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Six automobile fanatics talk to us about their relationship with the object of their desire: David Nalbandian (Argentina), Eduardo Costabal (Chile), Ricardo Almeida (Brazil), Jean Pierre Michelet (Ecuador), José Clopatofsky (Colombia) and Felipe Ríos (Peru).
Of Men and Machines
The irresistible passion that some men feel for their four-wheeled friends can be expressed in many ways, from owning lots of cars to collecting all kinds of related paraphernalia. Here are some of the region’s biggest devotees.
text: Ariel Cukierkorn | photo: Sergio Llamera
David Nalbandian is one of the most important Argentinean tennis players of the past decade. A Wimbledon finalist in 2002, he has won 11 professional titles (including the 2005 Masters Cup and two Masters Series in 2007). Today, at age 30, he is still a major figure on the national team that’s seeking its first Davis Cup. But beyond tennis, Nalbandian has another passion that provokes a deep surge of adrenaline: cars. “Generally speaking, Córdoba is a car-crazy province. From a very early age, I loved cars, but I was especially into rally racing,” says the Córdoba native.
So it comes as no surprise that Nalbandian owns an exact replica of the Peugot 206 WRC that Finland’s Marcus Gronhom used to become a two-time champion in the sport. And the hobby became something serious when, five years ago, Nalbandian teamed up with driver Marcos Ligato to found the Tango Rally Team, which competes in the World Rally Championship (production class), as well as the Rally Argentino. Nalbandian takes advantage of any opening in his demanding schedule to closely follow the races, sometimes even getting behind the wheel himself. He made his debut in the Master Rally in Andalgalá, Argentina, and has participated in other exhibition races, driving a 1953 Jaguar XK 120 in the Mil Millas Sport. In 2010, he announced his ultimate goal as a driver and remains thoroughly committed to it: “I’d love to participate in the Dakar Rally. I’ve been told it’s a truly unique experience.”
For car fanatics like Nalbandian, the fact that many tournaments offer certain car models as prizes – even before they hit the market – is undoubtedly a major plus. Nonetheless, the Argentinean tennis star still has a particular dream car in mind: the one from The Dukes of Hazzard. “Ever since I first saw the show, I’ve been stuck on the idea of owning it. Fortunately, I recently acquired one in that style, which made me really happy,” he says, delighted with his purchase.
text: Cintya Ramírez F. | photo: Macarena Achurra
A passion for cars is in his DNA. The nephew of famed Chilean racecar driver Santiago Bengolea, Eduardo Costabal has led a life immersed in the world of automobiles. He grew up a fan of races, dreaming of becoming a driver or a car designer. Neither was in the cards, but as a businessman, he has spent his entire career with Ditec Automóviles, a representative for luxury brands like Volvo, Porsche, Jaguar and Land Rover. “Sports cars move me the most. Some seem to have a life of their own, in the way that they vibrate, how they brake, how they stir up emotion and adrenaline. I’m very passionate about the brands that we have at Ditec. Right now, I’m driving a Jaguar XKR-S and a Volvo V60T6,” Costabal says.
A little more than a year ago, while celebrating his 50th birthday, Costabal rediscovered his childhood dreams. A spirited conversation was the first step towards the boldest project of his life: participating in the 50th edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona, one of the most important racing events in the world, alongside his friend, driver Eliseo Salazar. “I could have raced any time that I wanted to, but I never dared to take on a project because of my family,” says Costabal. After months of planning and training, this past January he arrived at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida to take on more than 65 competitors from around the world. Not only did Costabal meet his goal of finishing the race, he came in 19th place.
With this challenge under his belt, Costabal has new dreams on his mind. They include competing in a few notable events (with Salazar, of course), creating a space for restoring cars the old-fashioned way and establishing a professional racetrack in Chile. “Now, my attitude is, ‘Why not?’ Passion inspires you do to incredible things, and there aren’t many who will dare. People should struggle and sacrifice to make their dreams come true.”
text: Mari Campos | photo: Cleiby Trevisan
Ricardo Almeida is one of Brazil’s most prominent fashion designers. At an early age, he began working with fabric, eventually starting his own company. Today, the internationally renowned designer creates clothing for men, notable for meticulous attention to detail and minimalist style. His brand is synonymous with quality, and his pieces are worn by everyone from celebrities to politicians, including former Brazilian president Lula de Silva.
But Almeida’s other great passion is cars. He has had a thing for speed ever since he was a child – he used to ride with his father, a professional racecar driver. Playing with toy cars that they made themselves, Almeida and his brother would imitate their father. “We’d put on his helmet and aviator sunglasses and pretend to be him,” recalls Almeida. This was how he learned about cars, how they work and men’s fascination with speed.
As he grew older, Almeida competed in motorcycle races and drove a variety of cars, including a McLaren. Today, he has a real collection going in his garage. His favorites are a 1966 Pontiac GTO and a 1977 Camaro. Both cars are in near-mint condition, with only one previous owner, and both are well maintained and quite lovely. They were originally purchased for Fashion Week runway shows in Brazil and ended up as gems in the designer’s personal collection. Almeida even upgraded the Camaro’s original engine to 345hp.
