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Home  /  June 2024  /  Comment

Before we move on to more important matters – such as our exclusive tutorial on driving in Italy, investigating rumours that the Kensi may be up for sale and our usual focus on child hunger in third-world nations, global poverty and what’s really happening at Sydney’s North Shore Ferrari – let’s take a very brief (because that’s all it deserves) look at last Sunday’s parade of F1 cars in the Fiscal Fiend’s vision of hell (no tax, no worries) Monte Carlo.

Fortunately, we had our correspondent, Mad Max Verstappen, reporting directly from his Honda:

Max, what did you think of your 78 laps traversing the narrow city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine alongside Monaco’s harbour, Port Hercules, which was full to overflowing with megalomaniac masters, mistresses and others of the universe, standing in front of social X-rays and lemon tarts on the Burmese teak decks of what are quaintly called superyachts but are really diesel guzzling, black smelly smoke emitting ships, only slightly larger than the Titanic?

“Fudge me, Johnny, this is really boring. Should have brought my pillow.”

And Hamo did you love it?

“JC, everyone drove so slowly, it didn’t matter what tyre you were on. We were driving seconds off the pace. I don’t know what it was like watching but I am sure people were falling asleep.

“Most of us in the cars were nodding off. It was as boring as listening to the Country Hour on the ABC. Luckily, I have an FM radio and eight track under the dash in the Silver Arrow so on lap 51, I got down to Luke Coombs’s remake of Fast Car on Nova 96.9 (the boss is still in the country) and man don’t those lyrics have meaning for me. I tear up when Coombsy warbles out ‘Starting from zero got nothing to lose, me, myself, I got nothing to prove, speed so fast it felt like I was drunk, I had a feeling I could be someone’. Johnny, that’s my life right there.”

Anyway, no boredom in our DR 6 SUV rented from Avis (what could possibly go wrong, a car built in Italy of Chinese parts?) for what should have been the 450km run from the Emilia-Romagna track to the Monte Carlo circuit.

Unfortunately, we were using our old Melways and Gregory’s to navigate, which somehow saw us go south rather than west and end up in Sicily.

I know many (four) of you think Italy is the world capital of sophistication, but the truth is the enlightenment clearly didn’t reach the Italian Republic. Do you know they drive on the wrong side of the road? That there are no rules except most of the time it’s best to drive on the right-hand side of the road. And that driving on mainland Italy is just practice for driving in Sicily.

Let me give you some helpful advice. Driving on the mainland is like driving in F1 but more competitive. Driving in Sicily is a combination of F1 and a demolition derby.

Younger readers a demolition derby is where the winner is the last vehicle still moving after all others have been crashed into and disabled.

The road rules are only known to members of the secret society. For instance, blinkers have one purpose: to show you are a tourist and therefore fair game, so don’t ever use them. A pedestrian crossing is simply a better spot to scare old persons than driving on what passes for the footpath. Don’t ever give way. It’s a sign of weakness and you will be an embarrassment to your family, to your friends and to Australia as a whole. Speed signs are simply there for entertainment value. For instance, in 100m of road you can have signs that say 130kmh, 40 km/h, 60kmh and 100kmh. If you drive at less than 200kmh you will have at least 10 cars on your back bumper with lights flashing, horns tooting Il Canto degli Italiani and at the same time trying to sneak past on the passenger side.

Italian governments love pretending they are doing roadwork. So, you will be doing 150kmh on the freeway, come around a corner and there will be a sign saying roadwork and three lanes will suddenly merge into one through a chicane that Mad Max would have trouble navigating at 10kmh.

Don’t not stop at toll booths. Take the Telepass lane (like an e-Tag) even if you don’t have one. The alternative is to try to pay at the toll gate which means you have to have a ticket.

No one tells you that you have to have a ticket and there is no one that sells them. So, you stop at the booth. You can’t pay because you don’t have a ticket. There is not an attendant.

By this time, every car, truck and bus on the island is queued up behind you using language that is not suitable for the kiddies, who by this time will be hiding, fearing for their young lives, under the seats.

You push the big red button and nothing happens. Your navigator gets out of the car to find a human and gets pelted with excrement by those in the queue.

On the other hand, just park wherever you like. Middle of the street. Blocking a lane. Across a driveway. If you need to park safely overnight just pay the friendly Mafia rep. It’s cheaper and safer than the stazione di parcheggio. Cash is king and queen and other in Sciliy. You can only pay cash at the servo. And fill up whenever you can because the servos often run out of fuel.

With all this you’ll need a traveller to settle your nerves so keep a small bottle of grappa or limoncello handy.

Next week a preview of the Noosa Concours d’Elegance, videos featuring Sydney’s North Shore Ferrari and we ask is the Kensi up for sale because Michael McMichael is in hospital?

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