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Wheels Handling Olympics 2008

Wheels Staff
23 October 2008
www.wheelsmag.com.au

Our annual track-fest is all about on-the-limit prowess. Sit tight as we go in search of 2008's gold-medal winner, with two-part video.

The fat, black GT2 Porsche is $425K worth of raw aggression on a tight leash. Mike Tyson without the anger-management issues. It’s ripping straight for me at 143km/h. I know this because the radar gun I’m holding tells me so. I’m doing the mental arithmetic, getting ready to move: the GT2, 160 metres distant, will eat our separation in about four seconds. It zigs hard right, into the lane-change. It can’t possibly make it through without cleaning up a cone this time. And I’d better not be here when it arrives – even with Ed Ordynski at the wheel.

This test was originally conceived not to be attempted at more than 110km/h. We’ll just add that to the list of caveats this ridiculously capable car repudiates ... along with Newton’s three laws of motion.

My job’s easier than Ed’s: zap the car on entry, turn left, run out of the way, make notes. In that order. Oh, and don’t trip. Four seconds is adequate. I’ll be right as rain, so long as I don’t have a Family Guy moment if a pretty girl in a mini-skirt happens by (unlikely at Oran Park’s skidpan, mid-winter).

There’s an impact behind me – whack! – and two cones rocket about four metres into the air. The GT2 drifts left, away from me, and I get a snapshot of Ordynski’s calm clarity as he floats past, compensating. It’s not the first time the 53-year-old rally ace has done this, nor even the thousandth, and I envy both his experience and composure.

Ed wheels the Porsche around, trundles up, buttons down the window. We eyeball each other.

“Reckon we found the limit,” he says, deadpan. I shrug. Then he breaks into a Cheshire-cat grin. Me too.

That’s the best summation of the Wheels Handling Olympics (WHO) I’ve ever witnessed. It’s all about drawing a line labelled ‘The Limit’ for 13 very desirable cars – then finding it – during an annual two-day, tightly controlled thrash-fest at Sydney’s Oran Park. We take $1.4m in hot, hard cars, punt them mercilessly in repeatable tests, and quantify that limit.

Basically, we belt them into submission with on-limit cornering, braking, acceleration, hot laps, transient handling, and swerve-avoid-recover capability. The results are even relevant to real-world driving, because when you’re ‘out there’ conservatively below the limit you have a significant safety margin up your sleeve, a fact overlooked by the wowsers’ dismissive assessments of performance cars.

Ed gets his say in all of this, too – he decides a maximum of five percent of the total score. The rest is all down to the hard numbers – opinions be damned.

Meaningful results, experimental control, real-world relevance, interpolation ... sure, but the reality is that WHO is also impossibly excellent fun. I gave up a perfectly mundane day job to do stuff like this, and it never gets old. The Cheshire-cat grins were real.

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And not one full-blooded GM. Nice. Where's the turbo 'balt SS? Didn't it just whip the competiton in another handling match-up?
 

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BTW: The Civic Type R is a joke at $40k.
 

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And not one full-blooded GM. Nice. Where's the turbo 'balt SS? Didn't it just whip the competiton in another handling match-up?
Um... This is an Aussie mag, testing cars sold in our country.
And yes there is a GM there (HSV GTS).
 

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