At 12.00am on Wednesday, May 13, I cranked over the 1.6-litre of my old, underpowered Toyota s**tbox, rolled up the garage door and drove out into a chilly Melbourne night.
The difference between 12.00am this day, and 11.59pm the day before, was potentially quite a hefty fine for doing what I was doing. At midnight, MOTOR’s home state Victoria aligned with the other states by lifting its Stage 3 restrictions which, among many things, forbid basically recreational driving.
And as you read this, save for the virus (I think unleashed by the dodgy sausage rolls at the Wuhan Wet Market canteen) ripping the Australian economy another one, you can go for a drive if the mood takes you.
Some would argue you should have been able to all along, but I’d disagree; if lawmakers considered the hobbies of every person prior to implementing restrictions, we’d be another Italy or America right now.
Instead, we’re merging on to the long road to recovery. The car market, locally and abroad, is getting back on its feet. (The Australian new car market was down 48.5 per cent in April.) Factories in Europe are restarting, cautiously.
Supercars, F1 and other motorsports are making plans to get proper, real races underway (not to knock the e-sports thing, it’s been a fun distraction). Track day operators are figuring out how to proceed; people like you and me are all over Google Maps, or should be. As winter starts in Australia one of a different kind, ends.
Without a doubt, damage has been done, and continues to be done. New models previously mooted will be cancelled (such as the next Ford Focus RS – boo; possibly also right-hand drive Corvette) or at least delayed and/or changed, and the trajectory of the performance car industry will be irrevocably altered.
How exactly, will take a few years to know. The economic implications of the lockdowns are barely beginning to be understood, and the danger of the virus itself is also far from over.
But you can drive again. And as I cruised down an eerily empty Melbourne motorway (actually there were quite a few trucks out), I temporarily forgot the last two to three months. And that’s all the reason I needed.