Alexander Roy: The Driver

Those of you who know me even just a little bit will know that I’m something of a petrolhead. And that’s why when I stumbled across this Wired article by Charles Graeber, I was enthralled. I had to find out more.

Luckily for me, every man and his dog are talking about it. And so I found Alex Roy’s site, Team Polizei, learned some more, and then bought the book; The Driver: My Dangerous Pursuit of Speed and Truth in the Outlaw Racing World.

This is an incredible account of Alex’s road rally career, blasting though several Gumball 3000 events, the Bullrun, and ultimately, Alex’s attempts at a record transcontinental drive across the US.

This is totally gripping stuff. This is not just about having fun in cars; Alex’s determination to win is matched only by his dedication to his friends; forfeiting stages to help those who have broken down, etc.

Now, you’re probably asking yourselves why I’m writing about this on a geek blog. But I can assure you that Alex Roy is a certifiable geek of the highest order (right down to the ‘GE3K’ badge on his Polizei144 jackets). The sheer quantity of gadgetry packed into his blue BMW M5 is mightily impressive; 4 Garmin GPS units, 2 police scanners, radar/laser detectors and jammers, thermal imaging camera, to name just a few bits. All this gear enables Alex and crew to drive as fast as possible, as safely as possible. Alex takes considerable care to drive courteously and safely, often at the expensive of a position lost to a reckless competitor (and often regained again further down the track).

Auckland to Wellington?

So, I’ve been thinking; what’s the fastest you could drive from Auckland to Wellington?
Alex averaged 90.1mph across the States; that’s 145kmph. Google Maps tells me that the distance from Auckland to Wellington is 640kms. So, at Alex’s average speed, you’d get to Wellington in 4 hours and 25 minutes. His fuel economy in his 4.9 V8 BMW M5 was 17.6mpg = 7.48 km/litre.

Choice of car

But is a BMW M5 the best car for an Auckland-to-Wellington run? There are several options that come to mind: Subaru WRX (and so I guess a Mitsubishi Evo, also), Toyota Caldina GT-T, Nissan Skyline GT-R, Volkswagen Golf R32, Audi RS4 or RS6, BMW M3, M5, M6.

I think I’d rule out all of the Japanese cars; they’re all speed-limited to 190km/h or thereabouts (although this can be overcome), they’re not really designed for high-speed open-road performance (except maybe the GT-R), and if you’re driving one of these cars in NZ, a cop will pull you up if you even just think about speeding – they attract too much attention.

The Golf might be a bit small for extended open-road driving with lots of gear, although the R32 has plenty of power (3.2 litre V6) and four-wheel-drive.

I think that the Audi RS4 or RS6 would be ideal, a fairly nondescript family-wagon type machine, and you get the added safety of four-wheel-drive, but at the expense of poorer fuel economy. (There’s an awesome RS2 for sale on TradeMe at the moment – another ideal car). Another down-side of the Audi is its cost – A current model low-mileage RS4 (4.2 litre V8) will set you back NZD$150,000+ while an older RS4 (2.7 litre twin turbo) is still NZD$70,000+.

But a E39 BMW M5 like Alex’s can be had for around NZD$50,000.

So you’d need at least 85 litres of fuel capacity. The BMW M5 has a 70 litre fuel tank, so I’d need to either stop once for gas (not a good idea) or install a fuel cell (a great idea).
You could theoretically drive it all yourself, but I’m sure a co-pilot/navigator would be almost essential.
You’d also need somewhere in Wellington to stash the car out-of-sight for a few weeks.
I’ve heard a rumour that someone in a Holden drove it in 4 hours, but I don’t have any details; I doubt they could. That would mean an average speed of 160kmph – surely our roads just aren’t up to it.

But you can see that I haven’t really thought about it much.

This entry was posted in Commentary, Gadgets. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Alexander Roy: The Driver

  1. gtr says:

    first off, the bmw’s tend to be more comfortable, and a nice well-reounded machine for daily driving. But the GT-R is better performing on “the track” when it comes down to it. Now remind me, isn’t there a high performance (tuned) version of the Golf that you can buy off the shelf?

  2. Dan says:

    There are a few off-the-shelf performance Volkswagen Golfs; the GT, GTi, and R32 with a few variants. See this Wikipedia article about the Mk5 Golf.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *