Eric Thompson: Hey, grandad, snap out of the past

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Eric Thompson manhandling a 'terrifying' Kawasaki ZR1 around Bathurst in the early 1980s. Photo / Supplied
Eric Thompson manhandling a 'terrifying' Kawasaki ZR1 around Bathurst in the early 1980s. Photo / Supplied

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the opening round of the Australian V8 Supercars in Adelaide at the weekend. The racing was fast and furious, the weather great, the atmosphere fantastic, as was the entertainment.

I've got to say, the Aussies sure as hell know how to put on a motor racing event - to them it's all about entertainment, with a bit of racing thrown in for good measure. The crowds poured into the circuit and a good time was had by all.

One thing that irritates me though, and I hear it everywhere, especially in motor sport, is the phrase "back in the good old days".

I think it should be removed from the lexicon of the English language.

There's no such thing as the good old days. They were crap. More so in motor racing because nothing worked - or stopped - properly.

These days are great - at least things go faster, stop faster, go around corners faster, don't leak oil all over the place, last longer and you don't have to be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger to race things anymore. I know this because I raced motorcycles in the 1970s and 80s. They were evil handling things then, so God knows what it must have been like to race a BSA Goldstar, or some other leaky thing, around a ploughed field in the 1930s.

I can remember hanging on for dear life on various race tracks around the world while the bike shook, rattled and rolled underneath me.

Trying to keep your feet on the pegs while the bike is developing an evil handling trait based on a cross between a wobble and a weave is difficult enough at the best of times. Couple this with having to sit on the seat rails because the fibreglass seat broke and fell off because of the frame flexing so much, really made you appreciate the chequered flag.

I won't even go into what went through your mind at the end of a long straight when you grabbed a fist-full of brakes only to find the lever went all the way to the handle bars.

The smell of boiled brake fluid is not pleasant.

And it's these memories, and others, which make me think I must have been mad to have raced on such archaic machinery. What I would have given to be able to chuck a modern-day superbike around Pukekohe, Donnington Park or even Bathurst.

Don't get me wrong; back in the day it was fun and a real hoot. Much more relaxed than now where racers have to be media-savvy and smooch up to sponsors and clients.

Would I do it all again back then? Too right. But they weren't the good old days, they were just different, and we should remember them for the memories they've given us and not as a measuring stick.

It's a bit like the numpties who try to work out the greatest Formula One driver of all time. Well, for a start, time is still marching on, so there can't ever be an answer. And secondly, comparing a Fangio with a Vettel is a fool's folly.

Fangio couldn't drive a 2012 F1 car at race speed, just as Vettel couldn't drive a 1951 Alfa Romeo 159B at race speed. For a start, it doesn't even have a computer.

So, it's important to remember we live in the now so enjoy it for what it is, not for what was years ago. Let it go people, let it go.

- NZ Herald

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