"I wouldn't mind coming out to one of these 'track tests' you do," said the new OH&S lady with a perplexed look on her face."
"It will help me complete your skills matrix, SOP document and risk assessment."
It was like a doe-eyed cow innocently asking if it could tag along on a tour of the local abattoir.
Now, I’m not suggesting we’re unprofessional or running a dodgy operation here at MOTOR – safety first and all that malarkey – but when a health and safety person wants to come watch five blokes blast around a barely supervised, speed-unlimited racetrack, you know they’re going to need to bring the Bex and a stretcher.
Fortunately for the OH&S hand-wringers, day one started well. Kick-off was a wintry Monday afternoon at Winton (in case the last 25-odd pages hadn’t given it away) and our several weeks of nervous voodoo dancing to the weather gods, like some sort of office Haka, was rewarded with Winton drowned in glorious sunshine. In other words, the conditions were simply beaut.
For our two days and two nights of on-track photography, testing and general hijinks, Uncle Morley was again appointed chief babysitter for the Gen-Why MOTOR crew. However, no dummies were spat and no adult nappies soiled nor needed as the youthful judges acquitted themselves well on track – the word well used a little loosely, of course.
Herr Newman has now earned himself a reputation for punishing rear tyres like they’ve cursed his mother. And myself, well, I was forced to uphold MOTOR editorship tradition by swapping ends in a vehicle at least once during the event.
Did I balls it up mid-drift through Winton’s furious turn seven in the SS-V? Err, try the Mazda 3, entering pit straight using the rear vision mirror to see where I was going. Look, it likes to go sideways a little more than I was expecting, orright?
Meanwhile Brendan Reeves has lost his handbrake licence after fifty-centing a pair of tyres on our Peugeot 208 GTi long-termer. At highway speed there’s now a little more Cessna to its NVH than we would’ve liked... Bad Brendo.
He was forgiven as all watched, hypnotised, as the rally ace climbed aboard the diff-armed rear drivers and turned tyres into ghosts through Winton’s back corner complex. It made all other judges feel like we needed to go back to drifting school.
When not on the track testing, we were delicately arranging cars into position for the group shots which tested photographer Ellen’s vocal chords to their limits, while us other clowns schemed to get some sort of lairy shot in the hired scissor lift. Couldn’t switch the ESP off, unfortunately...
Overnight the MOTOR cavalcade bunked at Benalla Leisure Park – a venue we’d happily recommend as it’s only up the road from Winton, the price is right and the accomm comfy.
A few regular MOTOR faces were noticeable in their absence, too. Cockburn couldn’t accept our hurried, last-second invitation but with his licence suspension now over, he’ll be back at PCOTY next month. Meanwhile Luffy was off fanging Astons in Malaysia but he’ll be back to manhandle PCOTY’s big bangers next month.
At its conclusion, about the most that went wrong was a few sunburnt foreheads and some bug-splattered windscreens. Yep, Bang For Your Bucks 2014 ran a little too smoothly for our liking. Next year the red cordial is getting spiked. Got to keep the OH&S lady on her toes somehow.