could have been driving an Accord, and the only thing the engine was thriving on was anti-depressants. Forget the auto. However there are three things you need to know about how a manual NSX drives. Firstly, FUTURE having employed the then genius of Honda LIES AHEAD racing, it featured an ultra-rigid, ultra-light The R8 is probably the car Honda aluminium monocoque chassis. So it feels should have built to solid, taut and cohesive with no shimmy, replace the NSX which died in 2005. shake or even rattle, giving the driver a Looking from here, the Audi will be hard real depth of confidence its integrity. to catch up with Secondly, Japanese F1 pilot Satoru Nakajima was not the only racing driver involved in fine-tuning its handling. As well as threetime American Champ Car title-holder Bobby Rahal, the late, great triple F1 champion Ayrton Senna, also honed its handling and drove an example himself. As such, the still incredibly tactile feedback, immediate response, lithe agility and sensational flat cornering don’t come as a surprise and mean the driver almost wears this car and operates it instinctively. Finally, despite the age and 100,000km, this NSX remains fresh and eager. You can pick up a good early 90’s example from just $30,000 in the US, making it considerably cheaper than the still relative bargain $113k competition it’s parked alongside today.

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But all sense of the NSX being up-to-date fades fast once you settle into the carbon-lined R8 cabin. Light years ahead, it’s a more spacious, refined and comfortable environment – which is perhaps what drivers jumping from a Ferrari 348 into an NSX would AGEING WELL have thought, secretly. The futuristic Audi And firing up that 4.2-litre V8 signals behind the wheel. Whilst response is good with wins on wow-factor and gets away with a seriousness of intent that is missing satisfying down changes, fast upshifts can leave the gimmicky LED in the playful Honda. With two extra front lights. The NSX you with a headache and whiplash. You can however, remains cylinders, 414bhp (up 144bhp) and yet adapt to it by learning to time throttle lifts with classically pretty, still revving happily up to 8000rpm, this athletic and equally the changes to make the transition smoother. dramatic on road is mightier more intimidating package. What you might find harder to live with is the Okay so it’s 220kg heavier, and feels it, embarrassingly sticky and jerky progress in but it’s also massively, deceptively quick. At 200kph traffic if left in auto mode. Which rather defeats the it’s merely cruising, at 280 it’s still accelerating. And object, and makes you pine for a manual after all. if unhindered by errant Toyota Camrys (!) it will In the final reckoning the R8 is undoubtedly today’s allegedly soar past 300kph. Who needs a V10? There NSX, not only taking the world by surprise, but moving is tons of torque available in almost any gear, even the game on and forcing the establish players back to dropping from sixth to fifth is sufficient to blast past the drawing board. It’s also something of a slap-ina line of trucks before they even know you are there. the-face for Honda which, by rights, should have created Fortunately the brakes are phenomenal and stable the R8 first but continues to faff about with ill-conceived when dropping anchor from warp speed. Grip too is still-born concepts and is very much in danger of sensational from the rear-biased four-wheel drive. reacting with an unworthy ‘NSX’ reincarnation. Even with the traction off, you need to work hard to Despite the blitz of technological supremacy that shake it loose. Unsurprisingly, it’s said to be able to the R8 deploys in this encounter, the unfazed NSX generate 1.0g of lateral force. Even more impressive delivers the more undiluted and purer sportscar than the tremendous speed and grip is its throttleexperience. Both cars will delight and inspire and are sensitive poise mid-bend. Select second for what could equally addictive, but whereas the Honda encourages easily be a third gear bend, and you’ll be privy to an you to explore your skills and makes you an equal astonishingly level of adjustability. Fancy a dance? partner, the R8 invites you to sit there and marvel at The spoiler in all in this brilliance is the single-clutch the astonishing pace and ability with a mixed sense R-Tronic auto with the VW Golf DSG-style lip paddles of mild terror and extreme delight.

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NEED TO KNOW AUDI R8 Price: $113,000 Engine: 4136cc 32v V8, 414bhp @ 7800rpm, 317lb ft @ 4500rpm Transmission: Six-speed manual or sixspeed automatic, four-wheel drive Performance: 4.6sec 0-100kph, 301kph Weight: 1560kg Made from: Aluminium On sale: Now

NEED TO KNOW HONDA NSX Price: Values from $30,000 Engine: 3.0-litre V6, 270bhp @ 7100rpm, 210lb ft @ 5500rpm Transmission: Five-speed manual or fourspeed automatic, rear-wheel drive Performance: 5.8sec 0-100kph, 269kph Weight: 1240kg Made from: Aluminium On sale: n/a


CAR CLASSICS

MASERATI GHIBLI

One of the most beautiful Maseratis ever produced, the Ghibli was the car for Hollywood stars, reveals Shahzad Sheikh

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IORGIO GIUGIARO IS A genius. Proof? It would have taken nothing less than a supreme style virtuoso to win ‘Car Designer of the Century’ in 1999. This momentous award was decided by a massive panel of international judges, and looking at some of the car designs he is responsible for, it would be hard to argue the case against him: BMW M1, De Tomaso Mangusta, Ferrari 250 GT Bertone, Lotus Esprit and of course the first of several Maseratis, the exquisite 1966 Ghibli you see on these pages, photographed in Dubai. Penned before he initiated the infamous paper fold era in the 1970’s, Giugiaro’s Ghibli is often quoted as the most beautiful Maserati ever. Sleek and sensational, it has a bonnet that seems to sweep off into eternity with the most subtle of bulges to indicate the potency beneath. There is a cultured elegance in the perfect proportions which disguise its enormous length – it’s longer than a Mercedes S-class LWB and yet it’s no taller than a Lamborghini Gallardo. It should look ridiculous and yet pulls off sublime with such effortless panache that you know you’re in the presence of greatness, the kind that doesn’t need to shout about its excellence. Over a thousand examples were made and it outsold contemporary luminaries such as the showy Ferrari 365 Daytona and what would become the father of the midengined exoticar, the Lamborghini Miura. It was the car for the über-cool, for those that didn’t have to try too hard – Frank Sinatra had one. And he didn’t have to try too hard to get in

