Did the LNP burnout on the road to Bathurst?
It seems the Prime minister is blaming the choice of tyres while overlooking his teams poor overall performance.
As Bathurst tragics were celebrating the final event featuring the legendary Holden, and only a few years since his government starved its manufacturers into submission, Scott Morrison slinked around the iconic racetrack, not quite the iconic Prime Minister, jumping over pit-lane into pole position without ever qualifying, retrofitting himself onto any engine mount he could find. All on the sniff of an oily rag.
Before we look at his hot-lap around the track with Mark Skaife, we must look back at the final gruelling two week parliamentary enduro leading up to Bathurst. Hoping to finish the season on a good note, Team LNP looked a shambles from the outset. Engine failure and issues with the transmission plagued its approach to the end of a pockmarked racing season, something it would have wished to avoid.
The event began with renegade LNP senators crossing the floor to join One Nation’s anti-mandate bill in a performative stunt for the hardcore fans, while Pauline watched on from pit-lane via telescreen. Somewhere now in the middle of the pack, her rise from the bottom is an upgrade from ‘Dancing with the Stars’, her journey-woman status on display at Team PHON, with slick media packages, backed up by the LNP senators expressing signs of free agency. Whatever strategy the unlikely bedfellows were planning, it was unraveled by the honest driving of a Tasmanian owner/operator using a modified UAP running body and a lot of homemade components.
It is no longer a surprise that the once dogged Jacqui Lambie has seen continual improvements over her journey. Speaking to journalist Peter FitzSimons, she recently reflected on her years at Team UAP, reflecting on her Hanson-like approach to driving, degloving tyres in practice without the ability to preserve them. This candid interview and her performances in the senate demonstrate a fire missing from many of the franchise drivers showing us all that old habits can die hard with the brilliant display we saw the other week.
On the Mount Panorama of politics, Lambie saw an opening in the renegade pack. She blindsided them on Skyline, took the inside corner on the Esses and Dipper, roared past them around Forrest’s Elbow and left them for dead on Conrod Straight. Excellent driving. Without the constraints of the big teams, Lambie has been one of the raw talents able to give us demonstrations of pure racing, her increasing involvement in the moral and operational strategy of her small team has brought a sense of weight and maturity somewhat lacking from the sport today. She has been willing to consider different approaches to her trade-craft, reaching out to the fans to help her improve her driving. And it shows.
Meanwhile, back in the wind tunnel, the Prime Minister was back at the dyno, trying to streamline a Religious Discrimination Act that was getting some resistance from senior engineers. This seemed too cosmetic to warrant an ill-conceived olive branch to the self-proclaimed minority of those who voted against the marriage equality act – those relegated to the stock-car drivers of history. To add to the confusion, new Quality Assurance Chief Andrew Wallace was light on credentials, highlighting a potential skills shortage in the area, allowing non-compliant fairings to run off the shelf from day one on the job. Looking to quell growing doubts over his credentials, team media assures us that he is “still finding his feet”.
Some are not even bothering to post competitive times, preferring to post mediocre times in an ever changing field, while others don’t seem to be racing at all. Despite encouragement from within to remain, some of the reserve co-drivers on the backbench have left many in the industry to ponder why they were ever there in the first place.
Labor has had an ordinary calendar year, running a lean strategy and focusing on R&D advantages into the next season. It is a risky strategy, with all of its perceived merits, for these incremental gains may be undone with a groundswell and a generational change in technology and mindset - all could be lost if the fans and the climate demand a more rapid change from petrol to electric.
The LNP, desperate from the loss of experienced crew and some promising drivers, looking at its outdated build and realising this might be its last attempt at glory, is looking toward former disgraced and disqualified prodigy, Gladys Berejiklian, to add some much needed calm into the team. This is despite her bringing the sport into disrepute, awaiting a decision from the race marshals and in spite of no indication from her personally. Regardless, due to the lack of good news at team LNP, and a recent culture to foster and nurture concepts of corruption, it has the racing journos licking their lips with hypothetical anticipation and reporting accordingly. It will be a litmus test to see how the fan base responds to her potential signing, if her once unforgivable misconduct will fly with modern audiences.
For a long time, race organisers have grown callous to the demands of the most important element of the event, us, the fans. Tending to look towards a small pool of advertisers, and favoring lucrative arrangements for the exclusive rights with the titans of industry, it has ignored calls for a return to a more pure and traditional form of representation and transparency in the sport.
But the Holdens are going, and all the Fords are American now. As the Holden Racing Team (HRT) go into history like Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) before them, as Walkinshaw, HSV, Tickford and the major political parties go into our fond memories, as the Lowndesies, Brockies, Hewsons and Keatings enter the hall of fame, and all the teams and drivers splinter into silos, what will happen to the essence of Australian motorsport, of our politics? With a lack of vision, a reliance on the big dollars of advertisers, the allowance of confusion regarding creative direction and misinformation from wayward executives, some fans are turning away from the sport altogether. No wonder the performances of the independent drivers are increasingly resounding with both the Holden and Ford fans, and the fact that the major players are not noticing this does not herald bright days ahead for the big teams or their fans.