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Home  /  February 2018  /  Reviews

Former cavalry officer Phil ­Astley started the modern circus in 1768. He worked out that if you did a headstand on a horse around a 13-metre ring, the centrifugal force would allow you to keep your balance. (If you do try this at home, please don’t blame me or this paper for the resultant damage to you, your loved ones, not loved ones or horse.)

He was also a very early promoter of financial independence for women by creating meaningful, well-paid, non-gender-discriminatory jobs. For instance, he gave his wife Patty a job riding around the 13-metre ring with a swarm of bees all over her. Who wouldn’t want to pay a shilling to see that? Then he got his sister to ride around with three swarms of bees. Unfortunately — how can I put this nicely? — over the years his global success went straight to his tummy region and Phil lost some of his equestrian condition. He died in Paris of stomach gout.

I think Michael McMichael might have stomach gout. You can check it out for yourself any weeknight at Adelaide’s Kensington Hotel in Regent Street, near ­Michael’s Stepney BMW laboratory. This Monday will be huge (no reference intended to ­Michael’s tummy region) at the Kensi with the live Superbowl broadcast courtesy of Foxtel from 9am and a bucket of Bud for only $20. After the match Michael will engage what’s left of the patrons in a lively quantum computing trivia contest and will personally sign copies of his soon-to-be-written book, Sex in a Parking Station: Why it’s Wrong on so Many Levels.

Now before you write in about cruelty to horses and bees and patrons sitting too close to Patty and her sister-in-law as they rode around the ring, can I point you in the direction of the Care2 petition urging Volkswagen to never test on animals again after the New York Times revealed a ­research group funded by a body funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW conducted an experiment in which monkeys were forced to ­inhale diesel exhaust fumes? The Netflix documentary Dirty Money provides evidence that the original study “was actually going to have a human sitting on an exercise bike (in a “Test Subject Exposure Room”) … that would then be exposed to gas ­directly from the diesel vehicles”. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the gang in charge nixed the testing on humans idea and “someone suggested the tests be performed on NHPs (non-human primates, or monkeys)”.

Talking of Paris, no doubt I will see you there next 7, 8 et 9 fevrier for RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams’ and Artcurial’s big car sales. RM kicks off in a tent on the Place Vauban with the fifth of 13 V12-powered Ferrari 166 MMs with five-speed gearboxes built for the 1953 season. The body was designed by Aurelio Lampredi and was, un­usually, built by Ferrari. It was sold to Alberico Cacciari, who raced it in the Mille Miglia with Bill Mason, father of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. I reckon you could steal this for $6 million. More music? What about the 1965 Iso Grifo A3/C owned by Jean-Philippe Leo Smet (you know him as Johnny Hallyday), the chanter who brought le rock ’n’ roll to France? Only $5 mill. I’m bidding on the 2005 Maser MC12. One of only 50 built, only 12,500km from new, it marked Maserati’s return to sex, mainly because it incorporates a lot of the Ferrari Enzo. About $4m plus freight home.

The next night it’s off to Le Grand Palais for Bonhams Automobiles, Montres et Automobilia d’exception, where I’ve got my eye on the 1934 36-litre V12 600kw Hispano-Suiza bateau a moteur, which clocked 159km/h on the Seine right outside the Palais in 1938. It’s big (8.5m), breathes through six Hispano carbies and would be ideal for a quick dash up the Yarra to pick the kids up after rowing at Hawthorn. I think $1.3m. Can I recommend you beg, borrow or buy the Bonhams catalogue? It is the best of the season with about 450 pages of exquisite autos, montres and ­bateaus.

Then to Artcurial for the 1986 BMW M5 Production ex-Olivier Grouillard. Michael, the quantum computing whiz and author, and I have entered our 1989 BMW 3 ­series with the Alpina engine in Targa Tasmania this year but for $400,000 we might give Neil Bates and Coral Taylor a run in Ollie’s old car.

If you can’t join us in Tassie then most of The Weekend Australian Racing Team (WART) will be in action on 17 et 18 fevrier for the Wakefield Park 300. Tom Connolly and I will be behind the wheel of Phil Alexander’s Race­away Track Time’s Mazda MX5 (it doesn’t stop suddenly all that often) so drop by.

Good to see a great Australia Day result with Bonhams selling Tony McAlpine’s 1951 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle for $1.2m, the most valuable motor­cycle ever sold at auction. Best of all it was bought by an Australian to come back here. This was the bike Jack Ehret smashed the Australian record on.

If you’re a 4WD fan (I own two) then have a look at David Wilson’s very objective and very independent new mag, Loaded 4X4.

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