When we arrived at the agreed location, we didn’t see Nikolai or his car. In the background we heard an engine struggling to start. That was Nikolai’s Spider. “Not her day” he murmured, but a few pushes downhill later, the Veloce was quick again—too quick for us to keep up with really.
Nikolai is racing in the 2016 Malta Classic Grand Prix by Chopard in this 1976 Alfa Romeo Spider 105S, which he co owns with his brother Joshua.
“This car is so much fun. The minute you give it a bit, it's all over the place.”
I’ve always liked cars, more driving than cleaning and looking after them. I think my grandfather really liked cars, he had the first Porsche on the island—the first 356A, it was a right-hand drive model. I enjoyed watching Hill Climbs even before I had a license. I always had a Lancia Integrale poster on the wall.
The first car I wanted to buy when I was 18 was an Alfa GT Junior. My father didn’t let me, and I ended up buying an Alfa 33 instead. My father always had Alfas so maybe I think that’s where the Alfa thing came from. He had an Alfa Sud, a 33, my mother had a 33, he had a 155 and a 166. I think I had no choice in the matter.
After the 33 I had a Fiat Bravo HGT, and it was a good car, I enjoyed that. Then my brother took it and I bought another Alfa, a 156, 2.5 V6 (the engine is always important in a car!) Then I bought a Lancia Integrale, which I still have, but I use it only for Hill Climbs.
I started racing when I got the Bravo so I was about 19. I did a few races with the Bravo back in 1999. In 2000 I bought the Lancia and started racing with that, and converted it just for racing. Which in hindsight may not have been the right decision, because it’s an appreciating classic which I haven’t raced for about five years now.
Then as a road car I had a BMW X5 for a bit. I didn’t enjoy it because it was a diesel and it lasted about three months. I got a Porsche Cayenne instead. The Alfa Spider came along through Barry Owen who brought it down to Malta. It was about a month before the GP. I had participated the first time around Mdina with my father in law’s E-Type, but as it was not my own car I drove a bit more carefully.
“Cars are there to be used and abused. They can always be rebuilt, and that’s what they’re there for. They’re not for me to polish and look at.”
We’ve only had this car for three years. Last year we restored it, not nut and bolt, but we changed what needed to be changed and got rid of all the rust. This car is so much fun. (With a grin.) The minute you give it a bit, it’s all over the place. The first time I took part in the Grand Prix was in Mdina. I think this will be my fourth year with this car, and one year with the E-Type before that.
I’m one of those people that is into “any car”. So long as it’s a nice car or a fast car I like it. I’m not loyal to one brand or the other. When it comes to classic cars, I always wanted an Alfa Spider and I always wanted a GT Junior.
Our next project is the GT Junior, and after that I have many cars I would love to own… Cars are legal drugs. I’d love an early Porsche 911, and a 356A (ideally the one my grandfather owned). An E-Type would be nice too. Porsches are great, and I even like new ones. The original MX5 is another great car, as you can see I like practically all cars, the new Alfa Giulia would be nice—I like the engine. I’d like to get a Peugeot 205 GTI, a Renault 5 GT Turbo. I have always had a soft spot for the original Alfa Giulia, but maybe that’s a car I’ll just have for driving around slowly, you know? It’s a nice car to look at. Like the Porsche 356, but it’s not a fast car. Any car I suppose, as long as it handles well and it’s fun to drive.
I don’t like just looking at cars. Cars are there to be used and abused. They can always be rebuilt, and in my opinion that’s what they’re there for. They’re not for me to polish and look at. If you’re like that, you can’t race a car. Sure, it’s not all about racing, but I’m one of those people—no shades of grey—either white or black. So I’m either racing or not racing.
The Alfa Spider is great car, quite easy to drive, I came first overall in the Standard class for the last three years at Mdina Grand Prix. There was one year I came first overall out of all the cars on the Saturday during the timed runs and second on the Sunday or vice versa. One year it was one way, one year it was the other. Then, the last two years, with the Italians and the Ford Escorts it was very hard to keep up with the modified cars.
My eyes have always been set on the watch. When I came first on the Saturday they gave the watch on the Sunday, when I came first on the Sunday they gave the watch on the Saturday, so I should have two of those. (grins again) I love watches as well as cars, so I wouldn’t mind winning a watch!
2016 may indeed be the year Nikolai takes home a Mille Miglia Chronograph. We wish him the very best of luck!