Photography Bob Jarmson

either – despite its stunted height. Unlike many supercars of this era, there weren’t many compromises. It was comfortable, with excellent luggage space, air conditioning, electric windows, power steering, and a three-speed Borg-Warner auto as well as a five-speed ZF manual offered. Despite its size, the Ghibli was a two-seater, with two reclined Italian chairs behind a dashboard festooned with dials, toggles, chrome inlay, leather trim and a wood-rimmed steering wheel. The most popular Maserati since the marque withdrew from motor racing in the 1950s, performance was nonetheless firmly in supercar league at the time. The hefty 1530kg it was lugging around didn’t deter a quick-for-the day 0-100kph time of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 270kph. Power came from Maser’s tried and trusted 90 degree overhead camshaft V8 now with alloy block and heads. With 4719cc and a bank of four Weber carburettors, output was claimed as 330bhp at 5500rpm with around 340lb ft at 3500rpm. In 1970 the engine was uprated to 4.9-litres with an extra 5bhp. That car is easily distinguished by the Borrani chrome wire wheels, instead of the alloys on the car shown here.

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This Grand Tourer had independent front suspension with double wishbones, coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and an anti-roll bar. Rear suspension was by a Salisbury live axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar which – agricultural by today’s standards. As is clearly evident from this stunning 1967 example owned by Al Tayer Motors in the UAE, the Ghibli’s bodywork is surprisingly durable, which is just as well because there isn’t a single panel available anymore. The Ghibli was produced until 1974, with 125 sensational-looking ‘Spyder’ convertible versions also produced. Buying a good example today will cost you at least four times its original new price. For example, we found a 1969 car in red advertised for sale in Sweden, fully restored in 1991 and priced at $79,000. A rather tired 1971 SS version in Italy was being advertised for $40,000, but as ever, classic metal, if you can actually find it, is usually cheaper in the States, with a rare 1970 Spyder with just 29,000 miles (46,000km) and allegedly in excellent condition recently sold for just $32,000.

GRAND TOURER As well as a five-speed manual, an auto was also available, as was air con, power steering, electric windows. It was remarkably comfortable and easy to live with. Not bad for 1967!

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MARCH 2008 ISSUE 3 VOLUME 4

MARCH 2008 ISSUE 3 VOL 4

TIGER KUB UAE ‘s 1 lakh runabout

M I D D L E

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BENTLEY BOYS WORLD EXCLUSIVE

Continental GT Speed vs 1930’s 4½ litre Blower

FORCE INDIA

Newest F1 team THE DEFINITIVE VIEW

ROLLS-ROYCE Drophead meets Phantom saloon MARCH 2008 AED10 Issue 3-4 BHD 1 KWD 1 OMR 1 SAR 10 QAR 10

■ ASTON DBS VS GT SPEED ■ CLIO 197 R27 ■ ACCORD COUPE ■ LOTUS ELISE

9 771817 142009 An ITP Consumer Publication


PAST AND

In the books James Bond drove a Bentley Blower, Shahzad


COVER STORY BLOWER VS GT SPEED

PRESENT

Sheikh tests it against the car he would be driving today

Photography Jorge Ferrari


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OST ASSOCIATE JAMES Bond with Astons (sorry Lotus and BMW), but when author Ian Fleming introduced his famous superspy in Casino Royale the book, he was driving a 4½ litre Bentley. Built in 1930, Bond is related to have bought the car in 1933 and stored it during World War II. A battleship grey convertible coupé, the Bentley had large French Marchal headlamps and an Amherst Villiers supercharger. We were to meet another one of those rare supercharged ‘Bentley Blowers’ which, having completed its earlier mission in Oman (mostly PR, with very little derring-do) was taking a breather in the Hatta Fort Hotel. We had to rendezvous with it and get it back to Dubai for its new assignment (fun rides for VIPs and journos at an Autodrome-based Bentley driving day). Obviously it would be inappropriate to go meet it in say, a Ford Mondeo (tell that to current celluloid Bond, Daniel Craig), so we opted for the car today’s Bond should logically be peddling – instead of Craig’s flipping DBS from Casino Royale the movie, and found ourselves pointing a tinted grille and jutting front spoiler south, and gingerly squeezing the load pedal of the fastest (0-100 in 4.5 sec and 326kph), most powerful Bentley ever. Okay, maybe not the pouting torso that is Daniel Craig, but certainly either the burly, intimidating presence of Sean Connery, or the smooth charm and casual lethality of Roger Moore, would sit nicely in those beautifully bolstered and luxuriant front leather couches. There’s certainly a lot about the Continental GT Speed that says 007 better even than Aston’s finest. Suave, sophisticated, stylish; there are elements of wit and wisdom in the Speed’s maturity, a restrained might in its stance, elegant effortlessness in its abilities and a brutal superiority and self-confidence evident despite the veneer of graciousness. Like its British brethren from Gaydon, the GT Speed would be welcome at the Casino Royale, but unlike the Aston it can mix it up in a street brawl and emerge from a body count with little more than bowtie in need of straightening. It’s frighteningly easy to blast this Bentley down the road at phenomenal speeds. You become blasé about power and performance: ‘but of course it has over 600bhp dear boy.’ It’s only when you find yourself arriving too suddenly at a bend or corner that you ponder the physics-defying feat of curtailing the momentum of a mass tipping the scales at 2350kg. Fortunately the awesome carbon ceramic brakes do their fade-free job very well indeed, and help to ensure no skid marks are left on the tarmac or the seats.

