MATT SHIRVINGTON FLEET OF FOOT

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - MOTORING - Craig Duff

Point Matt Shirvington at a track and the sprint spe­cial­ist’s drive to suc­ceed comes to the fore. Shirvington — who held the na­tional 100m ti­tle from 1998-2002 and re­mains Aus­tralia’s sec­ond-fastest sprinter with a time of 10.03 sec­onds (equat­ing to al­most 36km/h) — has swapped spiked shoes for a steer­ing wheel.

A Volvo S60 Polestar is his weapon of choice for track days at Syd­ney Mo­tor­sport Park but a V90 Cross Coun­try is his daily drive.

It’s a far cry from the 1976 Saab 99 he owned as a 17-year-old jug­gling year 12 stud­ies and train­ing ses­sions.

“It was a cock­roach-look­ing thing with eggshell white paint and an or­ange velour in­te­rior,” Shirvington re­calls. “It’s the only car I’ve ever re­ally owned: I broke the Aus­tralian record at 19 and got a car deal af­ter that.”

Life af­ter run­ning landed Shirvington nu­mer­ous tele­vi­sion roles, from pre­sent­ing seg­ments for the Be­yond To­mor­row TV se­ries on Chan­nel 7 to roles with Fox Sports. cul­mi­nat­ing with him host­ing Fri­day Night Footy on the ded­i­cated NRL chan­nel Fox League.

Track and tele­vi­sion have al­lowed him to travel some of the best roads in the world.

He rates the Pa­cific Coast High­way from San Fran­cisco to Los An­ge­les as one of his most mem­o­rable road trips.

“I was film­ing for Be­yond To­mor­row with (renowned videog­ra­pher) Jay (Justin) Han­ra­han,” Shirvington says. “We were only in a (Mercedes) Viano or some­thing like that but Jay could drive a bit. Be­tween the roads and the scenery it was an epic trip.”

Test-driv­ing an Ariel Atom at Good­wood was also a high­light. How­ever, if money was no ob­ject (and if he didn’t have to fit a fam­ily), he cov­ets Porsche’s wildest track toy, a 911 GT2 RS.

The re­al­ity of com­mut­ing and car­ry­ing his daugh­ters to and from school in­stead means Shirvington pi­lots the Volvo.

“We call it the beach car be­cause it car­ries all the junk we take on trips,” he says. “It’s a big car but it doesn’t feel like it and all the sensors make it easy to drive in carparks.”

Shirvington rates the City Safety au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing as the V90’s big­gest as­set. “You get a warn­ing be­fore it slams on the brakes and the beeps have saved me a few times,” he says. “Peo­ple ran­domly spear into your lane and then ex­pect you to deal with it.”

That level of ig­no­rance of driv­ing eti­quette and physics is Shirvington’s great­est frus­tra­tion be­hind the wheel when he’s in Aus­tralia.

“It’s not just one thing — there’s a list. We’re the worst in the world for driv­ing on free­ways. I don’t un­der­stand why peo­ple can’t stay in the left lanes un­less they’re over­tak­ing.

“What’s worse is when you’re try­ing to merge and the cars won’t match the speed the traf­fic is mov­ing at. It’s like run­ning a re­lay — you try to ac­cel­er­ate to the speed of the guy ap­proach­ing you to make a smooth tran­si­tion but as driv­ers we just don’t get it.

“I’m not sure whether it’s lack of train­ing or what­ever but it causes huge de­lays. And then we’re happy to give other driv­ers a lec­ture — from the safety of our car — and that’s 30 sec­onds of our lives that served no point at all.”

Still, he doesn’t let other mo­torists rile him. “I’m a pay-it-for­ward kind of guy, so if I smile and wave I hope it has some ef­fect on them.”

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