Despite the Wachowski’s cinematic masterpiece ‘Speed Racer’ (2008) being one of my favourite movies I’ve always been totally ignorant about the sport of motorcar racing (the only time I’ve ended up with oil on my hands is when I’ve tossed a salad), so when the opportunity to attend the Galloway Hills stage of a rally car event was presented to me I decided to accept, both to discover what rally car racing was like and to finally figure out where the bloody hell Galloway is.
What immediately struck me on arrival was that I was the only person there wearing corduroy. How could this be? After all, the person who had invited me had specifically instructed me to dress for the conditions of standing for hours in sub-zero temperatures in the depths of a remote Scottish forest during autumn, so corduroy was, obviously, the natural choice, figuring that the light brown of my jacket would perfectly compliment the umbers, sepias and deep burnt siennas of the surrounding vegetation. So why was everyone else dressed head to toe in multiple layers of thick woollen trappings: Arctic jumpsuits, balaclavas, waterproof trousers and thermal gloves as though they were about to traverse the poles?
I could only look on them with a combined sense of condescension and pity. Did they not know what they were missing out on? There they were warmly insulated from the glories of nature, cosseted like fragile goslings, whereas I was revelling in the bracing, invigorating, paralysing and bone-destroying glacial chill of a brisk autumn morning. Fortunately the cold soon eased when the sun came out with the temperature soaring from a pain-inducing -7 to a teeth-shattering -6, and with that the race was also underway.
They blasted past with the furious desperation of multi-coloured, home-sick metallic bees returning to the hive, each a different, dazzling colour: puce, lapis, flax, chartreuse and light-bending heliotropes. Yet what was most overwhelming was the noise, the mechanical roaring of so many individual machines almost musical as though a mass choir of crankshaft mechanisms were performing Palestrina in unison (“Sitivit anima mea ad Deum fortem vivium: quando veniam et apparebo ante faciem Dei?”)
However, I was somewhat glad of the auditory assistance as the surface of my eyeballs had slowly started to frost over, the process of which was gradually disrupting my vision, but the speed at which the drivers were throwing their jalopies through the woods was palpable.
In fact, I only knew the race was over when a deadening silence suddenly descended upon the forest and it was only then that I realised I had no idea who had won or what had actually been going on and was left as bewildered as the little woodlands animals who were now reappearing Disney-like from their burrows, rubbing their eyes and embracing each other after all the intruding ruckus.
After the stage was over the exhausted cars were lined-up and delicately deposited on blankets of the purest Persian and Mesopotamian plastic (I assume) on which they were pampered, cleansed, fed and soothed before they set off again on their continuing adventures, adventures I would not be accompanying them on as my body was now undergoing a severe form of irreversible cryogenesis.
Still, I had had a fun time and found I only had two real complaints about rally car racing that dampened my enthusiasm somewhat, and they were –
1/ None of the cars were sentient and driven by Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett.
This was a major disappointment for me as at no point during the race did any of the rally cars split into two pieces in order to prevent David Tomlinson from overtaking and certainly at no point did any of the cars exhibit signs of consciousness or a higher form of self-awareness let alone wink at anybody with their headlights. It was at that precise moment it dawned on me that my initial expectations of what rally racing was might’ve been somewhat inaccurate.
Which leads me onto my next complaint, which is…
2/ The race didn’t culminate in giant custard pie fight.
This was the other part of the rally race I had been most looking forward to — the giant custard pie fight — so you can imagine the crushing disappointment I experienced when the race didn’t end in one.
I had my suspicions there might not be a climactic giant pie fight when I noticed that the names of the competitors were all rather mundane and ordinary with not a single driver called “Professor Fate”, “Hezekiah Sturdy” or even the slightest mention of a “Great Lesley”. Likewise none of the vehicles, at ANY point, fired rockets, sprouted wings or bounced up and down on springs. Once again, my expectations were dashed against the brick wall of reality.
Those quibbles aside it was still a fun day and as I type this up I can finally feel my fingers again as they tap upon my keyboard. Although it does leave one question unanswered — would I go to a rally again? Sure, but only if it was organised by Ken Annakin or Blake Edwards.