In his day-to-day life, Almeida drives a Subaru Impreza 4×4 with a 390hp engine, which he considers to be highly practical and efficient. “My ideal car doesn’t have to be super big, super impressive or super expensive; it has to be practical, agile, ready to use in any situation, with four-wheel drive and a very powerful engine,” he says. Does he have any new favorites? Yes, and luckily for him, he’s very close to bringing it home. The designer has reserved the new Concept A Hatchback from Mercedes-Benz, which will officially hit the market this year.
text: Elisa Sicouret Lynch | photo: Iván Kashinsky
“A car is a whole experience! Especially if we are talking about a sports car. It’s much more complex than admiring a piece of art hanging on the wall,” says Jean-Pierre Michelet, Ecuador’s most respected Formula 1 commentator. His father, the late Frenchman Pascal Michelet, was the first expert to provide commentary for international races on Ecuadorian television in 1984, and the two began to share the screen in 1988. That same year, Michelet began to drive single-seat racecars. “You are only qualified to be a commentator when you’re a driver and you have experienced what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a racecar,” says the spokesman for Chevrolet in Ecuador, who continues to work as a commentator on the RTS network.
Michelet made his debut on the Scorpio circuit, to this day the only single-seater racing category in Ecuador. Over the course of his 15-year career, Michelet competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona (in 1995) and the 12 Hours of Sebring. He confesses that he has several “toys” (racecars) that he occasionally takes out for a spin, but in his daily life, he’s happy with his hybrid Chevy Tahoe. And some day, he’d love to get his hands on a Ferrari FXX, which, he says, is “the maximum expression of a sports car and the closest thing to a racecar.”
But there are three cars Michelet has always dreamed of owning. The first is the powerful Mach 5, from the cartoon Speed Racer: “The best racecar in the world, from the famous 1970s comics.” The second is the DeLorean from the movie Back to the Future: “How amazing would it be to be able to go back in time or visit the future inside a time machine as perfectly rendered as that car!” And finally, the Lotus Esprit driven by James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me: “When it enters the water, it becomes a submarine outfitted with all kinds of armaments. Without a doubt, it’s a model that car lovers like myself still dream about.”
text: Juliana Rojas | photo: Zuan Carreño
When a Colombian man wants to buy or sell a car, he looks to Motor magazine, the country’s automobile bible. So when it comes to vehicles, there’s no greater authority than the magazine’s founder: José Clopatofsky. The story begins in the 1950s, when Clopatofsky’s aviator uncle stoked his burgeoning taste for planes and automobiles. He invited his young nephew along to the competitions in which he participated, gave him magazines and took him to automotive events. These experiences opened the door to the shops where the machines were prepped and where he met the top drivers of the day. Clopatofsky eventually joined their ranks, winning national titles and competing in Europe in the 1970s.
But his other great love was journalism. Clopatofsky began working at the newspaper El Tiempo and did so well that, 45 years later, he is still there. Currently, he oversees the paper’s vehicles section, the television show Motor TV (from the same publishing house) and Motor magazine. Wherever he goes, people ask him about how get the most money for their used car or the best way to save on gas.
Clopatofsky says that he’s “not a journalist for the car world, but a guy who gets motor oil on the keyboard.” At home, he has 300 model Ferraris, books on mechanics, scores of hats and jackets emblazoned with car logos and collection of model airplanes, which he says are his true love. And since you can’t talk about cars without really knowing them, Clopatofsky has a Triumph sports car (from England), an old mini pickup and an Italian sports car. He keeps them more to admire than to drive, storing them in a small shop that is also home to the racecars of his sons, who are professional drivers.
The car of his dreams is a Frankenstein-like mix: Italian design, French suspension, a German engine, an English interior, U.S. comfort, Japanese manufacturing and a Chinese price tag. “We’re getting there,” he promises, “but very slowly.”
text: Cinthia Delgado | photo: Marina Carcía Burgos
Peruvian motorcycle racer Felipe Ríos took part in the most recent Dakar Rally, but he entered the world of wheels when he was still in high school. He first mastered cycling completely and traveled internationally at a very young age to compete in BMX and, later, mountain biking championships. When he was 22, his brother brought home a motorcycle. After just a few days, Ríos bought it for himself. He began to take trips throughout Peru, and in 2006, he started to practice Enduro (endurance racing) in the hills of San Bartolo, a beach town 31 miles south of Lima.
In 2010, Ríos began to compete in this specialty, participating in the Latin American championships in Chile and Guatemala. At the Red Bull Romaniax in Romania, he finished in ninth place. In 2011, he entered in every Enduro competition in Peru, as well as a few motocross events. “It was an excellent way to prepare for the Dakar. The physical and technical components, going to the gym and seeing a nutritionist all added up to a long preparatory process that lasted ten months. Happily, was all worth it, because I finished in the top 50 at Dakar,” he says.
Already preparing for the next Dakar Rally, Ríos talks about his ideal motorcycle: “A KTM 450 Rally Replica. It’s a super bike, made especially for rally racing. I’ve loved it every time I’ve ridden one. It has great fuel capacity, can accommodate a full navigation system, and all the parts are competition grade. It’s made for the Dakar, which is definitely a tough race. It’s a really resistant bike.”
When asked about the car of his dreams, Ríos is philosophical: “I love cars. In fact, if I ever got the chance to compete in car races, I would. But I have to face the fact that it is a prohibitively expensive passion. Motorcycles are expensive, too, but not as much as cars. If I had to pick a car, it would be a rally car, and definitely one from Subaru or Mitsubishi.”