January 13, 2015

Horse 1820 - Bring Back The Pusboxes!

Pusbox. (noun):
- literally a box full of pus.
1. An automobile that is small and unglamorous.
2. An automobile that is in poor condition.
3. An automobile that is prone to breaking down frequently.

What a pusbox is not:

If you read through the entry list for this year's Bathurst 12 Hour race you find a list of exotic sports cars like Ferraris, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, a host of Porsche 911 GT3s and a few other odd sports cars including some V8 Ford Focii, bringing up the rear. Nowhere do you find the sorts of cars that regular people buy. Absent are the Toyota Corollas and Camrys,  nowhere to be found are Mazdas 3, 6 or 2, and you can forget seeing Nissan Pulsars, Holden Cruzes or Honda Accords which are found in the driveways and petrol station forecourts of this wide brown land. Yes, this might be a GT production race of sorts but the old adage of "race on Sunday; sell on Monday" doesn't really apply.
Likewaise, the Bathurst 1000 in October does maintain a sort of foot in the showroom insofar as much as you can buy a Commodore, Falcon, Altima, S60 or E63 if you find want to but the race cars bear very little resemblance to their road going counterparts that you might see with some screaming kids inside, on Saturday morning.
Here lies a problem.

Unlike Europe which took to GT racing as something of a matter if national pride with Audi and representing Germany, Ferrari being the pride of the tifosi and the French who have had Renault and Peugeot win in the past, for countries like the United States, Britain and Australia which were isolated, the legends of motorsports in all three countries earned their stripes by thrashing about the sorts of cars which mum and dad had sitting in the driveway.
When I was a kid I saw many miles whizz past from the back windows of a Torana hatchback which was similar to the sort that Peter Brock took to the mountain and then we a Commodore sedan; which again won motor races.
It might sound strange but even the Ford Sierra which dominated touring car racing around the world, was the repbox of salespeople across Europe before they all morphed into Mondeo man. The best example of this was the BTCC in the late 1990s. For a short time it was the most furious racing series in the world as the value of the cars they wee driving, fell through the floor. Suddenly in cheap cars, some of the best touring car drivers in the world pounded them over kerbs and into corners with abandon; knowing that it didn't matter if they came home a little beaten (then the costs soared as teams bought expensive bits and the racing wasn't as desperate any more).

This is why I want to see a return to racing small cheap cars. There are plenty of 1.5L buzz boxes like the Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Honda Jazz, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio, Renault Clio, Peugeot 208... the list just keeps on going. I want to see cars that people actually buy, having the life kicked out of them; wanging wheels over kerbs and tyres screaming as the casing tries to separate itself from the rest of the tyre.
If the drivers knew that the machinery they were driving was far less valuable, then maybe they wouldn't be so previous with it. Instead of being really careful with a million dollar machine, what would happen if we let them loose in cars worth barely a tenth of that? Would we finally get to see Hooray Henry and Yahoo Yardley go door handle to door handle and complain abut what was on the stereo of each other's car?
It isn't even like it's an impossible dream either. The three Fiat 500s in last year's Bathurst 12 Hour proved that little cars can go the distance admirably. Why not give Marcus Ambrose a Ford Fiesta and watch him put the car through a four wheel drift through McPhillamy Park? What would be so bad about Craig Lowndes trying to struggle to pull up a Pug 208 at Murray's Corner from 200 plus clicks? More than fifty years ago, Timo Makinen rolled an Austin Mini Cooper S at Forrest's Elbow and once it was righted back onto four wheels, it ran like clockwork and only added 35 seconds to the lap. I very much doubt you could do that with an Audi R8.

The reason why things are as they are is because motor racing is an expensive business. Privateers who tend to be rich businessmen don't want to muck about in the cars of the plebs. The motor manufacturers themselves would rather play with their halo cars and bask in the apparent afterglow. That might work if you are a company like Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar who point to their history in Formula One and Le Mans but it was Subaru who most emphatically proved that street cred is built upon the dreams of normal people.
The famed WRX was originally based on their Impreza which was and still is a small family hack. I've written about this before but the Toyota 86 derives its name, not from some high end sports car but from the work code and opening VIN of a variant of their eighth generation Corolla. The AE86 Toyota Corolla Sprinter has achieved something of cult status because it was the last rear wheel drive Corolla and was perfect for touge racing.

There's a movie franchise which I think has got a perfect name: "Fast And Furious". I've not seen any of the seven films and so I can't comment on them but I can tell you from watching motor racing over many years that the most furious racing comes from a class of car which isn't necessarily the fastest.
I just reckon that if there was a 1000km or 12 Hour race for 1.5L cars, of the sort that normal people buy, it would have the necessary ingredients to produce something very tasty indeed. Who needs fine dining when you can have a kebab with chilli sauce?

I'm going to say something which almost sounds blasphemous to me. Given the right conditions, even a Toyota Yaris can sound cool:

If that's just one Yaris, imagine 50 cars like it. Whoever is in charge of motorsports in this country please...
Bring Back The Pusboxes!

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