‘BUT OF COURSE IT

NO CONTEST The GT Speed really is frighteningly quick and extraordinarily refined. The Blower is uncomfortable and very hard to drive, but then it is over 75 years old. It wins on pedigree and style!


COVER STORY BLOWER VS GT SPEED

HAS OVER 600BHP DEAR BOY!’

DAILY DRIVE Built in 1930, GH 6951 served as a Bentley demonstrator before passing through nine owners and returning to Bentley ownership. Fully restored in 2000, it’s driven regularly and travels the world

The GT Speed is actually 35kg lighter than the regular Continental. But that’s not the only difference you’re paying an extra $10,000 for. Comparing the cars back to back at the Autodrome a few days later, the Speed is the flatter, more harder-edged car, feeling happier on the track than the rather alarmed GT. The sport suspension and yaw control help, plus there’s a dynamic intermediate mode to the traction control which reduces interference, or you can disable it altogether for lurid tail-out nastiness. Steering is heavier and more responsive, and body control greatly improved. The understeer attributes are still there though and ultimately it will just plough on with the over-application of power and a lack of a flick to imbalance it, but four-wheel drive ensures it remains safe. You can even raise it up if you fancy a bit of dirt racing – or just a shortcut across gravel. Frankly, after you’ve driven the magnificent Speed hard, the ‘normal’ GT just want do. Leaving a rumbling wake of W12 thunder dissipating from our path, our hyper-speed chariot arrived nonplussed and completely upstaged by an ancestor that appeared to have catapulted 77-years into the future. The vintage Blower looked like a museum exhibit rolled outside temporarily for a bit of Spring cleaning. Surely this wasn’t going to be doing the 100km journey up the E44 back to Dubai under its own steam? COMMONLY CONNECTED WITH AMERICAN HOT RODDERS, THE phrase ‘there’s no replacement for displacement’ is originally said to have been uttered by an irate Walter Owen Bentley when his ‘Bentley Boys’,


a band of aristocratic and flamboyant racers, suggested supercharging the 4½ litre, four-cylinder engines. So they bought the company, and their most famed member, Le Mans 24 hours winner Sir Henry Birkin, convinced new chairman and fellow Bentley Boy, Woolf Barnato, to stick the AV supercharger up front (the only place it would fit). Along with five WORLDS APART racing cars, 50 road versions were built for homologation purposes. Toffee leather and Ultimately WO had the last laugh as the thirstier more fragile alluminium trim is lavished on opulent blowers never won, but his 6½ litre cars did in 1929 and 1930. Speed interior. It’s a GH 6951 was number 17 and like the others, was supplied as a stupendous way to cover vast distances chassis and engine to Birkin and Couper who bolted on the in astonishingly supercharger. It has a Vanden Plas four-seat tourer body – essentially little time. Regular GT just won’t do a lightweight fabric over wood shell with folding roof. The car served time as a demonstrator in London and passed through nine other owners before Bentley bought it back in 1997. Restored by Elmdown Engineering in 2000, it isn’t exactly mollycoddled, driven regularly and frequently touring around the world. Splendid. Our pilot, Richard Charlesworth (Bentley’s director of Royal and VIP relations, and head of its heritage collection), revealed that very little has been done to keep the car going, a testament to the tough engineering and advance thinking of WO and the Boys. It has a modern radiator and fan; the tyres shod on the 21-inch wheels look period, but are new and costly; a shield has been placed around the carburettors sitting alongside the Roots supercharger; and the pedal layout rearranged. And that’s about it. Despite weighing nearly two tonnes, its 175bhp is enough to get it up to speeds of 170kph. The cacophony from the engine makes it very hard to maintain a conversation, and you are very exposed to the elements at the 130kph we maintained. The lenses on my spectacles ended up badly pitted and scratched and my skin tingled with forced exfoliation. The front seats are little more than stools with backs, the cabin was remarkably intimate for something almost the size of a 15-seater Toyota


