Tag Archives: Sydney

Found a Place That Rents MX-5’s! You Can Win a 3-Day Rental During Their Launch Too… Good Luck!

Good news!

Thanks to an Aussie marshal colleague and a fellow Mazda nut, I’ve stumbled across another company that rents MX-5 Miata’s!

They are even offering a Sweepstakes where the winner would take one of their beautiful ND MX-5’s on a 3-day complimentary rental… presumably in the Sydney area.

Not much info is posted yet on their facebook page save for a few instagram photos which I’ll share below:

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photo credit: Evace Car Rental
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photo credit: Evace Car Rental

Pretty awesome deal if you ask me!

For details about the drawing please visit their facebook page:  www.facebook.com/EvaceCarRental

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I wish them all the best in their new operation, and of course good luck to the potential winner of this generous drawing!

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more info: www.facebook.com/EvaceCarRental

A few observations from my previous trip to the Sydney, NSW area… there are a ton of MX-5’s already on the streets and the community is pretty tight with multiple events happening year round. I would seriously consider doing one of these rentals on my next trip there, especially if a cruise somewhere exotic was involved like a drive to Bathurst or even something up the coast through Bondi Beach, etc.

I’m thinking the company is targeting international visitors as generally Car Rental companies in Australia are called Car Hire (soooo British!). But anyway, I’m all for supporting MX-5 businesses!

If anyone has information on other places I could rent a Miata or a Fiata with the upcoming release of the Fiat’s version of the MX-5, the 124 Spider or even the Abarth 124 Spider, I would love to hear all about it. Please share the information in the comment below!

Mazda MX-5: NC Miata Rear-Quarter Trailer by Paul Byers in Australia

One of the coolest things I got to see on my trip Down Under was the NC MX-5 Miata rear quarter trailer made by Paul Byers. Unfortunately I only saw the thing very briefly and the fuzzy/grainy picture above is the only proof as I ran down the sidewalk fumbling my phone to get a shot before the car started moving once the traffic light turned green. I was going to have another encounter with it during the Bathurst 12h but thanks to V8 Supercars organization cancelling the MX-5 parade lap an hour before it was meant to take place, that never happened.

Luckily Paul was nice enough to stop by my post and have a brief chat before meeting him again during our big Sydney Fish & Chips run a few days later. The car wasn’t there, but luckily I was able to raid Paul’s facebook page to get some pictures of the build process to share in this post here.

The rear quarter NC trailer creates just enough storage for an MX-5 to make the car practical. In fact Paul made it out of necessity to haul a spare set of tires and a tool box with him to club track events. Since then he’s made a few more trailers that he proudly shows off on a dedicated facebook page here: www.facebook.com/Pauls-Trailers-481817561952940/ I could certainly use something like that for my upcoming trip down to Gulf Coast of Florida for a few racing events.

And now the build process:

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And the finished product:

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a Pisser’s Racing creation 😉

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With time the development of the trailer included faux-tail pipes, antenna, and brake disks… probably a tad over the top but certainly tastefully done and fits with the overall image of the car and trailer.

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Paul also has other trailers that suit various MX-5 towing needs.

What a great project! I kind of want one now.

Mazda MX-5: Miata Shopping in Australia Visiting Blue Mountains Mazda, Sydney & NSW’s Best MX-5 Dealer

back to: South Pacific MX-5 Miata Road Trip Overview

f-australiaMX-5 Shopping in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

f-australiaMX-5 Road Trip from Kirribilli to Balmoral, NSW, Australia

MX-5 Road Trip from Papakura towards Coromandel, NZ

MX-5 Hire Cars on Holiday in Rarotonga, Cook Islands


Much like the faux-Miata shopping trip in Singapore took me to a few dealerships on the island, my chauffeur for the day – James made a special effort to stop at Blue Mountains Mazda on our drive back to Sydney from Bathurst to check out some MX-5’s on the lot… and there were quite a few of them (though no NC’s unfortunately).

James’s mother Jean purchased her beautiful ND MX-5 from Cameron the owner of Blue Mountains Mazda and so James thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to check out the place and meet Cameron. Just minutes after meeting him he offered me the keys to his personal ND for a test drive which I politely declined.

But the selection of Roadsters on the lot was far better than anything I’ve seen even here in the US, and I’ve got three Mazda dealerships within a 10 mile radius from home.

