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.