(An article originaly published in SmartLife International magazine)
A special treat for you now harking all the way back to 2010 when I found myself on the surprising end of an invitation to Budapest to watch cars with pricetags equal to that of my own house rag around the Hungaroring while being served free drinks. Read on to uncover the Hell. Oh and the hotel I was put in was connected to Europe’s largest indoor water park. Now back to that Hell I mentioned…
I’m an undemanding type. While there are people out there that spend all their life trying to attain inner-happiness and all that hippy claptrap, all you have to do for me is make me go fast in something expensive and I’m happier than that Larry chap everyone bangs on about.
Okay, I’m simplifying things a bit; alright, massively. Yes, there are some other little details I tend to require to be truly content. For a start the ‘something expensive’ I refer to has also got to be unbelievably sexy and/or equally unbelievably cool. Plus, it has to not just go fast, but go stupidly fast – you know, breakneck speeds, the kind of velocities where God is too afraid to watch, physics is soundly mocked, and the very flow of time is affected, those kind of speeds. It should also do all these things in a series of impossibly glamorous locations around the world. And, finally, there should be stunning, scantily clad girls everywhere, girls whose job it is merely to stand around making any less than appealing parts of the location infinitely more so. Get all that sorted and I’ll be delighted. Not too much to ask is it?
Well, it certainly isn’t too much to ask when it comes to the combined forces of two giants of the luxury realm – one the oldest luxury watch manufacturer in the world with roots going back to 1735 (just after half-past five), the other the maker of the sexiest supercars the world has ever seen. When they came together a brand new motor sport was born: The Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo races…
Alright, so it’s another car race. And while I have no doubt that those who view the F1 as predictable and overly formulaic (no pun intended) and tree-hugging greenists who despise any car other than the Prius have already left after realising this blogsite is clearly not aimed at them, the Super Trofeo is in fact unique in motor sport. How so? Well, this is the fastest one-make series in the world, with all competitors driving Gallardo LP 560-4 bespoke cars with the same V10 5.2-litre engine (570hp), the same six-speed motorised gearbox, the same Pirelli racing tyres on the same 18-inch lightweight competition wheels. All of which means that, like no other racing series, the mechanical playing field of the Super Trofeo is level and therefore the skill of the individual drivers and not engineering superiority is what counts.
The drivers in question are made up of Professional and – what are described as – ‘Gentlemen’ drivers (two to each car per race are allowed), Professional and Gentlemen drivers who can afford the €25,000 entry fee (per season. €7000 per individual race) and of course the small matter of the race-spec Lambo, that is. But as always there’s a bargain package available for interested parties from Lamborghini dealerships: €200,000 to cover car, tax, trackside support and parts and entry fee in all six races. Oh and the other bonus, access to what is the most luxurious VIP area in motor sports that I’ve been lucky enough to not be thrown out of: Super Trofeo Village.
Here, in this sun-trap Shangri-La of the racing world, VIP guests can sit in or out while being served an array of drinks from the fully complimentary bar, enjoy some fine hot and cold Italian cuisine courtesy of Lamborghini’s own team of chefs and waiting staff, drool over the array of Blancpain finery out on display, cool down with freshly made ice cream in myriad flavours from its own dedicated bar, watch the racing results coming in on LCD TV and indulge in some serious retail therapy at the Lamborghini Boutique, home of all manner of Lambothingies.