HATS OFF TO THOSE THAT RACED THE BLOWERS, BUT I’LL TAKE THE GT SPEED

Hiace minibus, and the friction shock absorbers and leaf springs don’t like severe speed bumps but provided an astonishingly complaint and level ride with none of the bounce and flex I was expecting. Needless to say the two-hour trip in the passenger seat wasn’t the most convivial, but at least I wasn’t working as hard as Charlesworth. He made it look remarkably easy, but a brief stint behind the wheel, put this at the top of my personal list of hardest cars I’ve ever driven. Remarkably straightforward in theory, thanks to the now familiar pedal arrangement, and four-speed manual H-pattern open gait on the driver’s right – it takes practice and muscle. A sticky little button serves as the accelerator and is hard to feather, but at least the clutch take-up is ordinary, so stalling is not too much of a concern. Changing gear was – the double-declutching I could live with, but on my first change I went from first to fourth. Thankfully the torque pulled it along easily. Reaching down and manhandling the long-throw lever on my next couple of attempts did see successful engagement but then third gear proved elusive. The nerve-wracking experience of crunching ancient gears on a vehicle worth over $3 million meant I threw the towel in, but not before I’d navigated a roundabout, and found the massive dustbin-lid sized steering still needed a Herculean effort to turn. Plus you have to almost kick through the floor plate to coax the old drum brakes to stop the thing. All I could do was laugh hysterically the whole time at the thought of struggling so hard with a car that’s as old as my dad. Later on, as Charlesworth powered through some tighter bends, ‘it’s the only way to keep the front from understeering’, I couldn’t help but think of those sturdy and brave Bentley Boys who raced these things for long periods. Hats off indeed. I’m honoured to have had a glimpsed of what they did, having driven this piece of automotive history, but whilst the GT Speed will never match it for character, presence, majesty, emotional draw and indeed pedigree, I’ll take the Speed for distance-shrinking tours any time. And frankly, so should the new millennium James Bond.

BLACK BADGE The vintage car’s black badge signified that it was supercharged, as if you wouldn’t notice the blower perched out front. WO Bentley hated them, preferring more displacement


MAY 2008 ISSUE 5 VOLUME 4

BMW HYBRID

MAY 2008 ISSUE 5 VOL 4

What you could be driving in 2018

M I D D L E

E A S T

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THE RACE IS ON All the race-bred Aston Martins on the track together

THE DEFINITIVE VIEW

DRIVEN: V12 VANTAGE Fastest ever Aston: 600bhp and 320kph

MAY 2008 AED10 Issue 5-4

BHD 1 KWD 1 OMR 1 SAR 10 QAR 10

■ ARAB RUN ■ COUPE BATTLE: ALTIMA VS ACCORD ■ MERCEDES SL63 AMG

9 771817 142009 An ITP Consumer Publication


CAR CULTURE ARAB RUN

THE GREAT REVELRY OF REVS

Car-lovers, fifty exotic motors, mayhem at Friday prayers and Shahzad Sheikh in an Aston Martin – must be the Arab Run! 58 MAY 2008

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KAY, LET’S START WITH SOME maths. Early bird bookers to the second ever Arab Run event, a year after its ground-breaking inaugural celebration of hedonistic horsepower, flesh-flaunting floozies, and notorious narcissism on a scale that left even Dubai blushing, tossed about $2000 in loose change towards the organisers to enter. Latecomers might have winced at the extra $800 they’d have pulled out of their back pockets. Breaking it down into a simple equation by applying pure logic and economics, we worked out that it was a hell of a spectacular way to burn an extortionate amount cash on a baking Friday in early May. This year’s cross-Emirates thrash for delinquent full-throttlers, rent-a-Ferrari wannabees, and of course a few genuine carnoisseurs, involved a 500km round-trip to Fujairah and back via Umm Al Quwain. The schedule was revealed typically last minute (the night before) and then not adhered to – frustratingly so for the CAR ME camera crew, who eventually gave up trying to position themselves at scenically suitable photo-locations ahead of the pack, as the game plan kept changing. The starting point was the Golden Tulip hotel at Al Jazira, in the infamous Ghantoot, partway to the capital on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi road. It was in the headlines in March for being the site of the UAE’s worst crash, a horrific multi-car pile-up. The choice of location felt utterly inappropriate and tasteless given that people died in that accident. Was it really the right place to stage a revelry of revs?

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CAR CULTURE ARAB RUN CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION Cars, girls, and players dripping dollars and dirhams. The level of ostentatiousness on display left even Dubai blushing. Car-loving spectators got the best deal. They got to see and hear a sensational collection of some of the world’s most exotic cars without paying the entrance fees, or the speeding fines!

THE GATHERING OF EXOTICA ACCOUNTED FOR NEARLY 23,000BHP AND WAS EASILY WORTH OVER $9 MILLION

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CAR CULTURE ARAB RUN Still, duty called. Plus, I had the keys to a brand new Aston Martin V8 Vantage Sportshift (our 2007 Car of the Year king) in my pocket. But back to the totting up. Breakfast here would set you back say $50, as would lunch at Le Meridien Al Aqah in Fujairah. Sandwiches and entry fee for the Emirates Motorplex Drag Strip in Umm Al Quwain? No more than $15 – though the grub isn’t normally faux five-star cuisine, granted. As for the opportunity to ‘run what you brung’ up the strip? Frankly, Sheikh Marwan Bin Rashid Al Mualla, who owns the place, is such a huge petrolhead that if you turn up in something sweet, chances are he’ll offer you a run for free. Finally back to Dubai to swing your thang at the C-bar club at the Al Murooj Rotana – throw in the beverages and that’s a couple of hundred bucks max. Total we reckon not more than $350. And you still had to pay for your own fuel for your undoubtedly thirsty steed. Not to mention the traffic fines picked up by many of the participants! But here’s a couple more numbers. The gathering of exotica accounted for nearly 23,000bhp and was easily worth over $9 million. It included a Bugatti, Rolls-Royce Drophead, Porsche Carrera GT, McLaren SLR Roadster, Ferrari 599, Novitech-tuned F430, a hideous 640bhp Mansory Bentley Continental GT, and an even more horrendous bejewelled BMW M6 (driven by a frightening warrior woman with sword), as well as a whole millionaire playboy’s catalogue of lesser Porsches, Ferraris, Mercs, Beemers, ’Vettes, Astons and more. Now just close your eyes for a couple of minutes and try to imagine that as vividly as your lucidity will let you. Try to drink in the sight and sound of the glorious collection of sybaritic splendour. What would that be worth to you? Ayman Al Tounji, the only other person to bring a Vantage – a two-year old daily driver – was doing the event for the second time: ‘It was a success last year, but from the first instance today, you can see it’s better organised. It’s a great gathering. You see most of these cars around in Dubai, but don’t often get to speak to the owners.’ Mustafa Al Hassan, driving the Veyron agreed: ‘it’s something nice to do on a Friday. It’s the whole getting to know new people, with everyone sharing the same experience.’ The chance to commune with the brotherhood of motorheads seemed to be the prevailing pull of the event. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani of Sharjah, driving the gorgeous Rolls-Royce Drophead, stickered simply as car number one, felt the same: ‘I like the crowd. It’s a very nice group. Everyone here is a car-lover