Here are some shots I took of the cars (along with the obligatory selfie):

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There were a few cars in the garage getting prepped for delivery:

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As well as this gem in the lot:

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The NB SE model in Australia was the Mazdaspeed equivalent offered in the US which means it was powered by a factory turbo. Something Cameron said he was very fond of having raced this car with the MX-5 Club of NSW at various track rental events at Eastern Creek and others I’m sure.

This was such a great experience I forgot to ask how much does the new ND go for in Australia. They are lucky enough to have choice with both 1.5L and 2.0L engine options along with numerous trims for performance or comfort. James mentioned Jean’s car was in the $40,000 range which makes it more expensive than the US models but way cheaper than those sold in Singapore.

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Australia and Sydney area in particular is a perfect place to own an MX-5 and I was lucky enough to spot a bunch of them on my visit there, including this beautiful white NC parked at Kingswood train station when I boarded my train back to Sydney CBD.

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Bathurst 12h around Mount Panorama, Intercontinental GT Challenge Season Opener Debrief

Hey remember that new Intercontinental GT Challenge series?

After volunteering Spa 24 hour in Belgium I’ve been obsessing about all things SRO, for a variety of reasons. One of the better ones being the quality of race cars participating in their events. This was true at Sepang 12 hour a few months ago, another event SRO decided to work together with SIC to put together and bring to the world. The SRO partnership with V8 Supercars, the new owners of Australian GT that runs the Bathurst 12 hour race around Mount Panorama was officially the season opener of the new series.

The event didn’t disappoint.

While the fields were smaller than the previous few years, the quality of racing improved in my opinion. There were fewer incidents including major ones at the top of the mountain like last year’s massive Nissan GT-R impact. The few incidents that did occur were relatively minor and many of them happened to happen right in front of me at Post 23, the very last corner before the main straight. I was so lucky to be assigned this spot, words can’t describe. The race set several records, including the fastest time for a GT3 car as well as the most laps done in 12 hours with fewer safety car periods compared to previous years.

Another lucky thing for me was the fact that a Kiwi driver took the victory in a Kiwi car: Shane Van Gisbergen driving the #59 McLaren. Coincidentally the next stop on my road trip was New Zealand.

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The views from my post were absolutely awesome, both looking upstream and downstream. Though I did find myself having a lot of trouble with the Blue flag. More than once I managed to blue flag the wrong cars and that pissed me off, especially since I thought I knew these cars pretty well. Luckily we had the positioning tower directly across from us in pit lane, so after kicking myself with the first few mistakes I would glance over at the tower to see what order the cars should be running in and if the two were close enough I went ahead and blue flagged for the leaders.

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The other disappointment wasn’t so much in the race as with the organizers. V8 Supercars decided not to allow the groups of owners holding a car show on the outside of the track to do a parade lap during the lunch break like they did in previous years. Instead they gave all the track time to a few Ferrari owners that for some unknown reasons thought they were race car drivers. I saw one guy wearing bright red racing gloves in his new Ferrari 488, while also wearing a short sleeve shirt. It was a bit upsetting to me personally because I was eagerly looking forward to jumping into one of the many MX-5’s that showed up to the event specifically with the understanding they were going to do a parade lap, a lap that never happened. Go figure!

Luckily there was a lot going on trackside to let me get over the missed opportunity of riding shotgun in an MX-5 around Mount Panorama. Besides a few spins and beached cars in our sand trap we had a few side to side, metal to metal contacts occur. As well as an exploded engine that happened just before the post as the car proceeded to cruise into our runoff. It was something else really, watching an old V8 Supercars Marlboro livery Holden Commodore blow an engine and a massive fireball coming around the car from the bottom of the front end. It was pretty amazing, something I haven’t seen happen so closely and vividly before.

The true highlight of the event for me was the people I had the pleasure of spending the time with. The team I was paired with at Post 23 was pretty amazing. Our post chief was really down to earth, positive and helpful. When I talked to him about my Gout flare up, he was very understanding. As was the rest of the team. Our communicator Dave runs a Mazda related web site called OZMazda which was cool. And a young girl from Queensland marshaling at Bathurst with her father who was posted at the next station gave me a hand with a bunch of incident reports I had to write as many of them happened on my watch while holding the radio in our rotation. Which by the way was actually an old American landline system using the same exact box we use at most street circuits including Long Beach, Baltimore and Belle Isle. The hum coming out of the headset was unmistakable.

