Motoring Con Brio! By Giovanni Tomasi

MARIO ANDRETTI WAS QUOTED saying: “Motor racing is like one big family, ultimately, and when you come back to it, that’s really what it feels like.” For many of us that participate in High Performance Driving Events, amateur racing, road rallies, and other driving related activities, arriving at an event is like a fun reunion where new family members are welcomed and old ones are relished. What I discovered over the many years of involvement in “spirited motoring” activities is that the passion for motorsports often creates a bond with strangers I just met more than any other sport or hobby, almost like “nding someone from my home town or my Alma Mater. And often that bond is created by coincidence in very unexpected circumstances, as transpired this summer.

Alex, our daughter, fellow motoring addict, adventure friend, and racing partner decided that borrowing one of my cars was not to be a long term arrangement and finding her own vehicle was the way to go. The fact that she had just received an unexpected raise that more than covered the associated expenses provided an added incentive. Although Charlie the 2003 Mini Cooper S had become hers through the many modifications made to improve the track performance, those mods had also made him less than optimal for every day street driving since even the slightest encounter with potholes result in teeth fillings becoming dislodged and the race seats plus six point harness require contortions and acrobatics.

A 2006 Cooper S was identifed with an engine and clutch replacement only 15,000 miles ago. The car was in Boston being sold by a young man moving to Japan for business. Although he loved the car, he did not want to leave it unused for possibly several years. Given Alex lives in Rochester, NY and I am in northeastern CT, I offered to go see the car on a Saturday morning, assuring Linda that I would be back by lunchtime at the latest. Although ownership of a Cooper S can be an indication of someone that appreciates automobiles, I am aware that not everyone is addicted by my same motoring passion and I try not to overwhelm someone that only sees a car as transportation with gear head talk. A Hybrid Avalon driving family member fitting this description comes to mind…

After the mandatory extended scenic tour of Cambridge prompted by the S5 Cabrio navigator not finding Kendall Square and a call to the seller with my street coordinates, I was met by Greg, a pleasant young man. With a slight Italian accent he asked if I would like to join him for a cup of coffee before inspecting the Mini. Over some of the best coffee this side of the Atlantic I discovered that his enjoyment of automobiles was somewhat above average, likely due to his Italian and Swiss nationality, with a bit of racing in his past. Greg suggested that we drive to his garage so I may leave the S5 in a parking spot better protected from scrapes and dings; I obliged “guring that Linda would appreciate not having her new Cabrio with a souvenir from the Boston streets.

Upon entering the garage, a curvaceous red Italian beauty welcomed us. To my question if he had ever tracked her, Greg responded: “Sergio (Marchionne) would not like her on the track given that there are only 500 made, and this is 500 of 500”. I quickly realized that what I had mistaken for the new Alfa 4C, the Italian Exige and Cayman fighter, was the Alfa 8C Competizione built almost in secrecy by Alfa Romeo from 2007 through 2010 with a “detuned” 4.7 liters V8 Ferrari engine. Theoretically Alfa agreed to lower the horsepower to 450 as not to compete with the prancing horse, but all 8Cs dyno well over 500.

A 1957 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce Spider was under a cover nearby, having recently returned from the factory for a full restoration, and four Ducati motorcycles were next to the 8C. Other cars in Greg’s family a spirited drive of the 8C Competizione in the light weekend Boston traffic. And yes, the Mini Cooper S “Benji” is now with Alex in Rochester – after a full detailing by an Audi fan with new appreciation for the Alfa Romeo 8C and those voluptuous Italian curves!