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and this event is a good chance to meet them, talk about cars, and to appreciate their cars and let them appreciate yours.’ Even Gumball 3000 founder, Maximillion Cooper took part, somewhat baffled that these events didn’t occur here more often: ‘It’s a great mixture of cars. I’d contemplate running one of our events through here – probably in 2010.’ Which is something of an endorsement. However Cooper is also more aware than anyone about the negative publicity that an accident can bring, with a fatal incident on the Gumball last year. The problem with these events is that being a car-lover doesn’t automatically endow you with skills behind the wheel, which were, on the whole, mostly lacking on the Arab Run. Probably because a lot of participants had rented cars for the day, as pointed out by Ali Fahmi, who’d entered his own Infiniti G35 coupe: ‘It wasn’t really safe, they need to come down harder on drivers, also they need to make sure no outside drivers interfere.’ Unfortunately, despite this being touted as a fun-run, it was clear from the off, that some were eager to entertain challenges. ‘I just met a guy whose wife didn’t want to come because she’s 


CAR CULTURE ARAB RUN afraid of racing,’ said Al Tounji. ‘Some guys are here to race, but that’s not what it’s about,’ he added. The most fortuitous words were from the co-driver of 20-year old Wafi Mohsin Khan who’d brought along his bright green Lamborghini Murcielago Spyder. At the beginning of the day his mate, Nasir Al Shamsi, had told me the event was going to be ‘a big mess’. On the way to Fujairah, they had a brawl with a Gallardo, spun and bounced off the barrier. The car was certainly a mess but fortunately no one was hurt – it could’ve been worst. And this was under police escort – for which by the way, Arab Run founder, Qiass Issa, and his team – deserve enormous credit. I love the audacity of not only pulling off this sensational but potentially obstreperous event, not once but twice in the UAE with the cooperation of the safety-obsessed RTA, EMSF and the cops of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain. The avalanche of red tape, bureaucracy, stone-walling and door-slamming ‘nos’, would have taken a huge amount of determination to overcome. For that alone the organisers have to be applauded. But organisational difficulties remain, and more thought needs to go into the itinerary – turning up at one of the busiest mosques in Dubai on a Friday, too late to pray, should any participants have harboured the notion, was ill-advised and possibly insensitive to worshippers. More problematic is the appalling displays of bad driving. It’s easy to get caught up in the fervour of speed, and our Vantage was certainly able to hold its own, but not all the drivers seem able to leave themselves a useful margin of error. The potential consequences of something going badly wrong are unthinkable. And it will only take one incident to ruin it for everyone. I just hope the organisers’ apparent good luck thus far, continues to hold.

FORTUITIOUSLY, THE GUIY IN THE LAMBO SAID THE EVENT WAS GOING TO BE A BIG MESS

62 MAY 2008


JUNE 2008 ISSUE 6 VOLUME 4

NEW FERRARI JUNE 2008 ISSUE 6 VOL 4

The world’s fastest hard-top cabrio

M I D D L E

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PORSCHE SUPERCARS All the greats together: 911 Turbo, 959, Carrera GT and 911 GT2

CROSSOVER CONFUSION BMW X6 takes on Range Rover Sport THE DEFINITIVE VIEW

SHEIKH KHALID AL QASSIMI Drives the Jaguar XF JUNE 2008 AED10 Issue 6-4 BHD 1 KWD 1 OMR 1 SAR 10 QAR 10

■ NEW GALLARDO DRIVEN ■ AUDI R8 V12 ■ MERCEDES GLK ■ INFINITI FX50

9 771817 142009 An ITP Consumer Publication


MOTORSPORT SHEIKH KHALID HYBRID

Easy left...

He’s a former Middle East Rally champ, and is representing Abu Dhabi in the WRC, but at heart, Sheikh Khalid is a car nut, finds Shahzad Sheikh

