I don’t know about you but I get pretty freaked out in country towns. People walk by, smile and say hello.
In any respectable city the only time citizens say hello to you is when their next words are: a) “Empty out your pockets and give me your phone unless you want this knife through your fat belly”, b) “Your fly is undone”, or c) “Have you ever asked yourself, where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going after I leave this earth life?”.
I’ve been thinking about this because together with the rest of the WAR&RT (Weekend Australian Racing and Rally Team, WART for short) I’m planning the 2019 motorsport calendar.
The problem with charity rallies like James Freeman’s Shitbox Rally, which has raised more than $16 million for cancer research (given cancer killed two of my sisters and two of my best friends, it’s very personal for me) and there’s two in 2019 (autumn, from Perth to Sydney via Uluru, and spring, Melbourne to Townsville via Birdsville) is that they go through small country towns where not only do the locals smile and say hello and not want your wallet or answers to life’s toughest questions, they actually want to do things for you like feed you good food, ply you with liquor and give you old car parts.
It’s almost as bad on proper rallies like Targa Tasmania and Classic Adelaide, where not only are the good burghers of the Adelaide Hills and Coles Bay happy to say hello, they actually love cars, love watching rally cars and want to talk to you about cars. Since the real purpose of life is to continue driving the cars we love, with the engines we love and with the fuel we love, this is tantamount to heaven, or where am I going after I leave this earth life. But it’s still sort of scary. Of course, in track towns like Goulburn (Wakefield Park) and Phillip Island the locals, particularly the police, treat race drivers like they treat tourists.
Now part of our job here is to bring to your attention Australians who loved cars, had the WART culture (as that great Australian success E. Flynn would have described it: they are “true international play persons, roisterers, charming, debonair, talented drivers, big time gamblers, people who make and lose fortunes without really caring. Their professions? Anything. Their motto: Pleasure is our business.”) and have been ignored by the traditional left-wing media elites.
Let’s start with a quick quiz: 1) Who was the first Australian to win a medal at a Winter Olympics? 2) Who was the only Australian to win three gold and two silver medals in the world bobsledding championship? 3) Who was the only person in his first year behind the wheel of a race car to place sixth in the incredibly difficult Vanderbilt cup, a 75 lap, 480km event on 6km circuit with 12 straights and 16 different turns?
The answers to all three questions are the same. St Kilda boy Freddie ‘Suicide’ McEvoy. Freddie is the subject of Frank Walker’s sensational new biography The Scandalous Freddie McEvoy. I paid $33 for my copy. Frank worked for News Limited in New York and spent some less fruitful time at another place now owned by a TV station.
As Frank writes: “This is the fascinating story of a swashbuckler, daredevil racing car champion, winter Olympian, gambler, smuggler, scoundrel stud and suspected spy.” Yup just like us. Freddie was E. Flynn’s best friend, which is not surprising since they looked similar, led similar lifestyles, had multiple wives and died about the same age. The only point of conflict between them was that: “People like me had to work … Freddie didn’t to live high.”
After Freddie won the Olympic medal, he decided to drive racing cars. Bugatti and Alfa Romeo knocked him back. Figoni and Falschi had built the Talbot T150C SS Teardrop Coupe for Antony Lago, who was trying to rescue Talbot from bankruptcy. Freddie became the brand ambassador in the first Teardrop out of the workshop.
Barbara Hutton, the richest woman in the world, bet Freddie $10,000 he couldn’t drive the 900km from Paris to Cannes, a three-day trip, in under 10 hours. Today on the freeway you can do it in eight and a half with some risk that the fun police will ping you. With no highways, on narrow muddy tracks and mountain passes and in a hand-built prototype, he pulled into the Cannes casino in 9 hours 45 minutes, picked up 10 large from Babs, then slipped into the casino and doubled it.
He immediately started his real racing career, using the winnings to buy a Maserati, painting an Australian flag and finishing fourth in his second race. After shipping the car to New York for the Vanderbilt Cup and backing himself for serious money to finish in the top 10, Freddie stunned the all-star field by taking fourth. Buy the book for the full story.
Talking of great characters, the movie of 2019 will be the yet to be named Ford vs Ferrari film, starring Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby, Christian Bale as Ken Miles and Queensland’s own Ben Rigby as Bruce McLaren. It is being made by 21st Century Fox.
As you know, Henry Ford cracked it when Enzo Ferrari wouldn’t sell him his company and gave Shelby and Miles the job of winning Le Mans 1966. Of course, Ford took 1, 2 and 3. In August, RM Sotheby’s sold the third placed Kandy Gold Ford GT40 Mk II for $14m. 21st Century Fox is part of the News global multimedia platform but despite my pleading, is not shooting the Le Mans scenes at Wakefield Park, Phillip Island or Tailem Bend because the producers said the locals were too friendly.