One of my proudest possessions is a photo taken at Rally Hawkes Bay back in 1986. It shows an earnest young man prescribing the tactics for the event, with an attentive service crew hanging off his every word. I look focused, masterful and ready to wreak havoc on the opposition. I also look 20kg lighter, which is the main reason it took pride of place on my mantelpiece for many years.
The camera, of course, lied – I was complaining they’d put the wrong mustard on my ham sandwiches, and they were poised to throw me in the murky waters of the Bay. But it captured a moment in time, back when the world was a simpler, less Covid-ridden place and my overalls weren’t quite so snug.
I rediscovered the photo whilst giving my garage a spring clean. There’s always been a dark corner at the back I’ve mentally referred to as ‘Bermuda’. It’s supposed to be for short-term storage but inevitably items get placed there and are never seen again.
Just behind my Betamax player – and an exercycle I never knew I had – was a box marked ‘Memorabilia’. Nestled in the top was the treasured photo from Napier, plus another taken of me the same weekend – bound naked to the statue of ‘Pania of the Reef’ with only a strip of duct tape preserving my modesty.
But it was the remaining contents of the carton that had me enthralled.
Under the handful of loose photos was a shirt advertising the now-defunct Lion draught ale ‘10’. It was a truly awful beer but had some wonderful advertising taglines – my favourite being ‘More bitter than a losing Aussie’. I wore it to the Nissan Mobil street race in 1987; victor Peter Brock spotted the caption and cheekily wrote ‘I don’t think so, mate’ on the back. I was so rapt that I didn’t notice until later that he hadn’t signed his retort – it should be worth a mint but is now just another smelly t-shirt with anonymous ink on the back and hot dog stains on the front.
Beneath this was another brush with celebrity, nestled in a moth-eaten serviette. The Taupo race circuit was fortunate to host the second season of the A1GP series back in 2007. Amongst the accompanying circus of past and future stars was one of the all-time greats – F1 and Indy 500 champion Emmerson Fittipaldi. I wangled my way into the Team Brazil pits when they presented him with a belated 60th birthday cake. I felt a little nauseous after half a dozen slices (I still blame the race gas fumes) so carefully wrapped one last piece for posterity.
The sponge had long since turned to dust but worryingly the icing still appeared in pristine, albeit lurid, condition in fluoro blue and green. Must be the natural colourings that preserved it.
Speaking of fluoro, I next discovered a gaudy Media bib from the Silverstone Race to the Sky. I’m guessing it’s also circa 2007 as it’s from Nobuhiro Tajima’s final win at the Cardrona hillclimb. I was conducting an interview to camera, next to Possum’s statue (since relocated to Pukekohe), when Monster’s Escudo swept past in the background. We were pelted with a shower of Wanaka shingle which unfortunately took out the camera lens. The interview was never completed, the footage lost, but I still have the errant lump of gravel tucked in the pocket of the bib.
There were so many more treasures – an infield pass to the rally car races at Western Springs; bunting from the side-by-side Manukau Super Stage and a carrot-shaped novelty cap from the Ohakune Giant hillclimb. There was even a phonecard ticket from the Telecom Classic Motorfest with the $5 credit still unused.
I was mid-reverie when my missus intruded on my thoughts.
“Are you finally chucking that rubbish out?” she enquired.
“But this is some of my best stuff! I have decades of happy memories stored here,” I protested.
“I didn’t think you’d want to be reminded of any of it,” she opined. “Didn’t every single one of those events fold after you’d visited it?”
Bugger. Does anyone want some old icing?
This article originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of NZ Autocar Magazine.