Video: Christophe Van Riet Drifting a Cobra 289 In Europe

Christophe Van Riet has a way of driving this classic 289 Cobra similar to a drift event, not the wheel-to-wheel races that his Shelby attends all over Europe. It’s a spectacular way of driving that suits this old-school brute, and produces plenty of oversteer-heavy footage. This style has almost become just a mere reminder of the fun in a bygone era. Thank God for historic racing.

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Van Riet’s shop Gipimotor prepares this machine for vintage racing across the European continent. Regardless of the conditions, he’s clearly comfortable putting the car sideways and cutting big shapes at high rates of speed. Not only is he a quick driver, but he’s a good wheel-to-wheel racer as well—he leaves enough room for his rivals while he’s feeding in a lot of opposite lock. In the Monza battle below, he shows patience, consistency, and confidence on the brakes. Those qualities don’t always make up for a power disadvantage, especially at a place like Monza, but they do here.

On Track Perfection

The specs on the car are sparse, but what’s clear is that it sports a 4.8L engine making 450 horsepower. A 2,300-pound curb weight and plenty of grunt means it gets up to speed quickly. However, the torque, a short wheelbase, and 52% of the weight in the rear make it a little wayward. The power can be metered out and Van Riet’s right foot is steady in the middle of most slides. This throttle control keeps the car dancing predictably most of the time, and when it does occasionally snap into something nearly irrecoverable, he backs out of the throttle to bring it back in line. It’s by no means a stable car, but it does respond well to a firm touch and seems to point in well. Although the throttle pedal is occasionally called on to help it turn.

That neutralizing effect is better seen in the wet, where Van Riet’s skill is most obvious. The footage below from shows him making smaller slides through the middle of quick corners, often times to help coax a reluctant front from pointing where it ought to. It also doesn’t right itself as quickly, and even after Van Riet straightens the car, the motor still has enough grunt to light up the rears when shifting into third.

Clearly, a deft touch is needed, as well as comfort with a tail that’s constantly shimmying, even in a straight line. Watch and admire the way the Cobra starts its slide in the middle of Eau Rouge/Radillon (1:30), but doesn’t stop slithering until about two hundred feet after, then consider how quickly he’s going. Somehow, he makes it all look fluid and, well, almost easy.

Van Riet is not only brave, he’s an artist!

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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