Peter Bromhead: Driven to agitation by snarling cars

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

One of the disadvantages of residing in "up-market" Parnell is that public events occasionally occur in the adjacent Domain, resulting in a cacophony that tests sweet reason for those living close by.

This week it's been rally cars snarling around the Museum.

I appreciate that viewing the reigning international champion driving flat out in his diminutive Citroen is intoxicating for petrol-heads, but why are today's rally cars so damn noisy?

It wasn't always so. In my own rally-driving days (hard to believe folks, but sadly true) variations to specifications for competitive purposes consisted of a few extra spotlights on the front bumper, plus a shovel tied to the roof to dig one's way out of snowdrifts and mud on mountain roads.

I don't recall my genteel Sunbeam-Talbot ever waking up the neighbourhood as we sped through the night on time trials - and before you laugh your head off at the thought of this sedate, granny limousine having any sporting inclinations, check what won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1955.

However I concede that in today's competitive world my Sunbeam wouldn't stand a chance, even immobile for a tyre change.

Before one could jack up a Sunbeam with the ghastly tool that came with the car, today's Citroen's team would have swapped the gearbox, fitted a new rear axle and sent Monsieur Loeb on his way again.

So, what's it like to be the coolest avatar in the world of rallying?

Well, I tried chatting to Loeb last time he was here, but he turned out to be predictably arrogant and non-commutative in the best traditions of someone who knows he's a Gallic prodigy, so I left him to consume his baguette.

During this week's event, when Parnell's streets were briefly filled with enthusiastic fans bedecked in chequered flags and logo-covered racing clothing, all eagerly waiting to watch their heroes roar past, I noted a demurely dressed middle-aged lady carrying a cello case.

"You don't look like you're here to watch Loeb strut his stuff," I said, acknowledging her musical instrument.

"Quite right, dear," she responded with a smile as she picked her way through the crowd. "It's Bach and coffee that turn me on. "

- NZ Herald

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