The young lad next door is pretty good with his hands. Last year he converted a Tesla to diesel – not because he thought it was a good idea, but simply to see if it could be done.
Inevitably such talents were recognised further afield, and he was snapped up by one of the many professional race teams that proliferate in our big cities.
Indeed, that’s always been my unofficial yardstick of the health of the New Zealand economy (regardless of who’s in charge). If there’s cranes on the Auckland skyline, and fields of gentlemen racers driving European exotica, then we’re doing okay.
I didn’t see much of him during strict Lockdown – he was tinkering in his basement while I had my OnlyFans patrons to service. But as restrictions eased, I was pleased to see him heading off to work each day. I was, however, a bit surprised to see him coming home with spots of paint in his hair.
“I didn’t know your workshop did car detailing? Do Lamborghinis even get gravel rash on tarmac race tracks?”
He shook his head. “The boss has got us painting the lunchroom. All our customer cars are sitting in a garage at Hampton Downs, gathering dust. We’ve got nothing to do until the Auckland border opens.”
“That must be tough,” I sympathised, “particularly as I know your girlfriend lives next to the circuit. How’s the enforced separation working out for you?”
“Zoom sex just isn’t cutting it anymore.”
The next time I caught up with him he looked a complete wreck. He was bleary eyed, grazed and bruised, but with an air of smugness. It transpired he’d been making nightly visits to the northern Waikato as a blockade runner.
“After work, I drive down to Mercer and leave my car at the truck stop. When darkness falls, I then make my way cross-country to skirt around the checkpoint. She waits for me on the other side, and then we spend the rest of the night in her haybarn. Come daybreak, I grab a tyre from the silage stack and just float downstream on the river back to my car.”
That accounted for the pungent aroma – a mix of anaerobically fermented grass and river water. But the cuts and scrapes?
“There’s electric fences, drainage ditches, and barbed wire to traverse in the gloom. Plus she’s usually extraordinarily pleased to see me.”
As I said – good with his hands.
We chatted about the Downs, and how owner Tony Quinn has now added Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo to his stable of circuits. I asked if she’d noticed a slackening of use of the tracks while it remained out of bounds to Aucklanders.
“I thought the same – I asked her if it was a bit quieter in the area. But you know the Quinn business model – the tracks have to pay for themselves. So Hampton is still pumping seven days a week, even if it’s only bicycle races or a stag do visiting the karts.”
In the meantime, his team was gearing up for a ton of work. Promoters were frantically stitching together race meetings for the moment the new Covid traffic light system allowed travel outside Auckland’s confines.
I didn’t see him for another week but couldn’t believe my eyes when I did. He had a fat lip, dried blood around his ears and a pronounced limp. He gingerly layered himself onto a stool while I took stock of his injuries.
“Mate – what happened to you?” I pressed. “Did you fall in an offal pit? Or are the SAS now policing the border?”
He shook his head awkwardly. “My girlfriend’s parents are enduring a little matrimonial strife. Mum’s a staunch Jacinda-phile while her Dad’s one of the original Groundswell NZ supporters. Unfortunately, while things are a bit testy politically, they’re sleeping apart. So while Mum’s claimed the marital boudoir in the farmhouse, Dad’s sleeping…”
“…outside in the haybarn?” I finished for him.
“You got it.”
This article was first published in the December/January 2022 issue of NZ Autocar Magazine.