Four days of Bernie's circus maximus
Fiv Antoniou headed to the 2011 Australian Grand Prix with a pit-pass to just about everything
Armed with a hard to obtain four-day National Media go anywhere pass, I managed to cover my 27th consecutive Australian Grand Prix, which probably makes me the crustiest fossil on the planet.
Not to be denied, I was there in my best Scratch n' Sniff Kalvin not-so-Kleens to partake in the sights, sounds, smells and adrenalin rush of Bernie's Circus Maximus. Apart from media duties, I was also invited to display the HSV VX GTS after its recent unprecedented seventh consecutive Victorian Holden Day Award at the spiffy new V8 Supercar paddock.
Nice to see pimply-faced 'wanna-be tossers' dribble from both ends at the thought of driving any one of the pristine Holdens on display. But by the time they grow up, the greenie grinches would have us all riding horse-drawn carriages on dirt roads and eating bird seed - half an hour later you develop the urge to jump on Bob's bonnet and drop an organic hot n' steamy on the windscreen!
The eventual display pay-off, two 'sacred' Access All Areas Motorsport AGP passes which were quickly kidnapped by super-sponge daughter Mark 2 and GTR-turbo partner, never to be seen again except for their cameo appearances at the Victorian Wine Cellars daily lunch.
The 'site' display permit didn't allow me to drive my 'other' car anywhere near the track - the 'other' was actually a clapped out panel beater loaner can't-pull-a-greasy-stick-out-of-anybody's-bum Fiesta. The reason being that a few days earlier my AMG Merc had an altercation with another 'Henry', handled with incompetence by an out of work call centre exchange tourist, on a student visa and an expired international license who was in a hurry to go to work - go figure it out! If I was to navigate the restricted access Albert Park streets and roll up to pearly gate number 1, I required a Local Resident's Permit and a rarefied parking exemption tag!
So a quick call to my regular Port Phillip permit pusher managed to score me both passes and a free beer to boot, but I wasn't looking forward to displaying permits on the skat-box ride as my reputation was on the line - I would never be caught dead in a blue offal car.
Thursday wasn't bad for ducks if you happened to be one and neither was Friday, suffice to say having a display car on site is very handy for keeping rain gear, portable seats, drinks and snacks handy. I cannot recall a colder day at the Grand Prix ever. It wasn't exactly monkeys and brass knacks, but precipitation was so intense, officials red flagged the Supercar practice session leaving the wet and sorry punters with nothing to do but soak profusely.
Saturday was different. Having an all female family of petrol heads (both daughters had their kart licenses before they were eight), daughter Mark 1 on the spur of the moment, decided that it would be a great idea for granddaughter Mark 3, a munchkin of only 18 months and a very fast developing rev head, to experience her very first trackside visit.
We were concerned that the whole shebang would overcome short-stuff but as the kid already has an electric car she drives around in the back yard, it was worth the effort to introduce her to the big noise. A quick exchange of parking permits, a call to the HSV Club president for a day pass and the Subaru with kiddy seat on board was ready to venture into the chaos. At least it allowed me to arrive at the circuit in relative dignity without the freakin' loaner. It never struck me before, but a cute year-and-a-half old is like having a pit pass to everything. From the moment we walked into the circuit with stroller in tow she attracted the attention of everyone and opened many doors that mere motor mortals only dream of ever crossing the threshold.
As I was trying to get through the pit lane crowd, some person commented how nice it was to see a husband and wife bring their child to the circuit. I don't think that Mark1 heard that or she would of suffered a massive coronary on the spot - It's hard to convince the recalcitrant offspring despite her perception of the incontinence and occasional involuntary methane discharge, I look too young to be a pappou!
Little busybody wanted to walk everywhere, while I was left doing the granddad thing driving the empty pusher into anything and everything (sorry forgot the damn 'P' plates) wondering where all the time went. It brought back memories when both Mark 1 and 2 were attending the event years ago.
Off-course the only saving grace, unlike the little one's mother and aunty, is Mark 3 was too young to purchase any of the over priced merchandise or ask the granddad handy bank to buy a skimpy mega bucks Sebastian Vettel tank top or the million dollar Lewis Hamilton comatose bikini! In what was no time at all the little one endeared the pit crew at the Vodafone Mercedes F1 pit garage posing for photos on their Formula 1, sat inside the Kelly Brothers' V8 supercar, enchanted the well endowed Bundaberg pit ladies (she thought that would impress Magpie daddy who was at the footy), became an honorary 'Bond' girl and then ran back to her favourite GP V8 Supercar utilising 70 percent of her entire vocabulary yelling 'muuuum, mine, car, mine'.
Formula 1 noise didn't seem to stop her either and after about three hours of chasing tiny-tot around (still driving the empty stroller which by now had run over umpteen members of the unsuspecting public) I was exhausted and about to loose maximum points on my pusher license- Where do these rug-rats find all the energy, a little less Wheat Bix please.
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