Ultrace 2023

The sun is beating down in Wrocław, Poland. Amidst the cars on display at Ultrace, enjoying the softness of one of The Hofmeisters’ booth sofas, between a potential sunstroke and two discussions, I ask myself the divisive question: “What is Tuning? A high-flying, quasi-philosophical question, to which every enthusiast will surely find a different answer. By the way, let’s put our cards on the table: I’m no fan of air suspension, and the concepts of stance, slammed, or even show car are abstract to me. And yet, here I am, enjoying myself in the midst of all these stunning-looking cars. One thing’s for sure: cars are all about emotions, and in this case, they’re all about aesthetics. So, as if we were investigative journalists, let’s get up from this sofa, walk around the stadium, look at the cars, and try to define Tuning.

Ultrace has a powerful strike force. Both in terms of its influence on the world of customization, and in terms of the violence of the slap in the face taken by the many visitors. Six-hour queues at the entrance on Saturday morning, and a huge number of customization professionals on hand. Stylish cars everywhere, ready to take to the catwalk to show off their best lines. Shiny rims, rocker panels touching the ground – here the devil is in the detail, and he doesn’t wear Prada. Perhaps most impressive of all is the wide variety of brands represented. Owners of Japanese, German and other cars rub shoulders, all sharing the same love of cars with a polished finish. It’s a pleasure to be able to look at a Nissan GTR, and then go from one thing to another by observing a Golf 1 parked next to it. It’s good to take a walk and be surprised every ten meters or so by a car you don’t expect.

The show consists of several “stages” spread around the entire perimeter of the Wrocław Stadium; on one side grouping the professionals, the amateurs selected to exhibit and the “show & shine”, where the cars put forward by the organization can be seen. They’re all equally interesting, and you move from one stage to the next without really noticing it, with only the many professional stands and more exclusive cars to contrast on this Tuning loop. It’s worth noting that each car takes part in a competition in which a panel of judges chooses the most beautiful car in the show, as in certain competitions, concours d’élégance and haute-couture fashion shows.

The organization has a penchant for vintage racing, and the line between the two worlds is sometimes thinner than you might think. It’s funny, because many of the cars here take their cues directly from racing: center-nut hubs, sponsor decorations, roll bars, prepared engines… I have to admit I like it. Obviously, show cars don’t carry the stigma of racing or country roads, where a car prepared for it would be abused. Often, the size of the wheels and the suspension systems make it impossible to imagine for a single second that they can be driven dynamically. But it’s interesting to see that in a discipline where the emphasis is on design and cosmetic details, we can find certain codes from other practices. And when the hood opens onto a mechanical monster, or an oversized swap, one can only dream and/or fantasize [une pensée à la 2002 avec un S54 de M3 E46 sous le capot ndlr]. It doesn’t matter what connects the body to the floor, what counts is the beauty of the workmanship, that the car becomes a showcase for all the exclusive pieces that will be installed inside.

Incidentally, I’d be speaking out of turn if I didn’t mention the fact that many exhibitors come by road with their cars. The term “parking lot car” is often heard in the mouths of those who like to make fun of stance cars. Yet many of them make the trip from the other side of Europe, in the car they’re exhibiting. On Friday evening, the day before the official opening of the event, it’s amusing to see the large number of open trunks, leaving room for the complete sets of the amateur detailer, himself polishing the wheel sails or the front panel directly on site. The shine, the shine.

Of course, we had to tell you which cars the team preferred at the Ultrace.
Here’s a top 5 and a little carousel to go with it

If we’re at Ultrace in 2023, it’s thanks to The Hofmeisters collective, and in particular to our friend Jasper. As usual with him, it starts with a short, direct message: “What are you doing at the end of June, are we going to Poland for the Ultrace? I’ve got a few surprises. Um, okay. Surprises. To begin with, the collective has a stand on the show’s main stage, right next to the official Ultrace stand. Next, he exhibited four vehicles: a BMW E9 modified in Group 5 style(@the_bavarian_outlaw), the real M1 Procar driven by Nelson Piquet and the Art Car by Sandro Chia based on the M3 E36 GTR. The fourth? That’s part of the surprise, too, because like many exhibitors, we’ll be driving from Hanover to Wrocław in it: a 1986 BMW 5 Series, lightly prepared for the rally. Show car? Not really. Fun? Absolutely. Is it the icing on the cake, the surprise of surprises, to drive 600 kilometers in Recaro cars on the Autobahn? Yes.

The Art Car painted by Sandro Chia observes the curious onlookers, who themselves have come to observe the cars. The circle is complete, and so is the tour of the stadium. The Hofmeisters stand looks great. With the support of BMW Classic, the cars are showcased amidst furnishings typical of the 70s. It’s as if we were sitting in a living room, drinking coffee with friends and talking about the car, paying no attention to the passing of time or the beating of the sun. In fact, I start daydreaming, enjoying the softness of the sofa, and the question comes back to me: “What is Tuning?”

Tuning is a story of emotions. Without cars, there’s no Tuning. Without Tuning, there’s no emotion. No emotions… no emotions. And life would be so sad! Tuning is above all a story of enthusiasts seeking to enter the abyss of the car in their own way. Whether it’s for racing, collecting or show, whether it’s original, air ride or arceauté, even the most purist of purists will always be looking for an accessory to install to make his car his own. So that the car appeals to him, reminds him of a memory or an era. In the same vein, whether you like a style or not, these creations are always of interest, especially when they are presented with taste, open-mindedness and a good atmosphere, as at Ultrace!

Thanks to Jasper and the team at The Hofmeisters for the invitation.
Thanks to the Ultrace team, for organizing and sharing this moment.

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BMW M3 Touring Competition G81 Route des Grandes Alpes avec un photographe
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The Route des Grandes Alpes