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Sahra’s (from Gold Coast, Queensland) patch collection… somehow I think we would never get away with having Bikini chicks on patches for US events.
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The beauty of being at Post 23 was the ability to sneak away for an MX-5 parade lap which unfortunately never happened. Luckily one of the MX-5 owners spectating was able to come up right to our flag point and have a little chat during our down time.
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The view down the front straight is as good as it gets from this spot! Especially for the start and  all the re-starts.
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For all incidents that required a Safety Car one of these Medical cars went out and returned the driver to the Medical centre across from us, keeping our team in the loop of what’s happening.
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Track Map and Posts of all the Marshal stations around Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst.
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pure deliciousness… Aussie Beef with salad and chips… Yumm!

Huge thanks to my friend Paul Kelly from Victoria for organizing my sleeping arrangements at Bathurst by not only providing a tent, sleeping bag and pillows, but also setting it all up for me and helping tear it down in the end. That was such a huge help! Also big thanks to Paul for driving me and the rest of our group to town every evening after track activities were over, all these delicious meals we had were thanks to his initiative to get us some real food (off track).

Read more about the event from Paul’s perspective on his marshaling blog: kellyflag.blogspot.com/bathurst-12hr-2016.html

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One of the many delicious pub meals we got to share with fellow Marshals after track activities were over. The town of Bathurst has a number of pubs and an RSL to choose from to have proper Australian food like this Roast Lamb dish.
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Post event drink: Queensland’s XXXX beer… I got to do a brewery tour when I lived in Brisbane back in 2009.

I got lucky on so many levels working this year’s Bathurst 12 hour. The weather was amazing, it started out a little cool but towards the end of the week I was frying in direct sunlight, it was literally burning thru my jeans. The post assignment was perfect. The team I worked with was super. And all the friends I got to catch up with over the four day visit really makes me miss the whole experience already, can’t wait to return to Australia again… hopefully next time I’ll get to do something completely new like one of the street races around Gold Coast… hmm!

Postcard from Bathurst 12 Hour

G’day Australia!

When I decided to volunteer for the Bathurst 12 hour again, it was hard to contain my excitement through every step of the process, from planning to finally travelling there. And I have to admit that everything went exactly as planned, which made the trip that much more perfect.

One of the highlights of being at Bathurst 12h was being able to make the short walk from the campsite in the middle of the track to the paddock area and the pits where all the exotic machinery was being prepped for practice the following day. If you’re a fan of all the amazing GT3 race cars like I am, it was an awesome sight to see: the Bentley’s, the McLaren’s, Ferrari’s and Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS’s, the Porsche’s and some oddities like MARC Cars Australia Ford’s and Mazda’s as well as the new Cayman GT4 and Daytona.

So without further ado, here are some shots:

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Even the Safety Car and Course Cars were kitted up Benzes and Lexuses that you don’t normally see trackside.

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I had such a blast checking out all the garages, which by the way stayed open to the general public throughout the event. Even some late nights as we were driving back from dinner in town we could see spectators checking out the mechanics hard at work on the cars. Driving along the main straight to get to the campsite was a rather unique experience you don’t get at other circuits.

Mazda MX-5: 500+ Photo Road Trip – South Pacific Visiting MX-5 Owners in Australia, New Zealand & Cook Islands

Another year and another massive MX-5 Road Trip… this time to the South Pacific. I had the pleasure and privilege to visit the Mazda Roadster community  in Australia, New Zealand and kinda sorta in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands.

In this post I will share my experience from this trip including the contact info for the local clubs in each country as well as a few rental facilities that have MX-5’s to rent (or hire) on your next trip to paradise that is the Cook Islands. As with my Southeast Asia MX-5 Road Trip last year I will break down this post into individual threads that cover each experience separately:

South Pacific Miata Road Trip Overview

f-australiaMX-5 Shopping in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

f-australiaMX-5 Road Trip from Kirribilli to Balmoral, NSW, Australia

MX-5 Road Trip from Papakura towards Coromandel, NZ

MX-5 Hire Cars on Holiday in Rarotonga, Cook Islands


 

There’s no way I could possibly share all 500+ photos from this adventure but many of them are available for viewing on my facebook page. Some of the best shots are shared here with my commentary. I had such a blast on this trip I am extremely eager to start planning the next one.

So how did I go about arranging all the meets and events?

Simple. I researched the individual MX-5 groups and clubs through the Miata.net forum and Facebook.