W

ITHIN MINUTES of my first meeting with BP-Ford Abu Dhabi WRC ace, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, I found myself deep in conversation over the merits or, as it happens, demerits of the old Rover V8 engine that could trace its routes back to a 1961 Buick unit; how robust the ancient 6.75-litre motor in the Bentley Arnage is or isn’t (‘I have an Arnage, it’s not reliable at all’); and which car really is the king of the desert. ‘There are only two: Prado and FJ Cruiser – in the desert you need a reliable, naturally aspirated car with good horsepower and proper weight distribution; and it has to be light. I would take the Prado,’ pronounces Sheikh Khalid. Then, with a huge grin, adds ‘I have pictures of it doing massive jumps – unbelievable.’ And all the while he’s animated, excited and truly enthusiastic. He’s knowledgeable too, shrugging, nodding, grimacing and shaking his head vigorously to emphasis his point. You won’t always agree with him, but that’s alright because most of the time he won’t agree with you. But what you’ll get is the real deal. He’s always passionate, forthright and openly opinionated, something of a breath of fresh air when it comes to professional racers. ‘The whole reason I started rallying is because I love cars,’ he confirms. ‘I was about eight when I first drove a car. I remember driving cars on our farms, but although for most just driving for the first time would be enough, for me it was a case of – there must be something more. Where does the excitement come from?’ So blasting around in old Suzukis he’d be ‘looking for jumps, or places where I could do some action’. Back at school in the city the fun didn’t exactly stop, he’d ‘borrow’ a family employee’s car and race around the neighbourhood: ‘I’d started watching American movies and tried to copy the moves. I did a couple of reverse J-turns, but I felt it wasn’t fast enough, so on my third attempt I ended up rolling the car. We managed to put it back together and hid it next to the wall!’ He was 11, and you’d think that experience might have thought him a lesson – no chance. ‘Three

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MOTORSPORT SHEIKH KHALID

months later my driver had a Mercedes 500 SEL, and I had the keys! I started going out and drifting it around corners. I reached a peak, and found it easy after a while, but I wanted more excitement.’ You can guess what happened next, there’s clearly a pattern building here that must be a natural path to becoming a daredevil rally driver. ‘I threw the car into a slide at 140kph and banged it into the pavement, damaging the rear diff, though the body was fine.’ Eventually the local dealer started to voice concerns over the unusually high number of replacement rear axles that had to be ordered for the Al Qassimi family cars. Fortunately for Jaguar Middle East, there was no drifting from Sheikh Sideways in the car we’d brought along for him to guest-test for us. Much to his disappointment, we found that it was impossible to fully turn off the stability control in this non-supercharged V8 version. One of the very first XF’s in the country at that point, Sheikh Khalid was nonetheless genuinely keen to try it out for himself: ‘This Jaguar looks better than the old cars, I like the look of it. The only thing I’m surprised about is how tight it is inside – when you think of a Jaguar, you normally think big, spacious and luxurious.’ What did he think of the award-winning interior with its rotating vents and rising gear-dial? ‘It’s nice, but the big dashboard makes it feel quite like an American car, although it’s closer to a Mercedes CLS in here…’

The CLS, now there’s a pretty car, I proffered. Cue the big shrug and the slow head-wobble that says I’m agreeing with you, but I’m not really: ‘yeah, kind of, but I like the muscular Mercs like the AMG models.’ And that includes the current favourite in his own collection (a stable that includes the Porsche Carrera GT which he’s about to sell), a 500bhp CLK63 Black Series. Other cars include a G55 AMG (also for sale) and an Audi S8, but he didn’t order an R8 because ‘I like big engines’, though he may go for the Nissan GT-R. He’d also just taken delivery of a Lexus LX570 – ‘It’s fantastic, it has all the features of an off-road Maybach.’ A former Middle East Rally Champion, Sheikh Khalid is more than just a racer, he’s a proper petrolhead: ‘I’m the kind of person, if I love a car, I will buy it immediately.’ OKAY, IS THE So what of the XF then? Perhaps TRACTION OFF? remembering that at the time Ford Sheikh Khalid likes big engines, getting still owned Jaguar, Sheikh Khalid off the ground and went uncharacteristically all tact and throwing cars sideways. The diplomacy, a veneer that didn’t sit 300bhp XF V8 wasn’t well and was relatively transparent: quite what he had been hoping to drive ‘yeah, it’s okay,’ was followed by a tell-tale shrug. Next time we’d just have to get him something he could really drift.

JAGUAR XF

Flat over crest Sheikh Khalid is only contesting 10 out of 15 WRC rounds in 2008. But he already has a ninth in Jordan and won a title for the longest jump in Sweden

56 JUNE 2008

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‘WHEN I WON MY FIRST RALLY I DIDN’T HAVE A MOUSTACHE NEVER MIND A LICENCE’

IGHT WRC EVENTS WITH THE BPFord Abu Dhabi team to date, and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi has already made his mark. He has finished every event, none outside the top 20 including one top-ten finish, and earnt the unique accolade of the ‘Colin’s Crest’ award for the biggest jump in Rally Sweden in January. In honour of Scottish rally legend, Colin McRae, who tragically died last year, Rally Sweden organisers designed the award to celebrate McRae’s ‘flying Scotsman’ antics of the late ’90s. The rally’s Vargasen stage was run twice, giving the world’s best drivers two chances to earn the crest, but it was the UAE’s own soaring Sheikh that took the title with a spectacular 36m flight. ‘I approached the crest flat-out and after my first attempt, I knew I had the best line,’ Qassimi explained. ‘I am very happy to win the first ever edition of this award – it is fantastic for me, the team and a little piece

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of history for Abu Dhabi.’ And that’s Sheikh Khalid for you – fanatical about Rallying, focussed on Abu Dhabi, and fearless at the wheel. WRC AMBITION Don’t forget this was a jump Below from left: Malcolm Wilson, MD performed in the Swedish slush – not of M-Sport and team an environment he’s accustomed principal, Derek too when driving flat out: ‘I love Ledger, FIA Midde East Representative, off-roading in the desert and that’s and Sheikh Khalid at helped my rallying skills, but the the announcement of BP-Ford Abu Dhabi moment the terrain changes I suffer, and this is what people don’t understand. It’s been my first time even driving a car normally in snow and in mud, never mind racing!’ 


