Sweet scent of as­para­gus

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

OUR test of the new Holden VF Com­modore re­vealed some sur­prises about the Lang Lang prov­ing ground.

I didn’t know that Lang Lang is at the heart of as­para­gus grow­ing in Aus­tralia. For me, it’s al­ways been about new Hold­ens.

I’ve been trekking south from Melbourne to the Holden prov­ing ground for more than 30 years to get be­hind the wheel of the red lion’s lat­est and great­est, from the very first Com­modore— which one col­league man­aged to plant on its roof— through to what is now look­ing like the very last.

I can still re­mem­ber my sur­prise when I first took to the ride-and-han­dling course and dis­cov­ered a piece of long, straight, un­du­lat­ing road that felt strangely fa­mil­iar.

It should feel fa­mil­iar. It’s the Fed­eral High­way into Can­berra,’’ laughed the then­spokesman for Holden, Marc McInnes. That hair­pin down there is out the back of Fish­er­mans Bend. When the engi­neers find some­thing they like, they sur­vey it and bring it back here.’’

All the best prov­ing grounds have a di­rect con­nec­tion to the real world, like the Lexus fa­cil­ity in Ja­pan that has the ac­tual piece of cob­ble­stoned Bel­gian road dis­cov­ered by engi­neers search­ing for the ul­ti­mate sus­pen­sion test.

It was ripped up, one num­bered piece at a time, be­fore be­ing shipped to Hokkaido and re­assem­bled like a gi­ant jig­saw.

In the case of Lang Lang, Holden has built a net­work of roads that runs from a bone­jar­ring shaker course through long stretches of slip­pery gravel to the high-speed bowl where I once cracked 300km/h in a hotrod Porsche 911. But that’s an­other story.

I’ve rid­den the roads with some great driv­ers, from Peter Brock and Larry Perkins to Holden’s guru test driver Rob Tru­biani, and al­ways learned some­thing new. In the case of the VB Com­modore, I learned — as the Holden engi­neers did, soon af­ter­wards— that tun­ing the car just to con­quer Lang Lang made it way too way­ward for the real world out­side the front gates. It was made less edgy in dou­ble-quick time.

This time, I can’t talk yet about the lat­est chap­ter in the Com­modore story. But I can tell you I wasn’t think­ing about as­para­gus as I slipped be­hind the VF’s wheel for the first time.

Pic­ture: Chris­tian Brunelli

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