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Reality bites for hottest stars

Andrew Hawkins and his Nissan 200SX.

Now reality television will enter the world of car lovers, with a new series that goes in search of Australia's best car and driver. Blood, Sweat & Gears is a new show which will debut on FOX8 next month, with seven finalists competing for the title of the best driver and the best car, not to mention the bragging rights that come with it.

Advanced driver training instructor Ian Luff is a judge on the reality show, which he describes as a motoring version of Survivor, even featuring a car council and a whole series of challenges.

“It's a show about people and their cars in a competitive environment where everyone wants to win, but naturally, there's only going to be one winner,” Luff says.

The seven finalists, who come from all over Australia, previously had their cars featured in car magazines and were selected by people in the industry to take part in the series.

And there is a diverse range of machinery on show, from Japanese imports, a Nissan 200SX and a 800hp Mazda RX7, to classic American and Australian muscle cars, such as a 540-cubic-inch Chevy Corvette, an original VL Brock Commodore, an LJ Torana and a classic Ford GT.

And you can't have a competition about the best and fastest cars without a Ferrari.

“The cars were supposed to be the stars, but you have to remember people drive cars, they own these cars, the people and personalities tend to overshadow the cars,” Luff says.

“These cars are their passion, they built them, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on them and you're dealing with male egos here.”

And it seems putting seven rev-heads together with their prized possessions is a recipe for disaster generating some fairly heated moments making for, of course, some great TV.

“It was all about egos, big boys and big toys,” Luff says of the contestants, who were put through a series of tests, from navigating their own powerful cars through slalom courses, accelerating and suddenly braking on skid pans, to testing the engine on a dyno or on the quarter mile at an air strip.

On one challenge, Luff jumped into a Hyundai i30 and set a time he expected the seven competitors to beat. Not surprisingly, Luff says most were a little too confident and eager.

Six of the seven drivers spun out. Ferrari owner Mohamed Ibrahim, in particular, was not happy as his “very powerful” car began to lose control around the bend, and went into safety mode, turning itself off. The Mazda RX7, a car Luff calls a “stealth bomber” was the only car to make it through successfully, beating Luff's time by two-tenths of a second.

“When you see enthusiasm exceed ability it's just the most amazing thing, where testosterone and ability don't work together,” he laughs.

And it wasn't just the car against car, with all seven drivers having a turn in the i30 for one challenge, to see who could do the best. It then came time to jump into an old Ford Fairlane, which lacks the benefit of modern technology.

Ibrahim says although car fanatics can get competitive both behind the wheel and when talking of their cars, the program was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It was excellent, the best week of my life,” he says. “We were working with a team we never met before and at the end of the series you miss them. Straight away we became like best friends in a matter of a couple of days.”

Having rebuilt more than 500 cars in the past six years at his smash-repair business in Condell Park, Ibrahim has the credentials. In four days, he got his 2003 350 Modena ready for the show.

Having spent $350,000 on the car, including enhancements such as 22-inch wheels, a twin turbo, a paint job and red leather interior, Ibrahim was ready to show Australia he and his 5.6-litre V8 car really are the best in the country.

“I know pretty much everything to do with cars,” Ibrahim says.

“My one is definitely the best, there were a lot of old cars but I like the later models.”

Ibrahim says he loved taking part, but didn't learn anything new from Luff. “I reckon I could give him a lesson,” he jokes.


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