Band­ing to­gether

NZ Autocar - - Face Notes -

When you’ve been in­volved in motorsport for as long as I have, you can gen­er­ally make some fairly ed­u­cated guesses as to how a par­tic­u­lar driver or car will per­form. This abil­ity has not made me ter­ri­bly pop­u­lar with the TAB, but has aided a num­ber of com­peti­tors to an­tic­i­pate the im­pend­ing suc­cess or loom­ing dis­as­ter on their hori­zons.

I was pass­ing on some gems of wis­dom to young Bay of Plenty driver Phil Campbell, just be­fore the Gold Star hill­climb fi­nal at Tau­marunui.

“Phil – you’re go­ing to have to start tak­ing some risks. You’re a very tal­ented driver but you’re stay­ing within your lim­its. If you just push a lit­tle harder, a lit­tle closer to the edge, who knows what you could achieve?”

He clearly took this to heart, and promptly won the gravel hill­climb ti­tle against a spir­ited op­po­si­tion. Un­for­tu­nately he tried to carry this same re­solve through on the tar­mac por­tion the next day, and promptly fired his Lancer off into the boonies.

‘I knew that was go­ing to hap­pen,” I told the spec­ta­tors around me, as we ran down the road to ex­tri­cate the Mit­subishi. “He braked far too late on that crest and he doesn’t yet have the ex­pe­ri­ence on tar seal to drive that hard.”

The car emerged un­der its own steam from the shrub­bery, sans boot, with a largely un­harmed Phil and co-driver Venita Fab­bro won­der­ing how on earth they would get the car fixed in time for the open­ing round of the na­tional rally cham­pi­onship.

“You’re prob­a­bly feel­ing down,” I soothed, “but you’ll be amazed how much your sup­port­ers will rally around you in this time of ad­ver­sity.” They promptly loaded the stricken Mitsi onto a trailer, and headed straight back to Tau­ranga to be­gin re­pairs.

“I knew that would cheer them up,” I an­nounced knowl­edgably.

The car was stripped down at lo­cal work­shop PF Au­to­mo­tive, where it was quickly di­ag­nosed that every­thing be­hind the rear sub­frame was his­tory. The call went out for a donor ve­hi­cle and a Te Puke wrecker came to their res­cue. Another Evo 9 was sliced in half and the two sec­tions found them­selves un­der the same roof less than 24 hours after the crash.

“I told you not to de­spair,” I in­structed the team. “I knew the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion would take your plight to heart.”

Not only did their ser­vice crew pitch in for the next few nights, but at times you couldn’t see the car for the num­ber of over­all-clad helpers clam­ber­ing over it. I popped in oc­ca­sion­ally to mon­i­tor their progress, and gen­er­ally of­fer words of encouragement. For­tu­nately, this of­ten co­in­cided with Venita ar­riv­ing with steaming plates of din­ner, in­clud­ing a spec­tac­u­lar lasagne one evening.

‘My favourite!” I beamed. “How did you know?”

By mid­week it was ap­par­ent that the car would be fin­ished in time, with a dead­line of a Thurs­day de­par­ture to make the Otago start­line a re­al­ity. The pris­tine white rear was now af­fixed and re­splen­dent in the team’s dis­tinc­tive ‘Roof­ing Store’ liv­ery. The clearly tired Phil and Venita were in­structed by all to head home to bed – it was point­less them ar­riv­ing in Dunedin ex­hausted, with a hard week­end of ral­ly­ing ahead.

“I know you want to be with your boys un­til the bit­ter end, but they’re right – you need to go over the start ramp suit­ably re­freshed.”

I walked amongst the fa­tigued crew, and made a point of thank­ing each of the Fraser Street pan­el­beat­ers in­di­vid­u­ally.

“I know you’re shat­tered, but imag­ine the pride we’ll feel watch­ing those two com­pet­ing at the front of the field this week­end. When they’re wav­ing to the crowds and spray­ing the cham­pagne, you’ll be able to tell your fam­ily and friends – we got them there.”

There was a smat­ter­ing of ap­plause and I was a lit­tle sur­prised when Venita ap­proached me, clutch­ing a screw­driver.

“For some­one so in­dis­pens­able, we were hop­ing you’d cer­e­mo­ni­ously tighten the last screw on the rear bumper.”

I looked askance at the shiny tool. “I don’t know how to work one of those.” “I knew you were go­ing to say that,” she said.

The Campbell/Fab­bro Lancer fin­ished 4th out­right at Rally Otago, com­pletely with­out Mr Scott’s as­sis­tance.

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