Bob McMurray: Stranger than fiction . . .
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"Hi, is that the features editor at NZME?”
“Hi Bob, yes it is.”
“I have a great idea for a motor racing book, a film even.”
“Oh yeah? Go on.”
“Well the plot is all around one race at some obscure city track that nobody has heard of ...”
It starts with a young Kiwi driver trying to make his mark in Formula 1. He’s been struggling with a new team, new engine and a hot-shoe team mate, but his dream is to emulate his hero and mentor Chris Amon, the last Kiwi to earn a point in the Drivers’ Championship, more than four decades ago.
His team courageously battles against the odds to hone what has been up to now, a failed and ridiculed engine supplier.
The World Champion is a character in the mode of a sulking English home counties wannabe rapper. He has not won a race for six months and is being outpaced by his Finnish team mate.
His nemesis, a German of course, drives for an Italian team and is the antithesis of the World Champion as well as being the points leader; a calculating, ruthless driver now with the faster car.
Our Kiwi driver starts the race from the back of the grid after almost destroying himself and his team mate in qualifying with some inattentive driving, drawing the team management’s ire.
The race begins with a first-corner collision involving multiple cars — including that of a dashing Spanish two-time champion — but our Kiwi manages to get to the pits on just two wheels.
The team recommends the Spaniard pull out, as his car is heavily damaged. He refuses and continues the battle.
Meantime the German driver in his scarlet car has a dream run and outpaces all as the now-dispirited English driver falls back.
Two other characters enter the scenario. The dashing and charismatic Australian-Italian, winner of the last Grand Prix, is battling with his own team-mate, an erratic young Dutch driver with a parentage that betokens both motorsport skill and a preponderance to have on-track accidents. Many of them.
They clash, lap after lap with banging wheels while the fizzy drink-sponsored team management looks on passively.
As safety cars come on to the track, and the drivers in front of him drop out, our Kiwi slowly moves ahead, cruising around almost unnoticed. The Spanish hero also rises through the field, manfully manhandling a broken, ill-handling car.
More safety car intervention, and more drivers hit the wall and are out of the race. Still our Kiwi keeps out of trouble while his team mate fades from contention. Dare the audience hope at least one championship point is possible?
Then the fighting fizzy drink cars of the smiling Aussie and the occasionally sullen Dutchman smash into each other, and our Kiwi climbs higher still.
He rises yet higher when the Swiss/French driver forgets he is not driving in Paris, and smashes, unassisted, into the wall immediately blaming a following car for hitting him — the following car was 50m behind at the time.
Now we are down to the last few laps with the German in the scarlet car now in second position, after a slow pitstop that handed the lead to the rapper’s team mate, but with enough laps left in the race to retake the lead.
The job to recover the Swiss driver’s car takes longer than usual and the race is left with just a small handful of laps to run, so the German/Italian scarlet car driver decides he must pass the leader immediately, and tries to overtake him with disastrous consequences.
He out-brakes himself and falls out of the lead positions leaving the Finn in the silver car to win the race.
But things are not finished yet.
A tyre blows out on the leading silver car. As the Finn pulls to the side, the rapper from Stevenage slices through to take the win with the scarlet car second, and the Mexican heart-throb in the pink car third.
Our young Kiwi strides into the sunset having achieved his immediate goal — a Formula 1 World Championship point.
We also have subplots involving the under-rated Mexican, the millionaire’s son from Monaco and the billionaire’s son from Canada.
“So, what do you think? Hello, hello!”
“Er, sorry Bob, nobody would believe it.”