In Australia I reached out to the MX-5 Club of New South Wales and specifically the Sydney Chapter which is a very active community of owners that meet up regularly for various club activities from dinners, cruises, racing and skidpads/drifting as well as major events like 50+ car meets and cruises around the country.

I met Jean Cook on my first day in Australia while traveling to Bathurst and just a few days later she embarked on a rather long journey down to Tasmania for a National MX-5 meet there that featured over 100 cars.

Special thanks to Jean Cook for giving me the opportunity to take some photos of her beautiful ND MX-5:

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The next thanks I want to give is to Cameron from Blue Mountains Mazda who sold Jean her ND. Cameron was nice enough to show me around the dealership on my way back to Sydney from Bathurst, I even brought an Aussie spec brochure back home from this visit:

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Huge thanks to Guy Cole for organizing the MX-5 cruise from Kirribilli to Balmoral where I got to meet the owners of at least 20 MX-5’s that showed up to this event. What a great experience that was. By the same token I would like to thank Chris Stacey for giving me a ride during the cruise in his beautiful red ND MX-5.

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In New Zealand I reached out to the MX-5 Club of New Zealand through the Miata.net forum and facebook. Their club also has major events around the North and South Islands. The last get together at the Auckland area Mazda dealer saw over 50 MX-5’s show up.

For my little event only two owners came along for the ride: Ralph and Lloyd, with Lloyd organizing the whole trip for me including a nice sunset dinner cruise with a fellow MX-5 owner from the Auckland harbour.

Thank you Ralph and Lloyd!

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In Rarotonga, Cook Islands I didn’t get a chance to actualy chat with any Miata owners. But I did source out a few places to rent one. Avis in Avarua apparently had a Green NC to rent but they wouldn’t let me see it before forking out $80/day to rent it. Too bad!

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This was definitely a trip of a lifetime and I’m totally looking forward to more trips like this in the future…

Fun in the South Pacific: the Debrief – Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands

Another trip of a lifetime is in the books! Although I shouldn’t call it “lifetime” because I know sooner or later I’ll be departing on other one. In fact with an amazing trip of a lifetime just a few months ago to Southeast Asia, I would call this the trip of the year, or at the very least trip of the month: February 2016!

This post will be a brief overview: a debrief, of the trip overall followed by a number of specific posts about the individual events I’ve marshaled, the experiences I had hanging out with the local MX5 clubs and catching some sun in some very exotic places as part of the vacation that tied this trip together. I had such a blast!

To start, I flew to Australia via Hawai’i. And unlike my first visit there a few years ago after Korean Grand Prix, I decided to get off the plane at Honolulu and actually spend the night in Waikiki Beach. The Polynesian theme for the rest of the trip truly began there. Besides enjoying an amazing sunset that I shared with a few folks at home via Facetime, I got to experience some of the local cuisine just outside of the touristy area. I loved it!

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A traditional meal from Ono Hawaiian Foods just minutes walking distance from Waikiki Beach… the dish featured some pork wrapped in taro leaves and poi poi along with dried fish and all the fixing’s.

Of course an overnight stay in Paradise wasn’t enough, at all! But it was just a start to my South Pacific adventure. I’m kind of glad I broke the trip in half because some of these longer flights of 10+ hours have started getting to me, tiring me out completely. This time I was travelling with an extra handicap I hadn’t encountered on previous trips. I had a flare up of Gout Arthritis just a few days before leaving and my right foot was in terrible pain, something akin to walking on glass. The pain wouldn’t really go away for the entire trip but since I couldn’t do much about it I just learned to live with it.

Next stop: Sydney! The flight arrived in the early evening and after a quick clearance at Immigration I headed to the CBD to get some sleep before heading out for Bathurst early the next morning. Like Waikiki I decided to stay in a hostel near Central station for convenience and it worked out really well for me.

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First order of business while in Australia: meeting an MX-5 owner from the Club of NSW, Sydney Chapter. What an incredible experience!

In the morning I managed to arrange a lift with someone from the MX-5 community in Sydney. It’s really nice to see how close the Miata community is to Motorsport and specifically marshaling. The lady who’s car I got to check out on my first day in Australia volunteers as a Steward while her son is a flag marshal, who was kind enough to let me tag along for the two hour drive to Mount Panorama. While I could have taken the train all the way to town, I found it far more interesting to have some company along the way. It was especially interesting when we were on the hunt for Meat Pies for lunch while passing through Lithgow. That’s where I spotted something I really wanted to see on my trip, a Miata trailer. The owner drove past us as we parked up near the bakery and while he was stopped on a red light I tried to snap a fuzzy shot of his car.