MOTORSPORT SHEIKH KHALID It doesn’t seem to have slowed him down too much, but then he’s always been one for exceeding expectations. His first event was a local rally in a Land Rover 110: ‘I was in Group S and I won – but I got into big trouble because I didn’t even have a moustache, never mind a licence!’ Whilst studying he did karting and single-seater driving but, ‘if you ask me now, I don’t like to go to circuits. It’s the same thing every lap, a memory game. I love the excitement and adrenalin of a rally, every kilometre brings a surprise.’ So in 2002 he started his rally career in earnest with a full programme in the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) winning both Group N and the UAE championships on his first attempt. Despite a big accident the following year, he was back in 2003 and lifted the MERC crown. Having started 2007 with hopes of a WRC programme he finally signed with BP-Ford: ‘We wanted to tie-in Abu Dhabi with a big rally team and a local driver. But it’s a long-term commitment to raise awareness of the capital and promote it as a tourist destination. I’m delighted with the Ford deal. We have the best car, the best team and we’re leading the championship.’ Only doing ten events in his first full season, he knows any title hopes are unrealistic. ‘It’s a dream even to be in the WRC. I’ve worked hard for it and we’re making history. I’m proud of that.’ But having silenced the critics already, Sheikh Khalid simply cannot be underestimated.

HEY! THIS ISN’T SAND Forests stages, snow, and mud are alien terrains to Sheikh Khalid. It hasn’t slowed him much though. He has finished every rally well inside the top 20

‘I LOVE THE ADRENALIN – EVERY KILOMETRE IN A RALLY BRINGS A SURPRISE’

Come fly with me... AST THING SHEIKH KHALID said to me on handing back the Jag’s keys was: ‘you must have a ride in my rally car’. And a few weeks later, courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, which had set up a short rally sprint course in the grounds around the Emirates Palace Hotel, I did. Joining other press, VIPs and

L

sponsors for my first ride in a WRC car, I nearly swallowed my own tongue during the launch-controlled standing start. True to his reputation, the pilot was determined to see some big air under the car, and the controlled violence and seemingly impossibly attack angles left my mind boggled and my back aching for several days afterwards. Absolutely amazing! 58 JUNE 2008

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Win an R8 track day @ www.carmiddleeast.com AUGUST 2008 ISSUE 8 VOL 4

AUGUST 2008 ISSUE 8 VOLUME 4

KTM X-BOW Exclusive first thrash

BEST OF THREE M I D D L E

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ASTON VS PORSCHE V8 Vantage takes on 911 Carrera

THE DEFINITIVE VIEW

SAND BLASTING Fun in the sun

BMW’s 7-speed M3 battles Merc C63 AMG and CSV CR8

C A R M I D D L E E A S T.C O M

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DRIVEN: ROLLS-ROYCE COUPE

VW SCIROCCO ■ BRABUS BULLIT

AUDI Q5

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FEATURE DRIVE ROLLS-ROYCE COUPE

Ta ke

48 AUGUST 2008

CAR MIDDLE EAST.COM

t h e


h e l m

Slingshot around the sun and take off for a cruise amongst the stars in the most dynamic Rolls-Royce yet, says Shahzad Sheikh

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FEATURE DRIVE ROLLS-ROYCE COUPE

400KM TRIANGULAR TEST ROUTE, NESTLED AMONGST THE LUSH greenery, timeworn villages, and undulating terrain between Geneva and Lyon, could have been largely made of up of fast and smooth dual carriageways and motorways. Arguably that kind of cross-country charge would have played to the strengths of the third and final iteration of the Phantom, a model range that has revived the Rolls-Royce marque so spectacularly. Since 2003, sales of cars with a ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ perched on the characteristically imperious grille, have more than trebled, hitting 1010 Phantoms last year, with 253 of those being the Drophead Coupe launched in 2007. ‘SPORTIEST’ The new fixed-roof Coupe aims to build on that sterling success, by The most dynamic offering the ‘sportiest’ Phantom yet. Phantom yet. Top speed has been With this in mind, the press launch cars saw service mostly on raised slightly, but single carriageways weaving their way up, down and very much all real difference is in stiffer suspension around substantially hilly parts of Eastern France – astonishingly, set-up, feelsome on ever-narrowing roads. En route the Phantom Coupes would chomp steering and ‘Swift’ mode for the tranny up Renault hot hatches for breakfast, whoosh past wobbly lycra-clad cyclists, and win rare nods of approval from the usually phlegmatic French, and waves from cheery children left totally in awe by the monumental majesty of motion, that it is to witness a Rolls on the move. Of course none of this sort of motoring bears any resemblance to how the Coupes will be employed once they go on sale here in October. The only commonality was the glorious sunshine, though even that was nowhere near as oppressive and virtually debilitating as we are currently experiencing. majlis to market, or a CEO to dash from boardroom to golf course, with The Coupe will be bought by slightly younger Phantom saloon owners, occasional sightings at the hottest night spots in the most cosmopolitan who’ve found that the colossal carriage is actually not a bad steer, and too of our cities. It will glide about town most imposingly, occasionally stretching often it’s the chauffeur who finds himself luxuriating in the regal rear (shoes its formidable legs stringing a couple of cities together. The top speed has off, toes impudently sunk into the deep shag pile rug), as the owner takes been derestricted a little to allow 250kph, but if such decadent exertion the helm. On the other hand the gorgeous Drophead is perhaps too extrovert isn’t desired, at the 120kph legal limit, the V12 utilises under 10 percent of for some discreet dignitaries who don’t want to be seen to be seen. its potential – love that ‘power reserve’ meter in the instrument panel! The coupe is smaller than the saloon: 225mm shorter, 40mm lower and Cars sold here might also be in white. Please don’t get it in white. Having giving away three measly millimetres in width. That still makes it nearly as witnessed the car in some of its nine new exterior hues, and with a palette long and wide as the Cadillac Escalade ESV behemoth. But whilst the Caddy of 44,000 colours available to customers, take my advice and order yours will seat at least eight, the Rolls is designed for four. Having said that, the in a deep, dark, diamond-speckled finish with the stainless steel bonnet most elevated amongst us will find rear head and legroom somewhat confined and A-pillar surrounds. Yes it takes five hours of polishing to attain that for such an opulent chariot, as well as ingress, and particularly egress, not level of lustre and the bonnet is a nightmare to keep pristine, but if you are being the easiest or easily given to an elegant arrival. taking my suggestion to buy one of these seriously, then you probably have The short and spry won’t complain too much though as the curved ‘sofa’ a man or two to keep it spic and span for you anyway. in the rear ‘lounge’ is certainly a cosy and inviting place, particularly with It’s just that stronger shades bring out the contrasts and emphasise the the optional starlight ceiling shimmering above, lending a would-be perfectly forms at the back of this naturally handsome and elegant car, to bestow a classy touch to any romantic evening. more muscular attitude to the rear wings. The classic cues of swept-back So the Coupe will potentially join its bigger brother in the million-dollar grilled, long nose, short front overhang but long rear overhang, all serve stable as the self-drive daily commuter, allowing his Sheikhness to get from to bolster the Rolls identity. But the high waistline, subtle bulges over

