Opinion: Let's put the 'boy racer' label to bed once and for all
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Okay. Where do we begin.
Last Wednesday's edition of the New Zealand Herald sported, perhaps for the first time in its lifetime, a Holden VL Commodore on the cover.
Wedged between promo for Viva’s well-being issue and yet another story about a male actor sentenced for sexual assault, the Commodore image was fronted with the words; “Let’s deflate boy racers.”
A few pages in and there’s the opinion piece. It’s also been published on the nzherald.co.nz website and Facebook page, where it’s done what ‘these kinds of articles’ have a tendency of doing — it’s taken a very wide scope of motoring enthusiasts and put them into a neat little box.
“Day after day, and night after night, snotty-nosed, pimply-faced little males in hotted-up pieces of predominantly imported Japanese junk, drive at speeds that would make Rocket Lab sit up and take notice,” reads perhaps the article’s most vitriolic passage.
“These imbeciles drift sideways up and down the road, tyres smoking, stereo pumping, beer cans flying. On occasion, they wipe out and I am left to repair my fences. They always leave the scene before I can get to them. If I could actually get to them, I worry what I will do.”
Can BMW or Audi drivers not be ‘boy racers’ too? I didn’t know the label was socioeconomically exclusive…
Shaun Loader and his Nissan Silvia S14 laying smoke at a Masterton Motorplex burnout competition. Photo / Hennie Basson
There’s more in there too, but I’m not here to perform a dissection. If you can’t bring yourself to wade through the full story, the general gist is that the author lives on an intersection in Whanganui that attracts “boy racers” and “imbeciles” who terrorize the locals with their noisy machines. This is linked to New Zealand’s less-than-stellar road toll, as well as the lack of interest from local authorities from the police and the local council.
Yes ... a very familiar story.
Let’s get this out of the way early; ‘boy racer’ is a frankly ridiculous and outdated term. A huge chunk of the country’s modified car culture is propped up by the middle aged, and by women. In regards to the latter, we’re a world leader for female involvement in cars and motorsport. Hell, my first two roles as a motoring journo have been under the watch of female editors.
I’m no rocket scientist, but those numbers are smaller. So why empower an outdated, incorrect term like ‘boy racer’?
Apart from making it easier to shoe-horn stories like this into a ‘them and us’ binary, it plays off an idea that’s followed car enthusiasts around like a bad smell for decades. It all serves to divide us, and when it comes to the crunch those who like cars of any kind will be lumped into the ‘car-loving imbecile’ gumbo whether they like it or not.
His name is Brett Kenny.
Brett’s nose isn’t snotty, nor is his face painted with pimples. More to the point, Brett is actually a significant part of the movement to give more and more young drivers an outlet where they can lay rubber onto pavement in a safe environment.
Brett is part of the crew that runs the New Zealand Burnout Champs (NZBC), doing so alongside Jenn and Ricky Ireland. If you know burnouts, then you’re probably very familiar with Ricky Ireland’s bright green Holden HZ ute — a vehicle that is probably as far from being “Japanese junk” as is measurably possible. You can check them out on Facebook by clicking here.
Brett and I together noted the worrying irony of using a photo depicting a driver operating a car in a legal and safe environment, to illustrate illegal ‘boy racer’ debauchery. The photo itself is some 13 years old, and the VL Commodore is long gone. Brett now hustles a black VT smoke machine.
If there’s one element of the opinion piece that I can agree with, it’s the criticism of an apparent lack of action from the police.
“I've called the police but, every single time they've said they don't have enough manpower to deal with the situation,” she says.
“You learn very fast too, that you'll end up pissing them off if you keep complaining. They make that very clear. So you stop calling.
“The feeling is one of powerlessness. If the local council doesn't care, and the police won't accept video evidence of dangerous driving that risks both life and limb, then what can we do? I know we're not alone in this, despite that fact that it feels like it.”
Photo / Matthew Hansen
The purpose of this response isn’t to defend the people that use their cars to terrorize public streets. Those people aren’t car enthusiasts — they’re morons. And if there’s anyone who hates their behaviour more than local residents, it’s the rest of the motoring community who have to deal with the continual backlash from articles like this one.
As far as those offending people are concerned, police should be more than capable of giving them a tune up. Loss of license, seizing of cars … all options should be on the table when dealing with those endangering others.
But don’t let shock-and-awe stories like these spread misinformation. The motoring community is welcoming, multi-faceted, and packed with some of New Zealand’s smartest and most knowledgeable people.
“Boy racer twits”? That’s the language of the uninformed.