Addressing a previous story that had false information
I covered what turned out to be a completely made-up product in a previous article. After being emailed and invited to Washington D.C. by what I thought was a PR rep, I wrote about an AI software that Toyota had released that was supposed to make drivers more efficient. This AI and the associated websites were all fake, as well as the people who I had been contacted by. This hoax was orchestrated by a hacker group that has targeted other large corporations in the past and apparently did this because Toyota is slow to adopt EVs.
Apologies for this, but on the bright side this article IS real. In the future, looks like I'll have to be extremely vigilant for targeted phishing attempts.
Provided with a few thousand dollars from my university thanks to my scholarship program, I boarded a Delta plane in late July and embarked on my trip across the pond. Filled with anticipation and excitement, the roughly ten-hour flight there consisted of me taking sleeping aids and stuffing myself with food only to make a futile attempt at sleeping.
I can't write about the whole trip in detail... it would be too long of a post. More to come later in other posts.
The purpose of the trip was to study the "Impacts of Motorsports Technology on Consumer Grade Vehicles." This project secured funding from the University of Louisville to go to study cars in Europe, which I had always dreamed of. It was a way to make the trip purposeful while retaining the freedom to go to events like an F1 race in Belgium. The impacts of motorsports tech on the cars that we drive every day is undeniable, from ABS to steering wheel controls and hybrid powertrains. It is interesting how manufacturers take what they learn on the track and apply it to mass-market vehicles.
Germany - Industrial Powerhouse
The first stop on the trip was Munich, Germany. After trying some beers around town I made my way to the BMW Welt which is (sort of) a nice dealership. As I boarded the subway and drew nearer to the destination, more BMW employees with their blue and white work clothes became apparent. They were humming about their daily lives as I stared at them... contemplating the life I might live if I was born in Germany.
The BMW Welt (the German word for "world") was a great place to start the trip, as there are tons of cool products from BMW both past and present there. If anyone goes to Munich soon, this destination is great for someone who is only tangentially into cars. My new hostel mate (he was from Australia and also into cars) then made our way to the proper BMW museum, which was a more focused and relaxing experience than the Welt. Here a visitor may learn about the history of BMW, including their past experience in aviation as well as motorcycles and motorsports.
Later in Germany, I visited Ingolstadt, where Audi's are produced, as well as Cologne, where I visited a company that has recently been acquired by Dana Corporation. Ingolstadt proved harder to reach than other destinations as it is out in the German countryside. The train goes there, but it is not a "hub" like the other German cities mentioned. Mercedes and Porsche museums are in Stuttgart, providing visitors with a plethora of information about their history and how their past as a car company is interwoven with German history including WW2. If you visit Germany, the priority is absolutely the Mercedes Museum. The experience reminds me of a Smithsonian in DC, with various exhibits focusing on a variety of topics from performance to safety. Even someone who is not into cars whatsoever would probably find many of the stops here to be intriguing.
Belgium - The Art of Racing
The F1 race in Belgium was the highlight of the trip. It is the best driving performance that one can hope to witness, the equivalent of seeing a world-class orchestra perform if you were studying music. McLaren driver Oscar Piastri out of Australia had an incredible weekend, cementing himself as an all-star rookie in the sport. An F1 race anywhere is incredible, but here in Belgium it was the contrast of the forested countryside that really made the experience unique. The forest, filled with tall evergreens, reminded me of where troops marched during WW2 in the Battle of the Bulge, surrounded by the Ardennes forest.
Many may be surprised to hear that this race brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors to a town (Spa) that normally only holds about 10,000. Needless to say, the place gets rather busy during race weekend! Finding a place to eat was actually impossible at times, so protein bars came in handy.
Ain't no stoppin Verstappen.
Italy - Boutique Manufacturing
Making the journey to Italy consisted of multiple train rides through the country of Switzerland which turned out to somehow be more beautiful than it comes off as in social media and movies.
Here, the goal was to visit Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani. Of those my favorite experience was Pagani because I was able to visit their factory for a far more personal experience. The tour group size was only about 15 people, and all were passionate car enthusiasts from all over the world.
At Ferrari, one can hop on a bus tour to see the production offices right beside a track where they used to test F1 cars. Looking out out into the track area one may notice a single structure in the middle... that was Mr. Enzo Ferrari's house and yes it was literally in the middle of the racetrack. The tour guide instructed the group that that was his favorite house and he enjoyed hearing his cars hum around him in the early hours of the day.
"Every segment of the track must be able to test the dynamic behavior of the car in such a way that makes easy the identification of any issue in every car. From this moment on, I don't want any Ferrari to tackle the track or address mass-production without passing the Fiorano test with flying colours." - Enzo Ferrari
Modena is a small town, and when I visited (late July and early August) many of the locals were on vacation to coastal Italian cities. If you are planning a trip, keep this in mind. Securing a tour of the Ferrari or Lamborghini manufacturing facilities must be done months in advance, but Pagani is a bit easier.
I decided to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime experience and rent a Ferrari outside the Maranello factory. It was about $600 for an hour if anyone is curious about visiting and doing it themselves. They were not too concerned about my license or tons of forms, so basically give them the money, and off you go. They have shorter options, but I would recommend going with the middle-ground options since they have better views and enable a driver to "stretch the legs" of the car more.
After Italy, I made my way back to Munich and boarded my flight home. This journey was motivating and provided the foundation from which I hope to build a career in the automotive industry. I'm a car enthusiast at heart and want to work in this industry because the final products are so exciting.
Sure, cars depreciate, but what other asset or form of art can provide so many smiles?