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one of Paul Byers creations… an MX-5 trailer made from the rear quarters of an actual MX-5… looks bloody awesome!

I will talk about my experiences at Bathurst 12 hour and Mount Panorama in a separate post but suffice to say it was an interesting experience. While it wasn’t my first visit there, it was definitely a little different from before. For the first time I camped right at the track. A fellow Aussie marshal Paul from Victoria was kind enough to supply me with a comfortable tent, some pillows and a sleeping bag, which helped a lot so I didn’t have to drag all that stuff with me. Not only that he was our designated driver taking a whole group of us out to dinner in town every night, which was fantastic. It was the first time I consistently stuffed my face with proper Australian food including roast lamb and a variety of other local pub dishes.

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Paul Kelly driving us around every night after the end of track activities.
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Australia’s finest pub food in Bathurst.
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Every year there’s a team promoting tourism NSW and Australia, this year there was a Terra Australis Audi complete with an aboriginal photo shoot that we stumbled upon in pit lane.

After the event I headed back to Sydney for a few more nights in a CBD hostel. I had a few things planned but the stay was way too short. Luckily I did manage to squeeze in a lunch at Bondi Beach which I was really looking forward to as well as a nice MX-5 cruise from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach with a meeting spot just under the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was pretty spectacular. So many cars showed up! I was pleasantly surprised and very humbled to see so many owners give up their weeknight for a little cruise along the Northern Sydney suburbs for some fish and chips. Again I will write more about it later but I can’t express my gratitude enough to have had this opportunity!

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Tuesday night Fish & Chips run from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach, with a meeting spot under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney CBD and Opera House in the background.

Next stop: Auckland! A short hop and skip over the ditch (as they refer to the Tasman Sea) and I was in New Zealand. The flight arrived after midnight and I was off to my hostel in the CBD. Early next morning another MX-5 meetup awaited me, and after a short 4 hour sleep I was in a beautiful JDM-import Roadster heading to Papakura for my next adventure which I’ll describe in it’s own post. In a way it was another Fish & Chips run but this one lasted for over 300km visiting some scenic and twisty roads across the entire Northern Island from West (Waihu) to East (Coromandel Peninsula).

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MX-5 Club of New Zealand MX-5 members Lloyd and Ralph took me around on a day trip showing me the twisty parts of the North Island heading towards Coromandel for fish & chips.

As if this incredible two car road trip (as I jumped out from one car to the other at every stop we made), couldn’t get any better – it did! The day ended on a boat in Auckland Harbour where we had a nice dinner joining another MX-5 owner while he and his family celebrated the mum’s birthday. This was my first time on the water on the North Island something I was putting away until later while living in Auckland and never actually following through with, until now. It was really amazing.

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A sunset dinner cruise with a bunch of MX-5 owners celebrating a birthday. What a way to end my Kiwi MX-5 road trip!

Believe it or not I actually got to marshal while in New Zealand. It was only a one day meeting for Auckland Car Club at Hampton Downs but I certainly got my money’s worth with plenty of spins and spills on Turn 2 where I was lucky enough to work. It was such a good pleasure to catch up with a bunch of people whom I started my marshaling with while living in New Zealand a few years ago. And it was nice to see the improvements done and are currently ongoing to Hampton Downs under Tony Quinn’s ownership.

Besides Hampton Downs, Anna Scott – who hosted me for the weekend, took me to Pukekohe Raceway Park and showed me the improvements done there after Aussie V8 Supercars moved to their event there from the streets of Hamilton. I had such an incredible time I’ll have to write more about it in another post.

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Anna Scott the flag chief for the Motorsport Club of NZ taking me on a private tour of the upgraded Pukekohe Raceway Park including a visit to Race Control and a few laps around the circuit.

Although I had already spent two weeks on the road which seemed to have gone by in a flash, I still had one more exotic stop on this incredible journey: Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! I was really looking forward to this visit because it was something I planned to do while living in New Zealand back in 2012. Now the dream came true. I didn’t know what to expect but the reality surprised me in a very pleasant way. The tiny island of Rarotonga was very clean, friendly and welcoming for my visit. The resort I booked (my first stay in a proper hotel on this trip after all the hostels in Hawaii, Sydney and Auckland I decided to splurge and pamper myself) was fantastic. I got to tour the island, sample some delicious Polynesian food and completely relax on the pristine beaches with baby blue water crashing over the corals just off shore. What an experience!

