I actually think it was the biggest day in sport since Jesus played fullback for Jerusalem.
At the Paris end of Eastern Creek on Monday it was like a scene from the first Christmas except, being a racetrack, there was a distinct shortage of wise men, women and others. There was no snow but with temperatures in the mid-30s the smell from the quaintly named SUEZ Eastern Creek Resource Recovery Park wafted gently over the track, reminding one of the odours that must have been present in that stable full of wise men, shepherds, angels, sheep, cows, lice and sheep bot flies, not to mention a baby, his mother and a carpenter.
It was an all-Radical day. Radicals look like a little Le Mans car. They are very light and have a very big engine and so go very fast. They hold the track very well because of very large amounts of downforce generated by the car’s aerodynamic shape, which means, counterintuitively, that if you think you are going into a corner too fast and lift off the gas, the car lifts off the track, which at close to 200km/h is not the most pleasant of experiences.
Santa Tony Palmer owns the Formula Company that can put you behind the wheel of a Radical with a serious coach from $599. When I was heavily into the little cars about three or four years ago, I was paying about $1200 for a half day of car hire and heavy-duty coaching from Santa Tony’s helpers.
As befits a recreation of the first Christmas in Bethlehem (which means house of meat or house of bread depending on whether you speak Greek or Hebrew), a lot of my old coaches turned up to laugh at my return. Playing the role of one of the shepherds was multi-Bathurst sports car winner Brad Shiels. You know Brad from his publicity shots where he always has his head tilted, draining the seawater out of his ear despite being dressed in a full race suit and being 300km from the nearest beach. Taking a particular interest in me was my old coach, supercar driver Tony D’Alberto, who you won’t recognise because his publicity photos are from 15 years ago.
Other shepherds included World Time Attack Champion Barton Mawer, rally and race car driver Nathan Stephens and Garth Walden as the carpenter. Garth and wife Myriam own one of Australia’s biggest motorsport teams, and wasn’t it a treat to see him back on the tools helping me in and out of the car on Monday.
Of course, the star of the day was part-wise man, part-angel Michael Navybox. We’ll be sitting down with Mike early next year for a chat about how this racer and racing coach dealt with being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2011 and being a passenger in a very high speed car crash at Eastern Creek in 2013 and copping bleeding on the brain and serious neck injuries. Naturally, Mike’s answer to all this is to attempt to ride three European Grand Tours Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in the one year and on the same days as the professional cyclists.
Now I know you’re asking who played Krampus, the anti-Santa figure in the German tradition. Krampus is the half-goat, half-demon beast who, bearing horns, dark hair, fangs and a long tongue, comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch sticks meant to swat naughty children. He then hauls the bad kids down to the underworld. Readers, you really don’t have to ask that question, do you? Well, he didn’t make his way up from his Stepney Street lair but the King of Kensi, the Krampus of Glenelg, Glen Osmond, Glenside and Glenunga, the birch-sticker of Beulah Park and Burnside, Michael McMichael’s shadow cast a pall akin to the odour from the Suez (the people who built the canal of the same name) Tip.
Again, I don’t want to stop friendly exchanges among readers but it’s clear some of you see this as the Tinder of motoring. It’s not surprising that one of the worst offenders is both an Alfa owner and a Queenslander. Yup, Pete Matthews keeps swiping left to expose photos of him rebuilding the engine of his “Lola” Alfetta GTV6. We have to stamp this sort of thing out. There’s only so many naked crankcases one can see.
I know many of you have put off your Chrissie shopping until tomorrow and are looking for some ideas to recognise someone special in your life … you! Here’s two cars for around the $100k mark I would buy tomorrow if I didn’t have nine that do stretch the limits of any relationship. My garage person says he just hasn’t got enough time to work on any more cars. First up, of course, is the Alpine that is about $300k cheaper and more fun and better looking than a Fezzer. Then there’s the Ford Mustang Bullitt that two mates have bought (one each) and I drove last week without breaking the friendship or the car. Sex on wheels.
I want you all to have a happy and healthy Xmas. So, I would limit the drinking to the Coopers Vintage Ale made by a surgeon, so it must be good for you, and Penny Hill wines made by a person with superb taste in cars (Alpine), so it must be healthy. Be careful on the ciggies and cigars, and remember if you are driving this holiday season, watch out for the wood ducks in other cars. Otherwise, happy Xmas or whatever you want to celebrate.