We’re doing 125km/h. We could see the corner was 20 seconds away and we needed to take it somewhere around 40km/h.
That’s when the car suddenly filled up with acrid smoke.
We faced a few difficult issues coming into last weekend’s rally into the savage heart of the South Australian socialist dream. All 43 entrants, meaning all 86 men and women who were driving, navigating or screaming unsuccessfully for the person behind the wheel to stop and let them out, had to pass what appears on the surface to be a simple test.
Two officials approach your car. You and your co-driver are seated with your harnesses and helmets on. One of the two people, who appears to be of the male gender, harshly thumps the roof. You then have 9.9 seconds to exit your vehicle.
As a Volvo driver this seems easy. As a rally driver you are not only belted in with two thick straps over your shoulders, you have a long bit of metal tubing, part of a tubular roll cage, running across the door to impede ingress and outgress.
For some, there was the added handicaps of both age, and the lard that comes with age and a certain lifestyle practised by many who like the discussions of a day of rallying lubricated by strong drink and fried food as much as, or even more than, soaking up the kilometres of the beautiful Adelaide Hills.
Luckily the officials, while not open to inducements, such as a few bottles of Coopers Sparkling Ale carried in the cooler part of the BMW and only to be opened in an emergency, did allow us 17 attempts. We passed with flying colours much in the manner that we had both passed our course (thus gaining a certificate) in mixed drink and cocktails at the University of Metaphysical Sciences (Sedona Campus).
Two days in we were running consistently. Last. Navigator McMichael, the Tupaia and James Cook of the good car BMW E30, was calling the shots along a straight stretch of tarmac that quickly morphed into a very dangerous corner that turned back on itself, featuring a railing made of metal blended with very large Eucalyptus macrocarpas.
“I smell acrid smoke.”
“Don’t be a dope it’s the brake pads. You use the brakes too much.” That was the very moment the acrid smoke engulfed the car and I noticed my left racing shoe was on fire.
“No, it will make the floor slippery.” Just then I noticed that our exhaust note had changed from sweet BMW to Mack truck. The exhaust pipe had broken just under the driver’s floor and the heat flowing directly from the engine, turned the normal, benign piece of metal under my feet into a red-hot Weber BBQ plate.
“Take your shoe off.”
This is where the benefit of my weekly online Kundalini hot yoga course with Swami Wishbang came to the fore. Talk about flexibility. One hand on the wheel. One foot on the fast pedal. Another hand pulling off the firey shoe and handing it to my now screaming co-driver.
Mick held the flaming shoe out the window to allow the wind to extinguish the blaze while I made mincemeat of the very dangerous corner that turned back on itself.
“Where do I put my shoeless foot?”
“Just hold it up in the air until you need to change gear.” Really? I asked myself. Is holding a socked foot up in the air while racing at 120km/h and your navigator is holding a smoking shoe out the window what Sebastien Loeb, Possum Bourne, Sebastien Ogier, Neal Bates or Molly Taylor would do?
Anyway, we finished. Well behind Richard Lovell and Karl Radziszewski in their 2007 Subaru; Matthew Selley and Hamish McKendrick in their 2003 Mitsubishi Evo 8RS, and Ben Auld and Lucy Barker in a 2010 Porker GT3. But you can bet that none on the first three drove shoeless, with a burnt heel and with a shoe out the window.
Last week I promised you goss on Ssangyong, BMW and Zagame’s Katelyn Schutz.
We are just waiting to hear back from the first two but Katelyn delivered one of two of the biggest shocks of my motoring writing career this week.
Zagame in Adelaide sell some pretty nice metal for local working class heroes. They have a very pretty, one-off 2021 McLaren 765LT P14R, for $1.5m, a not-so-pretty yellow 2021 Ferrari SF90 Stradale F154 for $1.3m and a super silver 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS 991 II – aka King Kong – for a lazy $760k. Just mention my name to KS for the WART discount. Anyway, Katelyn solved a big problem for me at the start of the rally, even though I wasn’t anything like a customer and she didn’t know about my column because, of course, she is not one of its 20 readers.
A few days later, a letter arrived in the mail from Australia best motoring public relations person, Laurissa Mirabelli, offering me the loan of an all-electric Polestar. Readers, one friend and eldest son, in the 15 years you have been putting up with my drivel no car company has ever offered me a test drive of anything.
This may be because I pay for everything I do, drive, drink and smoke but clearly Laurissa didn’t know about this or she has supreme confidence in the Chinese-made, Scandinavian-born, weirdly branded Polestar.
Still Polestar is ohms ahead of US rival Lucid. Lucid sells expensive luxury EVs that often go forward in reverse gear, lose power on the freeway and those together with other issues have seen stock in the Andrew Liveris-chaired company down 67 per cent for the year.
Perhaps classic car writer Martin Buckley could have been talking about EVs, not Jags, when he said: “I don’t entirely buy into the mythology of tragic Jaguar build quality; I suspect everything was rubbish in the 1970s.”