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Kia Orana Cook Islands! I arrived on a rainy day in a cyclone season thinking that my trip would be rained out but the weather was perfect during my stay on Rarotonga.
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I was very impressed at how clean and organized Rarotonga was, it was very exotic!
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The beaches were amazing! The water crystal clear. I had such a great time relaxing.
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Of course I managed to spot a bunch of MX-5’s, mostly NA and NB’s.

The trip home at the end of this vacation took me back through Auckland where I was a total zombie while shopping for souvenirs to take home. Luckily I was able to meet up with friends for lunch and dinner and that kept me awake long enough for some much needed sleep on my 11 hour flight back to LAX.

Huge thanks to all the people that helped me along on this trip. I couldn’t have done this without you!

Mazda MX-5: Hey Sydney & NSW Miata Owners! Come Join Us for a Fish & Chips Run from Kirribilli to Balmoral

Dear friends in Australia, New South Wales, Sydney Area…  come join me and the MX-5 Club Sydney Chapter on a little fish & chips run from under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Kirribilli to Balmoral.

The meet and greet was the idea of one of the Sydney MX-5 owners from the club, but I wanted to extend the invitation to anyone else finding this blog post on Google or whatever search engine you use. If you’re in Sydney and FREE Tuesday afternoon February 9th at 6pm you should totally come out and enjoy a beautiful sight of a bunch of Miatas and an American guy running around with his phone taking a million pictures.

Check out this link on facebook for details: https://www.facebook.com/events/204635939879450/

Apparently the Aussie MX-5 owners do this quite frequently, which makes me incredibly jealous because Miata meets in New Jersey are few and far between. But oh well…

I’d also like this opportunity to remind folks that I’ll be in Bathurst from February 4th to the 8th and I’m sure there will be a few MX-5 owners there, possibly doing a parade lap around the famous circuit.

I’m also a little slow on organizing a meet-up in Auckland, New Zealand so if anyone is interested from my Kiwi readers please get in touch and we’ll organize a nice get together in the CBD or one of the suburbs.

In addition to that I have had little success finding MX-5 owners in the Cook Islands, as I’ll be visiting Rarotonga for a few days at the end of my trip. Again… interested? Get in touch!

I’m so looking forward to this trip!!!

kirribilli australia sydney

Happy Birthday to ME! from Confederation of Australian Motor Sport

Well aint’ that something…. I got a birthday card e-mail from the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, probably the nicest thing anyone in this marshaling hobby has done for me on an ASN level. Good on you CAMS, and Thank You!

We heard it’s your birthday this month…

Dear Russ,

To celebrate your birthday this month the CAMS Shop would like to offer you a special birthday offer: a 10% discount on all purchases over $20.

To redeem this offer, simply enter your own unique code: (want the code? ask me, I’ll share) at the shopping cart screen of the CAMS shop, before the 30th of September.

To access the CAMS Shop, Click here.

This code can only be used once, and cannot be used in conjunction with any other discounts or special offers. Stand 21 Club Series HANS Device and Stand 21 Posts also excluded.

From all of us here at CAMS, we wish you a very happy birthday.

 

Kind regards,

The CAMS shop

Granted, this is a marketing e-mail, obviously encouraging me to buy stuff from the CAMS shop. And the offer of 10% off is a big deal, Aussies aren’t often as generous as America is with it’s frequent discounts. But I’m quite impressed with their effort to keep the organization relevant in my mind, they keep reminding me that CAMS exists even though they know that I’m an international member and that I live on the other side of the world.

My home ASN, the SCCA couldn’t give two fucks that I exist. No birthday wishes from them. No invitation to marshal local events at Lime Rock, NJMP or elsewhere (except the personal invite from Jessie to help out at Palmer Motorsports Park with the New England Region). Nope, nothing of the sort… except they’re quick to send repeated e-mails reminders when my fucking $95 annual membership (or $65 now that I’m with Guam region) is due. Greedy fucks! I’m sure I’ve offended them deeply by speaking out about the lack of training, sure I did. So the obvious solution is not to offer the fucking training, but to pretend that I don’t exist and that I am no longer welcome in their club, except of course for that time when the membership fees are due, they’re still very happy to take my money… ugh!

