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“There's nothing better than watching two guys going at it!”
Australians love two things above all others: drinking and driving. This is where V8 Supercars racing comes in. Alcohol fumes meet petrol fumes (The petrol is now mostly alcohol, talk about drink driving!) in a dead-set, true-blue, green-and-gold, fair-dinkum, no-beg-pardons, if-you-don't-mind-umpire stoush between Ford and Holden.
All Australians are required by law to pick a side, though most find that their parents picked one for them at birth, long before they were christened and about the same time as they were put on the waiting list for membership of the Melbourne Cricket Club.
After all, Australians love a bit of a stink, and if your best mate follows the same footy team as you, has the same sexual orientation as you, always buys his round and isn't actively rooting your missus, there's no real reason to give him a punch in the jaw. Luckily, with V8 Supercars, there's a fifty per cent chance that he bats for the other team (so to speak), so you can feel perfectly justified in giving him a smack in the chops on the first weekend of October, when the rivalry is traditionally fought.
edit The Rivalry
Since modern Australia has no tribal, ethnic or religious rivalries to occupy free time the country had to manufacture one. Along came Australia's favourite locally grown car brands, the Detroit-based Holden and the Detroit-based Ford. Both made cars perfectly suited to Australian conditions, what with their tendency to leak enough oil to drown nearby snakes and spiders.
In 1963 the pair planned to spend a Sunday-morning racing on a mountain road, however the encounter soon became more like a Sunday-night-sleepover spent racing on Rainbow Road; Ford won, Holden lost, things were broken, and someone shrunk most of the cars with a lightening bolt (or maybe they were just Minis). The rivalry was ignited, the media spread the word, and the public turned out to chant "Fight, fight, fight" or smear their sticky hands on the TV screen.
edit The Mountain
The highlight of the V8 season is always October's James Hardie Asbestos 1000 at the sacred burial mound of Mount Panorama, where the remains of aboriginal people struck by speeding marsupials are historically interred.
Up to two hundred thousand spectators turn up to have a drink and see the race on the outskirts of Bathurst, so technically the cars can run on the alcohol exhaled by the crowd, but few teams like to do this as the teeth knocked out during Holden v. Ford brawls in the crowd can cause fuel-line blockages.
The endurance race has witnessed the birth of such great Aussie icons as Alan Moffat (a Canadian), Jim Richards (a New Zealander), Dick Johnson (A Queenslander and therefore technically a wild animal) and Peter Brock (an actual Australian). It has also been witness to the death of a few great Aussie icons too, mostly out-of-work stunt doubles for Skippy the bush kangaroo.
Bathurst weekend is without a doubt the must watch event on the Australian sporting calendar, after the AFL Grand Final, NRL Grand Final, Melbourne Cup, Australian Open tennis, Formula One Grand Prix, Boxing Day Test, Anzac Day two-up and the swimming carnival of Towoomba West School for the Athletically Challenged.
edit The spectacle
The B-double trucks of the teams first parade through Bathurst town on the Wednesday, showing off the fantastic liveries created by all the wild fauna and charity cyclists struck along the 500 kilometre journey through the bush from Sydney or Melbourne. The crowd of watching schoolkids goes wild.
The first parade is then followed by an even larger parade of B-double trucks carrying kegs full of ale and lager. The crowd of watching schoolkids goes even more wild.
The beauty of the Bathurst race is the tendency for anything and everything to end up on the track, with or without assistance. These include old tyres, car lights, cardboard boxes, cardboard boxes containing the homeless, corporate tents, engine blocks, whole trees, tray trucks, plastic bags (the most fatal for cars) and the perennial favourite; placards that say "Speed Kills" or "Drink and Drive? Bloody idiot!" which satisfyingly shatter into a cloud of polystyrene and and misused state funding.
The teams make running repairs, raiding their multi-million dollar budgets to buy coloured duct tape from the news-agent. Expensive refueling rigs are are utilized in complex strategies to skittle the opposition, the crew, the porta-potties, and all the public faces there to sell a glossy new memoir about overcoming all their difficulties except an airborne refueling rig in the cranium.
Bathurst is also on the migratory route of all the Australian species of animal that enjoy being launched into orbit and every race ends up with at least one driver, willingly or unwillingly, wearing the fur coat of the critter he skinned at 300 kilometers per hour.
In recent years, advances in in-car digital camera technology have enabled drivers to make a note of who's been throwing stuff at them, so that when they've finished necking the champagne on the podium they can fling the empty bottle at the bastard. Most Bathurst holiday packages include insurance that covers driver-inflicted magnum trauma.
edit The history
Some examples of Bathurst the Australian public consider to be worth watching are 1974, 1980 and 2005, with 1992 worth seeing double;
In 1974, it was the first all wet race because fans had finally figured how to redirect the local river on to the track. Peter Brock and Alan Moffat fought so hard both their cars exploded. They would continue to fight for years until Brocky sniffed too much engine smoke and got some dumbass idea that boxes of crystals made a car faster. Where the hell would anyone get the idea that collecting multi-coloured magic boxes could help someone win a race?
