On my first day at SHARP back in 2010, when I was 23 years old and just hired to write about cars, I neglected to mention that, although I’d done some amateur racing, I only had a learner’s licence. (In my defense, you don’t really need to learn how to drive growing up in downtown Toronto.) What I did have, however, was a lifelong obsession with cars and everything about them. And the good thing — the best thing — about cars is that they can take you anywhere. In the years since 2010, I’ve been lucky enough to drive the world’s best automobiles in some pretty wild places: across the Bonneville Salt Flats, alongside Moroccan rivers, over Californian sand dunes, through Alpine meadows. In other words, that lifelong obsession feels entirely justified. And, yes, I do have a full driver’s licence now.
Partying at the Nürburgring 24 Hours
The legendary 24-hour-long demolition derby isn’t so much a race as it is a week-long camping trip with ten-thousand drunk Germans in a muddy forest west of Koblenz. The enthusiastic spectators love fireworks, dancing, bonfires, bad music, pale beer, and shouting — and they were more than happy to have a stranger with zero German language skills join in the fun. Somehow, what was happening on track seemed like a sideshow. I don’t remember when exactly I staggered out of the forest, but I do remember I had to throw out my mud-filled boots and that I slept through the end of the race. To anyone who says motorsport is boring, try this.
Driving the BMW E30 in Bavaria
The O.G. BMW M3, a.k.a. E30 M3, was one of my early automotive heroes. BMW’s Motorsport division built it to go racing but, lucky for us, the rules dictated the firm also had to sell some to the public. It put BMW M on the map, and today it’s recognized as one of the all-time great machines. While, naturally, I’d always wanted one, they sell for six figures at auction — too rich for a car writer. Luckily, BMW Classic in Munich keeps one in its collection, and they tossed me the keys for a day. Once I worked up the courage to drive it like I stole it, the M3 was transcendent. On endlessly twisting Bavarian backroads, that little red car could still teach modern sports cars some lessons about what makes driving fun; it isn’t horsepower or grip, and it can’t be designed by committee.
Ice Driving with Aston Martin
I’ve learned that it’s not so much what you drive as where that makes the experience. Drifting across a frozen lake in a Volvo station wagon somewhere in the bitter cold above the Arctic Circle in Sweden for example, was infinitely more fun than piloting the most expensive supercar on public roads in Canada. Of all the ice drives I’ve done, however, Aston Martin’s winter driving school in Colorado may have been the most memorable. The brand’s exotic rear-wheel-drive V8- and V12-powered coupes were totally out of place on the ice. Racing around a purpose-built frozen circuit made me feel like I was part of a James Bond car chase in slow motion — totally absurd, but highly entertaining. Driving on ice, you quickly learn how to control a car when it’s out of control, and that might be the best feeling in all of driving.