I wish I lived in Australia again… that was some of the best time of my life and you don’t even have to pay a membership fee to be a part of CAMS… imagine that!

The Worst Frequent Flyer Program Nominee

I love the challenge of optimizing my frequent flyer mile and point redemptions to travel around the world. It’s the only way I could afford to travel, really. The US is very lucky with airlines offering some of the best loyalty programs out there even when foreign carriers offer superior aircraft and service products. But it amazes me how bad some foreign loyalty programs really are. The worst I’ve had to deal with is Airpoints from Air New Zealand, and I’ll explain why giving examples from my upcoming trip to the Pacific.

So my goal is to use my New Zealand based Airpoints to book a one way trip between Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. I say NZ based because Air New Zealand treats Australian Airpoints and American Airpoints very different from New Zealand Airpoints. 1 Airpoint equals $1 of the currency where you first registered your program. So 1 Australian Airpoint is NOT equal 1 New Zealand Airpoints because $1 AUD does not equal $1 NZD. And this little nugget has been the cause of much of my frustration trying to burn the damn NZ Airpoints I’ve accumulated for something more useful then letting them expire.

Last week Air New Zealand announced a 24 hour Australia sale.

The Auckland to Sydney route was advertised at $159 NZD outbound and $206 NZD on the reverse trip, on the Kiwi web site. The Sydney to Auckland route on the Aussie web site was advertised at $179 AUD for the leg that I was interested in booking. However, when I tried to use my NZ Airpoints for this booking the Aussie web site booted me to the Kiwi web site, where the route re-priced at $317 NZD without any sale in sight even though it was clearly coming up through both web sites separately. The global web site, or the American web site as I like to call it because the prices come up in American dollars, was quoting the same trip at $250 USD. So you got three Air New Zealand sites quoting four very different prices for the same exact trip:

$179 AUD = $133 USD (Australian sale price o/w purchase)

$206 NZD = $139 USD (Kiwi sale price based on r/t purchase)

$317 NZD = $214 USD (Kiwi regular price, based on o/w purchase)

$250 USD (American regular price, based on one way purchase)

Now, Air New Zealand is not the only carrier out there that publishes different pricing based on the country of origin. But when it comes to redeeming frequent flyer miles or points, it is generally a common practice to have the  value of airline’s miles or points not change from country to country, there’s some predictable consistency… the airline’s frequent flyer miles or points are the currency of that airline independent of the currencies of the countries where that airline operates. Air NZ has to be the only one that doesn’t follow this model, and it’s totally one sided. I’m sure it benefits Air NZ greatly, but me as a consumer: not so much.

The other unfair practice is the redemption of the Airpoints towards the purchase of the flight. I recently booked Auckland to Rarotonga using one of Air NZ’s sales. The price was advertised at $209 NZD one way, and I booked it using my Airpoints, where only 177 Airpoints  were applied to the purchase and the rest I had to pay in cash. Try doing that the other way around. Say I would accept the ridiculous $317 NZD price for a $133 AUD sale ticket, and I wanted to pay partially with Airpoints and the rest with cash, you are not allowed to do it. Air New Zealand will not take my 100 or 200 Airpoints as credit towards partial payment for a ticket if I don’t have enough to cover the air ticket portion of the price, the tax they collect in cash. Not cool at all.

Saying all this, Air New Zealand is actually a great airline to fly and I have a number of flights booked with them on this trip already using their Star Alliance partner United Airlines. I am very much looking forward to the All Black planes and the outstanding service on board. But I’m frustrated to no end about their sneaky loyalty program operation that does not allow me as a consumer to burn off the Airpoints I had collected because of all the damn restrictions.

So shame on you Air New Zealand!

 

Frequent Flyer programs theoretically are meant to reward loyalty not punish customers by making it impossible to use the points or miles. I will have to get creative with my redemption though… considering it’s possible to book the SYD-AKL trip outright for less than $130 USD using third party sites like Expedia or Orbitz (and even less when one of those American sites announce a sale). And then maybe dump the remainder of my Airpoints on a round trip flight within New Zealand… I’ve never been to Queenstown, Dunedin or Invercargill on the southern tip of the South Island… I wouldn’t mind going there for FREE… the only deficit I have at this point is the limited time I am spending in New Zealand overall….    so the challenge for the most exotic road trip continues!

kiwi all blacks air new zealand