- WINNERS: FORD
In 1980, a fan accidently on purpose pushed a huge rock onto the road at the top of the mountain, causing then leader Dick Johnson to almost crash over the fence and win the long jump trophy instead. Johnson appealed to the Australian public for money to fix his Ford and they obliged, hoping to see him fly into the scenery once again. He did in 1983, and was responsible for 17% of Australian deforestation that year.
- WINNERS: HOLDEN
In 2005, a wheel blasted the windscreen out of the car of driver Craig Lowndes and he was forced to look for a replacement, except a local policemen stopped him from stealing the chicken wire off a nearby hutch. The insuing conflict saw the degenerate and perverted (ie. a typical New Zealander) Greg Murphy square off against the heroic up and coming Marcos Ambrose and it briefly reduced Bathurst to an apocalyptic wasteland. Ambrose soon departed for the USA, although his reputation has been sullied by some stupid things he did, like joining NASCAR.
- WINNERS: HOLDEN
In 1992, a driver called everyone a "Pack of arseholes!" Most Australians consider this moment to be the finest exemplar of comedy ever spoken.
edit The Series
There are, appaently, 13 other rounds of racing each year but none live up to the car breaking, bone shaking, endangered species pancaking nature of Bathurst. Most fans spend the time recovering, while brewery owners use the the time to build 50ft tall free standing wallets.
edit The Impact
In the artsy-fartsy arena, V8 Supercars have also proved a durable hit. The lawless and brutal nature of the V8 series inspired the classic cult film Chariots of Fire. However, early in the production the team decided to switch focus to competitive running instead, as that featured all the same explicit themes and added drug use, too. Then the script was replaced altogether with a boring one about "sportsmanship" and "Britain" and other poncy things.
edit Mad Max
The original screenplay was passed to George Miller, who signed the services of Mel Gibson to play the lead in the tale about brutal vengeance and an even more brutal costume department; Mad Max. The plot is basically a bog standard retelling of an unidentified James Hardie Asbestos 1000 race in the 1970s, although Miller made a number of fantastical Hollywood changes to the script, adding 1) rape, as the families of V8 drivers have never actually been raped and killed at Bathurst, and 2) motorcycle gangs, as motorcycle gangs probably would be raped and killed for bringing two-wheel fairy-mobiles to Bathurst.
Gibson, as "Mad" Max, is a young policeman who enters the race as an amateur runner in his Dord Dalcon (renamed to prevent riots). On the first lap he causes a fiery crash that removes the lead driver of the Dolden Racing Team, a biker gang who have realised the economic difficulties of the apocalypse and diversified. Two other drivers of the Team vow revenge; Toecutter, a man with bad helmet hair, and Johnny the Boy, a drug/sex addict like most rookie sportsmen. During a pitstop the pair brutalize Max's family, and he is consoled by the token female, Fifi;
|They say people don't believe in heroes anymore...|
- (which is a deeply caring thing to say to a man who just failed to prevent his family being killed by a guy named after feet)
|...well damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes!|
- (the "we're" being a "you" because she doesn't appear in any more scenes)
Toecutter is the first to be killed by Max, in an accident that cleverly plays on his name by featuring neither "toes" or "cutting", and then Johnny is cornered near another upside-down car. Max chains Johnny's leg to the flaming fuel tank of the damaged vehicle and hands him a bottle opener, leaving Johnny the inenviable choice of drinking a six pack or extinguishing the fire with it.
edit The Future
For nigh on five decades Australians have been proud to belt each other silly over the 2 inch wide bit of hardened plastic glued to the bonnet of their cars. However, possibly as a result of all the black and swollen eyes in their corporate departments, both Holden and Ford remained blind to rising oil prices and increased demand for fuel efficient cars.
A contemporary V8 fan will now inflict severe abdominal injuries to rival fans over jibes directed at, say, (Ford/Holden)'s last Bathurst effort. Then he will return to the carpark, climb in his silver Hyundai compact and drive to the hospital to treat the compound fracture in his right arm, content in the knowledge his Korean-made hatchback has used less fuel than the amount of blood he has lost.
Thankfully the environment means nothing in mototsport, so Holden and Ford will still win everything no matter how much those Japanese, Germans, Swedes and Koreans try with their efficiency. After all, why change the winning formula of overconsumption?
- ↑ Apart from the Serbs and Croats getting stuck into each other at the soccer, the Turks and Armenians getting stuck into each other at the soccer, and the Vietnamese getting stuck into it at the nightclubs with anyone who fancies a bit of tail.
- ↑ Rocks in a box? Jesus Christ, Marie, they're minerals!
- ↑ Bananas in a box? Jesus Christ, Mario, they're blue shells!
- ↑ Pronounced like a pirate but drunker and more likely to hit on your mother.