Hungary for action
All of which, plus the Murciélago and non-racing Gallardos which were liberally sprinkled around the Village like so much automotive porn, makes for quite the weekend at the track – and a weekend I was lucky enough to experience first-hand thanks to an invitation to Budapest’s famous Hungaroring penultimate leg of the Super Trofeo. But as glamorous as the Village was, there was something in the background that hypnotically draws you away from its haven of luxury, a lure that drags you from the free bar and takes you stumbling on a short walk in the blazing sun to the track, past the various assorted supercars parked up like Carlsberg’s own dogging site, past the impossibly well-engineered pit-girls, back a few steps and past the impossibly well-engineered pit-girls again, and then further on into the blinding sun and towards the source of that siren song – the roar of dozens of deafening V10s, thundering all around like furious T-Rex’s clearing their throats. Welcome to the unmistakable sound of automotive aural sex…
Up close and personal in the pitlane is as close to the action as you can get without actually meeting a horribly expensive end mangled up in air-intakes and tyre-tread – here with the smell of oil in my nostrils, the roar of the cars in my ears, the scorching sun trying to melt my head, and the seemingly cloned pit-girls in thigh-length leather boots not far behind me, I felt confident that the team of Hayek and Kox could do it and ensure the mood in Camp Blancpain remained high.
Unfortunately sometimes, no matter how good you are, Hell – as Sartre put it – is other people. And in this case that other person was another, overly ambitious, competitor who, having misjudged his line, collided with Marc and sent him crashing into the wall, out of this race and quite possibly out of the Hungarian leg altogether. I’m no expert, but even I knew that could have gone better.
That evening, while we dined on goulash and listened to a lunatic play a cimbalom high up on the city’s famous Gellert Hill, the mechanics toiled through the night in the seemingly impossible hope of lining up on the grid at 08.50 in the morning…
Back in black
As the fleet of Gallardos lined up for the first of the day’s final two races, the sun sat low in the clear blue sky above the Hungaroring, its brilliant light reflecting off the gleaming bodywork of the cars… and the pit-girls, blinding us as to the story out on the track. Then as my eyes, still damaged from the previous evening’s Hungarian wineathon, gradually adjusted to the light it became clear there was a gap where #24 should be. Disaster. Clearly the damage had been too much and as far as this fifth leg was concerned the dream was over for Team Blancpain Reiter Engineer.
But then, over the crest of the track a shimmering figure appeared at the back, low, lean and dressed in black, like a mirage amongst the rising heat. As it moved closer and gained solidity it pulled into position and could just about be made out, its livery of contrasting white on the bonnet becoming clear: it was #24, goddammit! The race was back on.
Alright, that’s not exactly what happened, but what’s wrong with a bit of against-the-odds heroic build up? In truth the crack team of mechanics had the Hayek/Kox Gallardo ready to go by 6am, but due to the previous day’s entanglement they were now stuck way back in 12th on the grid. Not, as you might imagine, the best position to start in… and I hate to back a loser.
Fortunately, that was not going to be an issue. Clearly furious from the previous day’s mishap, Hayek wasted no time in engaging in an almighty battle, putting Lambo after Lambo behind him in rapid succession, moving up into 6th before handing the reins to the Dutch Pro, Kox. From here, Kox kicked things up yet another gear, muscling his way to the front of the pack and getting way out in front after the pitstops. From here on in, Kox was untouchable (no sniggering), maintaining his solid lead to the flag to take the top step for himself and honours for the team.
Clearly back on top form, Peter Kox also kicked off proceedings in the final race, taking the lead early and never relinquishing it in seemingly unstoppable style. His work done, Kox then handed back to Hayek in the pit and then sat back to watch as his team-mate managed to cling to that lead, fighting off constant attacks from Eugenio Amos in the #69 Touringauto for the remainder of the race, to take the number one spot on the podium and rack up the team’s second victory that day and overall triumph in Hungary.
Naturally, given this complete reversal of fortunes in a matter of hours, to say the mood with the rest of the team back in the Super Trofeo Village afterwards was ‘good’, would be as idiotically understated as saying Blancpain just make watches or Lamborghini just make cars, or for that matter, as saying that I’m an undemanding type. Fortunately though, when it comes to sating any degree of overblown, exacting requirements, the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo with its exotic locations, exceptional hospitality, and exhilarating pit-girls has the lot. If you think high-end motorsport is all about watching the most well-paid sportsmen in the world go round and round in uniformed, non-overtaking, circles until Sebastian Vettel eventually wins, you couldn’t be more wrong.