How could Sunday’s F1 race in Sakhir, Bahrain, be exciting when there was not even one snake?
We had one red-bellied black snake at Winton, Victoria. Not only were there snakes, the temperature was 13 degrees hotter than the desert, the racing was closer but the first round of the NSW Production Touring Cars Championship had more top end of town people in the cars than F1 could dream about. Talk about ageism the oldest driver in F1 is Fernando Alonso, 41, of Oviedo, Spain. The oldest driver at Winton on Sunday was my father, Phil Alexander, of Colo Vale, NSW. Phil and I shared the drive to win Class E. (Younger readers who dream of a career in motorsport my advice is: enter a class you can win in or enter a class with no other competitors.)
Anyway, let’s spend a minute on the Middle East event. Only a minute because we don’t have to wait until Abu Dhabi on November 26 to know who’ll win the drivers’ and constructors’ championships and possibly all the next twenty-three races. We knew Red Bull were sand bagging in the lead up but we couldn’t imagine how good their cars are. Mad Max won by nearly twelve seconds from teammate Sergio Perez with Hamo 50 seconds (ie a lifetime) behind Max.
What were the big surprises in the rumble in the desert apart from the Red Bull cars being in another class to every other team? Chucky Leclerc in his Ferrari had third spot tied up till his electrics died and he retired. That gave Ferdy Alonso a podium in his first drive for Aston Martin and owner Lazza Stroll a $540m jump in his share price. Lazza hired Red Bull’s senior aerodynamicist Dan Fallows which clearly gave the cars some speed but Ferdy’s drive was one for the ages and to my mind as good as the old masters. But the other driver to watch is Pete Gasly. From a bad last to an excellent ninth was extraordinary. Look the truth is the Red Bulls are fast and every other car is slow.
And I was wrong about the snakes. Hamo reckons he found an asp in the grass and it’s the technical group in his own team. Speaking exclusively to me on the psychic internet, he said: “Johnny they didn’t listen to me. Last year, there were things I told them. I said the issues that are with the car. I’ve driven so many cars in my life. I know what a car needs. I know what a car doesn’t need. I think it’s really about accountability It’s about owning up and saying, ‘Yeah, you know what? We didn’t listen to you. It’s not where it needs to be and we’ve got to work’”. Off the record Hamo could have said: “Our technical director Mike Elliot, is he a schlemiel or a schlimazel? Whichever, the flick could be in his future”.
Ok back to the real action. I don’t know what it is about your Weekend Australian Race and Rally Team (WART) but bottom line is we are snake magnets. Remember Brownie in the Adelaide Hills? First appearance here, October 2016. Well Dad (Phil Alexander) and I were just sitting in our garage staring at the MX-3 we’d had to enter because the RX-8 had gone to Mazda heaven two weeks ago, the MX-5 was getting a new paintjob in readiness for today’s MX-5 Cup and the MX-3 was hail damaged but the right price at Pickles Auctions. We were contemplating what it would be like to wheel the slowest car in the field around a track I had never ever seen before let alone driven on, when three kiddies from the next garage ran towards us screaming. Kids screaming at us is nothing new but running towards us is. Just before we could gently ask them what the problem was, their parents and other parent type persons also started running towards us yelling ‘snake’.
Naturally Phil and I did what any other heroic motor racers would do. We ran screaming toward the next garage pushing the kiddies and their parents out of the way. While the garage we ran into housed Australian Snake Catchers father and son duo of Sean and Liam Cade (in a quick VW Golf) it was up to Winton’s very own staff snake person to bring the long piece of wire. Once the snake was safe in a locked hessian sack, I asked staff snake catcher what the serpent was. “Very rare. It was a red bellied black snake. First one I’ve ever seen here.” “Phew”, I said. “You had me worried this was Joe Blake paradise.” “Nup. Never seen a black but we have hundreds of browns.”
Talking of stars, celebrity lawyer Rob Bryden and son Alex pedalled to a class win in their VW Scirocco, Spinifex Recruiting chair Peter O’Donnell was quick in his BMW 335i as was Quest Hotels, Brent Howard, in a BMW M3 E92.
Last week’s Sydney Harbour Concours d’Elegance saw Ampol Heritage Best in Show Pre-War award go to a 1920 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP “Nareeb’ Silver Ghost with Best in Show Pre d’Honneur go to the 1962 Ferrari SP 196.
Passed in at Broad Arrows Amelia Auction this week, the ‘Quick’ Vic Elford, Umberto Maglioli, winning 1968 Porsche 907 K factory entry in the 1968 Targa Florio can now be yours for $7m. During the first lap of the Targa Vic lost a wheel, then had a tire puncture, then thought he had lost the race, so started drifting the Porker like a rally car and won. Kiddies don’t follow Vic’s tradition at the end of your next race. His post-race celebration began with a drink or one hundred and a cigarette or three hundred.