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SELF-DRIVE DAILY COMMUTER FOR HIS SHEIKHNESS TO GET FROM MAJLIS TO MARKET

GALAXY CLASS No it hasn’t left on a voyage to boldly go, but this optional random starfield roof, painstakingly created by hand, can be customised to show any constellation or company motif

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AUGUST 2008 51


FEATURE DRIVE ROLLS-ROYCE COUPE But where it impresses is in the realm of dynamics that few, if any, owners will ever explore. The reason the hacks were thrown in at the deep end on twisty roads in an unfamiliar land yacht is because this Phantom is far less intimidating from behind the Flying Lady, than it is standing before her. You won’t read a ‘shrinks itself around you’ cliché here, and nor will owners be trading in their Ferraris and Porsches, or turn up at track days with a leather helmet, string-back driving gloves and picnic basket. Throwing this car into corners NEED TO with squeals of protest coming from the 21-inchers, KNOW is akin to doing loop-the-loops in an Airbus A380. Price: However it will do it. A 49:51 weight split means its $400,000 remarkably accepting of changes in direction at speed Engine: with understeer nowhere near as barrier-encountering 6749cc, 48v, direct as you might think. In fact brisk motoring on these injection V12, the rear wheel arches and pillar-box rear window sitting atop a slight tree-line roads is more about managing the mass – just plan 453bhp @ 5350rpm, 531lb ft @ 3500rpm your braking and turning to keep it ‘swift’. The only complaints lip, adds an incongruous street-rod persona. Transmission: Somehow it all works though, and whilst I prefer the headlight will be from passengers trying to peel their faces off the side Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive arrangement of the saloon, the wraparound front bumpers of this and windows. The front seats may be snugger, and slightly the worst Performance: 5.8sec the Drophead work far better. In all, a dazzling presence to behold, as for comfort for it, but they still fail to secure you in place. 0-100kph, 250kph, This is neither a warp-speed grand tourer in was obvious from all the head turning and pointed fingers it 15.7Litre/100 STREET ROD On sale: October the mould of a Bentley GT Speed, nor a evoked on the test route. High waistline, bulges over the rear sophisticated street brawler in the style of the Which brings us back to the launch event and how it drives. haunches and pillar Aston Martin DBS. It’s entirely different. Phantom owners will find familiarity from the driver’s seat, box back window – which rather limits It makes a statement of untroubled power, unhurried but they will notice a thicker steering wheel, and on it they’ll the view aft – means pace, and unashamed privilege with such graciousness find a button marked with an ‘S’. This does not stand for ‘Sport’ this Rolls does a good impression of and class, that it invokes only respect and appreciation. insist Rolls officials, even though the press blurb calls it such. a massive street rod As an alternative to the saloon its practicality is Let’s call it the ‘Swift’ button then, because it tightens up the compromised, and it doesn’t have the panache of the transmission with longer holds on acceleration and quicker Drophead. But of the three it’s the one you could, and should, use kickdowns, plus there’s improved throttle response. That something so bulky (at 2590kg, it’s not as heavy as you’d think everyday if you enjoy a suitably exalted status in life. Lucky you. being largely aluminium-bodied) should charge off the line with such alacrity, is astounding. But there’s no shock value. It doesn’t feel as quick as the 0-100kph in 5.8 seconds that is claimed. Mostly because a quiet cocoon of quality isolates you from the outside world, and the suspension has received stiffer rear dampers with a thicker anti-roll bar, resulting in enhanced anti-dive and anti-squat. And partly because a casual against-the-wristwatch run, proved it wasn’t.

A DAZZLING PRESENCE TO BEHOLD

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CAR Middle East 2008  

Selected articles from 2008

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