Our Great Race will be the greatest of them all
Move over Bathurst, we're taking your title. Steve Deane has the perfect venue for a motorsport dream.
New Zealand needs a Great Race.
Sure, we’ve hosted plenty of great races on the islands of our little nation, but that ain’t the same thing as 'having' a Great Race. Like Bathurst - the greatest Great Race of them all which, for now, only has the Iditarod sled dog race across Alaska competing for that hallowed title.
It may lack the huskies of the Iditarod, but the Great Race is great in so many other ways, the lack of sled dogs can be overlooked.
For starters, the TV commentators at Bathurst all wear fireproof race suits. That is surely the greatest affectation in the history of sports broadcasting; and must immediately be adopted by all other sports.
If Scotty Stevenson isn’t wearing a full All Blacks strip and hasn’t doused his plums in liniment for the World Cup quarterfinal call against Ireland, Spark Sport will have truly dropped the ball. Likewise, Jeremy Wells must appear in full cream flannels when he takes over as lead commentator for the Black Caps’ home matches.
It simply must happen. Because, as the great coverage of the Great Race aptly demonstrates, there’s simply no reason for commentators not to dress up like the are actually participating in an event.
Of course, there is most likely some health and safety regulation the network can point to that demands Greg Murphy be dressed to survive a space shuttle explosion to be able to safely conduct his pit lane interviews. That the vast majority of his interview subjects seemed to be okay swanning around in jeans and a race team polo shirt would perhaps undermine that stance, but who cares? It looks cool, and if Murph does happen to stumble into a raging refuelling inferno, at least 90 per cent of his body will be saved from incineration.
The next greatest thing about the Great Race is the amount of stuff you can get done while not really watching the first five and a half hours.
In this column’s case, that list included playing cricket, mowing the lawn, spraying weeds, filleting fish, cooking a barbeque and half repairing an entire laminate floor. Half repairing is the process of disassembling something, leaving it disassembled for a minimum of 12 months and then paying someone else to finish the job (anyone requiring a half repair should contact this column via our website and our experts will make sure your job isn’t done for you).
In the time it took us to do all that, a heck of lot happened in the Great Race. None of it, or course, mattered. Because in the Great Race, the only bit that really matters is the last hour.
It’s in this crucial last hour that just about every adult male watching will say to themselves: ‘what the hell, it’s Bathurst, I’ll give up drinking on Sundays next week’, thus ensuring they will be suitably primed for a brilliant finish that will involve some cars needing to save fuel to make the finish line, some cars needing no other cars to crash to give them a chance of nicking a race they have no right to win by virtue of a hail Mary fuel strategy, and the cars that weren’t supposed to crash, crashing. In the end, there will be a madcap sprint to the line that renders all the drama of the previous six hours meaningless.
It’s the same every year – and it is unspeakably brilliant.
New Zealand unquestionably needs a Great Race of its own. And there is nothing really stopping us from having one.
The key ingredients for hosting a Great Race are simple – and happily our great nation already possesses them.
First, the venue needs to be a godawful, remote hellhole that, were it not for the fact it hosted the Great Race once a year, would be the type of place that inmates of Guantanamo Bay would consider a downgrade if rehoused there.
Happily, Aotearoa has a surfeit of suitable godawful, remote hellholes for which being bulldozed to make way for a racetrack and then invaded by a couple of hundred thousand bogans in Winnebagos once a year would be considered positive regeneration.
Given that the remaining key ingredients for hosting a Great Race are a defunct auto manufacturing industry and irrational brand loyalty to overseas-manufactured products, it’s somewhat remarkable New Zealand doesn’t already have a Great Race of our own already.
That day will come. Because, as this column’s 12-year-old son observed as Scott McLaughlin climbed on the roof of his Shell V-Powered banger and hugged a Frenchman, “Bratwurst is awesome”.
The Fritz's Wieners Huntly 1000 is surely just around the corner.