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Drive Life : January 28th 2011
1HERSA1 F003 *Offer available at participating dealers on new stock vehicles purchased and delivered by 31 January 2011, while stocks last. Free on-road costs comprise registration, stamp duty, CTP, and dealer delivery. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offers. SapientNitro VOL 506 SMH S Scuderia Veloce Volvo Cars 586 Pacific Highway Chatswood NSW 2067 Ph: 9411 6677 DL15207 Annlyn Motors 93-99 York Road Penrith NSW 2750 Ph: 4722 9900 DL16178 Trivett Volvo Alexandria 75-85 O'Riordan Street Alexandria NSW 2015 Ph: 8338 2633 DL90221 Peter Warren Volvo Cars 13 Hume Highway Warwick Farm NSW 2170 Ph: 9828 8123 DL5411 Purnell Volvo 990 King Georges Road Blakehurst NSW 2221 Ph: 8558 7000 DL520 Trivett Volvo Parramatta 70 Church Street Parramatta NSW 2150 Ph: 9841 4142 MD14839 the january sale event free on-road costs across the range* STAMP DUTY • REGISTRATION • CTP • DEALER DELIVERY The Sydney Morning Herald Friday, January 28, 2011 3 The 500 is a darling little car but Mini is a premium brand. -- MINI USA MARKETING BOSS TOM SALKOWSKI PATRONISES THE FIAT 500. TOP RICHEST AUSTRALIAN RACERS5 ' 1 Mark Webber, F1, $13.4m (pictured) 2 Chad Reed, Motocross, $7.5m 3 Casey Stoner, MotoGP, $6.8m 4 Marcos Ambrose, NASCAR, $4.2m 5 Ryan Briscoe, Indycar, $1.5m Source: BRW IN DRIVE TOMORROW Do you ever use your phone when you drive? NET POLL No, it's dangerous 29% Yes, I don't think it affects my driving 13% Yes, but I use hands-free 40% Sometimes, if it's important 18% Next week's question: Should large 4WDs be banned from some Australian cities? Go to drive.com.au/vote Clearance sale: the best New Year bargains ' Drive Life editor Richard Blackburn firstname.lastname@example.org National Drive editor Toby Hagon Sales manager Ian Bellert 9282 3709 Cover Illustration by Tim Verrender Drive writers abide by a code of ethics. Read it at drive.com.au/ethics DriveLIFE Unmasked and dangerous BEN COLLINS Revved up . . . Ben Collins, formerly The Stig, in the 2010 Le Mans Series. In eight years as The Stig on BBC's To p Gear, there was always one question that never left the back of my mind: ''When will this life end?'' From the beginning, I knew my time as the anonymous white-suited one was on a countdown to zero. Playing the role of a fictional character, a speed king whose existence rested on remaining a mystery, was daunting. In the world of camera phones, instant messaging, multimedia, Wikipedia and YouTube, anonymity only exists for insects hiding under rocks. Running from the grim reaper did have its plus points. I thrashed every car I was handed with equal impunity, as though every lap might be the last. No experience was taken for granted, from peeling tarmac off the French highways at hyper speed in a 1000-horsepower (746kW) Bugatti Veyron, to landing a helicopter on a moving car. I drove more than 200 of the world's finest automobiles and learnt fast how to master them. Ditto the celebrity guests -- every encounter was like the first and final date. No one cared if we bent a little metal and some of the guests, such as Lionel Richie, literally drove the wheels off the ''reasonably priced car'' in the quest to set the fastest lap time. Mind you, nothing topped sitting next to a guy who drove the Top Gear lap blind. Last year the party came to an end. My identity was splashed all over the internet and I was standing on the end of the gangplank. The seas below looked rough and the pirates with blades at my back looked a tad surly. Then it hit me. It was time to suck it up and start swimming. Life after Stig has been good to this speed junkie. This year I'm climbing aboard an open-top Le Mans Prototype race car (the HPD Acura ARX-01c -- P2 class), which has more in common with a spaceship than a car. Except for the engine, which is the V6 2.8-litre motor commonly found in the Honda Accord -- with some added pepper from twin turbos. The team (Ray Mallock Motorsport) is preparing this machine to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours, arguably the biggest race in the world . . . after Bathurst, of course! In the old days at Le Mans, drivers only made pit stops to have a chat, swig champagne or hand the car over to the next maniac. The modern event is an orgy of speed with all the screamers, sweat and tears that go with it. Formula one champs such as Nigel Mansell and Jacques Villeneuve flock to compete at Le Mans, as well as rally gods such as Sebastien Loeb. Sixty cars, ranging from Aston Martin to Ferrari and to the high-tech UFOs of Peugeot and Audi, fight for supremacy on the 8.5-mile (13.7-kilometre) circuit. Endurance event it may be but no quarter is given on track. It is a 24-hour sprint. My spaceship pounds the tree-lined tarmac at 210mph (338km/h). It corners at almost four times the force of gravity, making your head weigh as much as Natalie Imbruglia and Victoria Beckham combined. Without the benefit of a windscreen, bugs the size of bull terriers explode across your visor. The rain jet-washes your teeth and fills your seat with water. You tell your teammate that it's something else, of course. When your three-hour stint at the wheel is finished, you attempt to iron out your creased kidneys by sleeping. You find the flowing track flashing inside your retinas. How the body adjusts is a mystery . . . 340km/h with your arse two inches from the ground feels more like 550km/h in real money but nature is kind and adrenalin slows time down. So much so that you watch the Ferris wheel turning and make out the drunk German wearing lederhosen leering over the steel barrier with a gigantic beer. He's gone in a blur but you still see that cool, frothy beer. Bubbles rising . . . plinking . . . because you're so thirsty in that 80-degree cockpit you would lick a camel's eyelid for hydration. You sense every component of the machine as though it were part of your body. The carbon disc brakes peak at 800 degrees on the rare occasions that you use them on a lap where 85 per cent of the time is spent on full throttle. You make thousands of gear shifts, push the tyres to the brink of explosion and rev the nuts off the engine. Every step is closer to the elusive finish line. What I love about racing is that unlike TV entertainment, it's unscripted. The hovering question lingers: ''How will this end?'' The uncertainty pushes man and machine to find that bit extra, the slim difference between winning and losing. And motoring needs pioneers now as never before. A swathe of new electric vehicles as well as hybrid, gas-powered, diesel and petrol machines are rolling onto our streets. They must be tested, raced and punished without remorse to extinguish defects and discover their potential. Looks as if I might have a job after all. Ben Collins was famously anonymous for eight years as The Stig on the hit series TopGear.Heisnowapresenteronrival show Fifth Gear.
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