Hungary, BMW, F1 Memories, F1 Alpha Tauri Team Experience, Toyota Reality and Long Lost Friend Found In This Months Letter From Europe
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
After recently driving lots of new Ferraris, Astons and McLarens it is time to have a reality check. The folks buying those super-cars are millionaires and in many cases billionaires. The rest of us are just happy to have a reliable car which will get us from A to B for many years.
One is the puny lost invisible yellow warning blob on the outside mirror, it is barely visible in the California sunshine. The other is the engine. Toyota make some wonderful engines, this is not one of them.
But now on to my European adventures and one of the best Summers I’ve ever had. I’ve actually met someone. No, not on Match.com or some other dating site. No, a lot more romantic!
But back to the Hungarian Grand Prix which this year was quite sensational for a number of reasons.
It was fun work for three solid days. I picked my accreditation for FORZA magazine and then, out of the blue I had a message waiting for me at the hotel. I had to read it twice.
It turned out that an executive of the Alpha Tauri team sponsor were unable to attend, so they asked my son Nicholas (an F1 editor for The Auto Channel) if he would like to represent the company, but he was too busy organizing the next MYYACHT function along with twin sister Annabelle (also an Auto Channel contributor), so he said no but asked how about Daddy? No way they could say no.
On top of this stroke of serendipity, in addition to my duties for Hungarian TV and radio I was asked to do 30 minutes for Saudi TV! They flew in a crew from Germany,..I am told the story will run in 33 countries. It was a difficult but very satisfying week.
And to balance things politically I asked the gypsy band in attendance to play Hava Nagila. To those who treated it like just another song it was just that, but for those who knew and felt it, Kleenex began to appear. Completely unforgettable.
Of course none of these events would have been possible without BMW’s excellent 330d. The company have been very kind over the years providing us with test cars in Europe and from their American colleagues in San Francisco.
My test car a BMW 330d was powerful, responsive and did everything I’ve asked from it. It so happens I did ask for others, lol.
Confession time: I was a little bit naughty. It went like this. VIPs, big bosses and “influencers” (yuk) arrange for police escorts from the circuit back to the hotels alongside the Danube. Not dissimilar to Hollywood or Las Vegas...police cycle up front and at the back of the cortege with flashing blue flights and sirens going.
The first race at the Hungering was back in 1986 when Hungary was still part of the Warsaw Pact, meaning under Russian occupation. Still, money talks and so Bernie Ecclestone did a deal, the track was built and the races were on!
Bernie always stayed at the Marriott and I have always stayed at the Intercontinental which was known as the Forum for a long time. Anyway, I always knew that Bernie with his motor cycle escort would leave for the track at 8 am sharp. I was waiting in the BMW with engine running a hundred yards away.
15 minutes later we were at the track, and while Ecclestone is now history the police motor cycles are still very much in vogue. We are talking real money, forget Amex, Visa and Apple Pay. Cash or join the queue. Well, I didn’t pay but still managed to get a lift from the convoy.
All I needed was a powerful car with excellent acceleration, road holding and first class brakes. Luckily the 330d had all of this in abundance. My passengers didn’t quite know what was going on, I was too busy keeping up with the police escort but I seem to recall lots of screams of delight.
Kata, my friend was just about able to compose a text message to the Club room of the Intercontinental to order a vert and well earned gin and tonic! It was, I must admit, quite a drive.
My second test car was not on active duty in the sense of joining convoys, the best of the Budapest trip was a leisurely jaunt to Lake Balaton, Hungary’s lake resort about an hour’s drive from Budapest. My second BMW tester was an X1 Xdrive30E so instead of diesel I had extra oomph from the PHEV.
Luckily the hotel had a working charger in the garage and X1 was ready to roll first thing in the morning. The car is deceptive in a way. With the EV it goes like smoke, without it things are different. With the end of the EV charge you are suddenly left with a pretty modest engine which is a problem because you get used to rapid acceleration and suddenly it isn’t there.
Well that's it for this month.