Dylan Turner and I have always been good mates and have rallied together for years.
The partnership has not been exclusive – he knows I will abandon him for the highest bidder and there was a period (that coincided with my incarceration in a Turkish prison) where he was obliged to use other navigators.
But when we are together, it’s magic. Indeed, there was one recent rally season where we largely ran amok amongst the national championship contenders in his elderly Evo 8.
No matter what we did, we couldn’t seem to keep off the podium and the accumulation of silverware was downright embarrassing.
However, lately I’ve felt something is amiss.
He’s currently running an Audi AP4 that he had built from an A1 chassis. The car, backed by the Giltrap Group and LJ Hooker, looks a million bucks and exactly matches the playboy persona I like to project. I quietly suggested to Dylan it was time to renew our dynamic pairing but was surprisingly rebuffed.
“I’m sorry,” he apologised, “but Shane is using the Audi at the moment.”
Shane? Shane who?
It transpired that Dylan had first met the phenomenon that is Shane van Gisbergen back when he was just a youngster. Dylan was a regular visitor to the ‘Cheeseburger’ ranch where they’d muck around on quad bikes, and had been comprehensively schooled by the gangly teenager.
“He’d lap me nearly every second circuit, and I swear he’d just go right over the top of me on the jumps.”
Dylan happily sponsored SVG as he progressed from karts through the feeder formulae, and then his breakthrough into V8 Supercars in 2007.
But as Shane surged on to greater triumphs, I hadn’t realised his relationship with Dylan was also changing. Dylan had quietly morphed from a background supporter, to friend, to unabashed fanboy.
I remember ringing him during a Bathurst 1000 live broadcast to see if there was a better class of sausage roll on offer at chez Turner. I could barely make out a word over the background noise so told him to turn down the volume on his TV.
“Mate – I’m at the circuit! I thought I’d better come over to wave the flag for SVG.”
That sounded like an awesome boys’ trip so I was a little miffed that he hadn’t asked me to tag along.
“Where are you sitting?” I politely enquired. “Are you on the main straight or up at McPhillamy?”
“I’m in the pits,” he answered, and I watched appalled as the TV camera panned across the Triple Eight Race Engineering enclosure. There was Dylan, standing next to Garth Tander, grinning like a Cheshire Cat auditioning for a toothpaste commercial.
I saw him raise his phone back to his lips.
“Mate – I’m on TV!”
But while SVG accumulated Supercar titles, dabbled in GT enduros or the occasional NZ Grand Prix victory, I always assumed rallying would be OUR thing. That was until team van Gisbergen raised the prospect of running his Audi in the NZRC.
“It made a lot of sense,” acknowledged Dylan.
“The real estate market is not flash at the moment so I need to concentrate more on my business than my sport. Shane’s not looking at moving into the WRC (though he’s clearly got the talent) – he sees rallying as more a fun outlet rather than his bread & butter job of being a professional race driver.”
“The cool thing is he’ll do the car justice, and give us a clearer indication of how the local AP4’s perform against the European-built R5s.”
He couldn’t help but add a salesman’s spin to the move, “And having his bum in the car can’t hurt its resale value.”
I know when I’m beaten so didn’t even bother asking whether our monthly poker night was still on. It clashes with Shane’s inaugural NASCAR race in Chicago and I was too scared to ask if Dylan had tickets booked to the Windy City.
So SVG has gained a chief cheerleader and I’ve lost my BFF.
I wonder what Hayden’s doing this weekend?