I bet you’re looking for lots of stuff about the race that stops the nation, but before we talk about last weekend’s 24 Hours of LeMons let me give you the WART’s Melbourne Cup tip.
Now the owner of Magic Circle (that’s a horse), Manchester millionaire Marwan Koukash, is not a metal head but he is one of us. He loves a drink (just wait till he tastes some Coopers out at Flemington), was a refugee hiding in caves when he was eight, worked his way to a PhD in electrical engineering while being a waiter, mechanic, market trader and nightclub bouncer. Then he set up a global training company, and bought racehorses and footy teams.
Marwan says he will parade around the ring at Flemington in a thong (the knickers, not the footwear) if Magic Circle wins. He told racenet.com.au that winning the Melbourne Cup would be like “having sex for the first time”.
“There are a lot of owners who don’t even seem happy. I’m not classified as your proper owner like the other owners, I’m just a fan and sometimes I’m crazy,” he said.
Doesn’t that sound like what we would do if we won a race, rally or any other motoring event? And, of course, the only reason we haven’t (well, I have, in budgie smugglers during a rally) is because, except for Port Macquarie Ford dealer and Brocky co-driver Andrew Miedecke (aka Mad Andy), none of us have won anything. OK, I know that’s not true.
Why don’t we talk great holiday drives. Luckily our new best friend Brooke Reuter works for Bristol-based travel company, The Adventurists. If you love ocean cruises on big luxury liners then don’t read any further.
“Our planet used to slap us about the face cheeks with iron fists of adventure every day. Maps had edges to walk off. Men feared the monsters that swam the seas. Entire civilisations lay unknown.
“But now, the entire surface of the Earth has been scanned by satellites and shovelled into your mobile phone tagged with twattery about which restaurant serves the best mocha-latte-frappeshite,” Brooke says.
The company offers variations on nine rallies as antidotes to the grey life we are all living: the Rickshaw Run, the Monkey Run, the Mongol Derby (on horseback), the Mongol Rally, the Icarus Trophy (on parachute) and the Ice Run. For the Rickshaw Run you pay Brooke’s crew $4000 to drive 3000km (the length of India) in what is basically a 5kW cake tin on three wheels. The best part is there is no route. There’s just a start and a finish line.
“No hand-holding, no arse-wiping, just you and all the magnificent chaos the Indian subcontinent can muster. The less you know the better. If India unexpectedly appears on the telly quickly jab your eyes with a fork to avoid any advance knowledge seeping into your unsullied brain.”
Thinking only of your reading pleasure, your Weekend Australian Rally Team is entering next year’s Mongol Rally.
Billed as the greatest motoring adventure on the planet, it thunders 16,000km across the mountains, desert and steppes of Europe and Asia. For the $1000 entry fee there’s no back-up, no support and no set route; just you, your fellow adventurists and a tiny 1000cc car you bought from a scrapyard for $22. In the past teams have travelled as far south as Iran and Pakistan. Others have ventured into the Arctic Circle.
“If your ideal summer consists of being saturated with dust, stale sweat and vodka, questionable cuts of meat, intestinal bacteria, incomprehensible languages, non-existent roads, hazy memories of the nights past, tetchy armed border guards, flat tyres, corrupt officials and a whole load of completely unpredictable and utterly stupid events, then taking on the Mongol Rally is perhaps the greatest decision you will ever make — it is guaranteed to be excellent,” Brooke told me.
Speaking about the race that stopped the nation, or at least Goulburn, your Weekend Australian Racing Team impressed the huge crowd gathered at Wakefield Park raceway and cafe (the burgers are super) with the speed of our stock-standard 1993 paddock-find purple Nissan Pulsar, complete with white plastic downpipe gaffer-taped to the passenger door to bring much-needed air into the very hot and smelly (remember the bush rat) cabin.
But friends, you know as well as I do about the scourge of Australian society: the tall poppy syndrome. The flaneur of the accounting set, the beau of bean counters, the brown cardigan collector of the year in 1983, Steve Champion took the mighty Weekend Australian-sponsored grunt machine from 20th on a rolling start to fifth spot. Our No 2 driver, the woodworking artiste (his new work, a sensational dining table, goes on sale soon) Gene Alexander took us into third. Once I got out, the trouble started. A small spin, just to test the reflexes of the other competitors, had our team drivers plus pit crew boss Dan Woodhurst walking hand-in-hand up and down the pits singing a song about the perils of turn two.
Then Steve got lumbered for allegedly causing another driver to spin (not true) and we had to play a game of tennis to learn teamwork. Finally, Tom Connolly was nabbed for donning a tutu, having to win a game of Snap against the timing person, who luckily had forgotten how to play.
Anyway, your WART will be up against the best in the world in a few weeks in the Classic Adelaide Rally. In the meantime, today’s car pic is the 1985 959 Paris-Dakar Porker that RM Sotheby’s sold for $8.2 million.
As you’d expect, it’s a long and difficult process picking the photo. Often it has to be referred not only to my boss but up to the new head boss. Sometimes, the decision goes to our boss of bosses (an Australian) in New York. Just joshing. Once I’ve finished writing, I scramble to find any old photo of a car or, if desperate, a bike (no one ever sends me anything), get it developed at the chemist and hand it to the picture team.