Was it Covid that made us all so selfish?
All the focus and love for the past 18 months has gone to humans and animals (often the same thing). Who has thought about inanimate objects, well like Armco, the corrugated steel barriers invented in 1933 by Sheffield Steel Corp of Kansas that saves millions of lives every year by stopping people driving over cliffs or into each other?
Your WART team has. Why just last weekend during the Shannons Adelaide Rally your correspondent, egged on by co-driver Sultan Michael McMichael, massaged some metal coming out of a tight corner thus helping its feeling of loneliness and abandonment but radically altering the shape of the driver’s side front panel.
As you would expect, we didn’t let driving on three wheels slow us down. After a three-hour drive from the scene of the rally to the Sultan’s Stepney St atelier (with a short stop to pick a corflute election sign from an inanimate light post) we replaced the metal panel with the plastic sign, with the assistance of all the world’s supply of blue go-fast tape, replaced the front right Yokohama tyre with a not so good Dunlop (the Yokis in our size were out of stock), did some minor surgery on the suspension and my ego and we were back on the course (well really a local sports park in the Adelaide Hills, where an excellent lunch of bread rolls and sensational pound cake were served while the scrutineer approved our repairs).
A note here on the budget restraints your team works under. Most teams in the Modern Competition section (small laugh here, neither our car nor the two drivers could be called modern, although rally legend Ross Dunkerton did beat us in the age department by a few years) have service crews to check tyres, fuel and engine after each stage. We weren’t allowed any assistance, which really didn’t matter since Mick had forgotten the tyre pressures and neither of us knew how to open the bonnet.
Anyway, as the old bloke says, “to finish first, first you have to finish”. Despite missing three stages we ended up 17th thanks to extraordinary driving, navigating and 11 cars breaking down, rolling over and withdrawing.
There’s always important life lessons to take away from motorsport. For instance, never leave your phone on the roof of the car while you put your helmet on. Five of us did, including the Sultan and I. Four of us got them back thanks to Apple’s Find My Phone and, risking black snake bite, by putting our hands in the bushes at the corners where the phones flew off.
In Covid times never stay at a multistorey hotel. Or if you do, ask for a room on the first floor. My room was on level 10, where the average wait due to the four in lift rule was 20 minutes. The South Australian police are great, the health department not so much.
But the local pollies have drunk the hidden speed camera Kool Aid and have taken the hiding part to a whole new level. Full marks to former NSW roads minister Duncan Gay, who this week told a parliamentary inquiry that removing speed camera warning signs “was just wrong”. Dunc said the best safety incentive was a “marked police car with a copper in it”, which had the same effect as signposting cameras. The NSW government has lured an extra $20m since the warning signs went.
Looks like as well as being a basketball fan, Premier Dominic Perrottet has petrolhead empathy. Dom is taking on Dunc’s advice and NSW persons can expect a return to sanity soon.
After years of campaigning in this column and with the action of the ACCC’s Rocket Rod Sims, the Federal Court this week found that Mazda Australia engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to nine consumers about their consumer guarantee rights. Now you and I know there were more than nine Mazda owners who had been legged over but the story is the same for everyone.
“The consumers had each requested a refund or a replacement vehicle from Mazda, after experiencing serious and recurring faults with their new Mazda vehicles within a year or two of purchase,” Rod told us by press release.
“Mazda ignored or rejected the consumers’ requests, telling them the only available remedy was another repair, even though the consumers’ vehicles had already undergone multiple unsuccessful repair attempts, including complete engine replacements. One vehicle had three engine replacements. After repeated attempted repairs, over months and even years, in some cases Mazda offered to refund only a portion of the vehicle’s purchase price, or offered a replacement vehicle only if the consumer made a significant payment.
“Mazda engaged in long, drawn out discussions with the consumers, often multiple times a day over months, in which it misled the consumers about their rights. Mazda’s conduct towards these consumers was not just appalling customer service as noted by the judge, it was a serious breach of the law.”
Given recent emails not much to make me believe Mazda has changed.
OK, some passings to note: Sir Frank Williams, 79, founder and boss of the Williams team for 23 years. An incredible talent who could somehow get drivers like Australia’s Alan Jones to go faster than they thought. A super athlete until 1986 when a prang left him a tetraplegic. If you ever think things are tough read Virginia Williams book, A Different Kind of Life.
Also US wheel smith Bob Bondurant, 88, who not only raced and won in just about everything but taught people like Paul Newman, Tom Cruise and Christian Bale how to race. Although in later years his memory was slipping, Bob was ever the sales ace. When son Tom and I were taking a few lessons at his race school Bob showed me his book. “Like it?” he asked. “Yes. Will you autograph it?” “After you pay for it,” Bob said.