Donutless: The pointless dehoonification of V8 culture
Bathurst has become a bland, vanilla, tedious waste of petrol. Let me explain by way of an anecdote.
In the mid 2000s, I wrote an in-depth Alpha magazine feature on The Super Cheap-Ass 1000, or whatever the Bathurst Race was called back then.
I was embedded, if you will, with one of the major teams. After practise one day, I rode back to town with the driver of the “B Car” (most big Bathurst teams have two cars. Officially, they’re both the same, but everyone knows the good drivers get the “A” car and the lesser drivers the “B” car).
So I’m riding shotgun with the B car driver, and we divert down a quiet dirt track. Then whammo! We start doing donuts. Big, dirty burn-outs. The driver is having a great time letting his inner hoon run free and I’m scared as hell but loving the ride.
My donutting friend came third in that year’s Bathurst, but is no longer racing V8s. Despite all his talent, he was considered too much of a PR liability, and was banished to less high-profile, less lucrative forms of racing.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s Super Cheap-Ass 1000 was won by the world’s mildest man, Craig Lowndes, in partnership with Mark Skaife, a man who looks and talks like an accountant. Whoop-de-doo. Pass the creaming soda and let’s party.
This is not to bag Craig Lowndes, who is one of the most decent people you’ll meet in any walk of life. My point is that sport, like art, is dead bloody boring without conflict.
Cops vs robbers. Cowboys vs Indians. Collingwood fans vs everyone else. Great narratives, all of them. So where, oh where, are the modern day rivalries in motor sport?
V8 fans would argue that Ford vs Holden is exactly that. Pfffft. I couldn’t care less about which American-owned tin can with wheels is superior. I’d just as soon argue over the merits of Coke vs Pepsi, or BP vs Shell.
My enemy cannot be made of metal. It must be flesh! I need characters! I want Dick Dastardly and Muttley co-driving the 161 laps of Bathurst so that when Lowndsey wins, I can say “take that you moustachioed menace and you flea-ridden pooch!”
None of this has happened by accident. V8’s ruling body, AVESCO, has taken the AFL approach to growth. They know they’ve got the bogans in the bag anyway, so they’ve deliberately presented their drivers as angels to appeal to white collar Australia.
And journalists are happy to play along. A classic example was the piece on Mark “Frosty” Winterbottom (how do you get a surname like that anyway?) in a Sydney Sunday paper yesterday. It was basically all about his mum, his wife, and his passion for chess, organic tomatoes and Malawian orphans. OK, so I made the last bits up, but you get the drift.
In my Alpha story in the mid 2000s, I spent plenty of time atop Mt Panorama with the campers at McPhillamy Park, where entertainment consisted of flaming toilet rolls pitched across the night sky.
Later, I attended the jelly wrestling in town, which surprisingly had little to do with Aeroplane Raspberry trying to pin down Cottee’s Lime in a Full Nelson.
Believe me, the good folk at both venues would have much preferred to attend a concert by ’80s hard rock band The Choir Boys than to cheer for choirboys of the high-pitched, well-behaved variety. They’d love nothing better than a driver they can truly call a villain. The same for the rest of us too.
Give the people what they I want, I say. Give us drivers with a bit of attitude. 1992 Bathurst winner Jim Richards called the crowd a pack of a-holes after they booed him on the podium. Great stuff. But the chances of it happening now? Donut.
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