A RUN WITH THE POLICE
Well, said I'd post a few driving tales, let's start with this one....
Australia, what a great place for a run in a fast car, well, it would be if the cops would leave us alone, but, if you don't mind getting out bush a bit, or having a run at 3am or in the wet when all the snap-happy bastards push off then there are still opportunities to cut lose and let your car, or bike, have its head.
Here in WA there are some nice runs where you are unlikely to be disturbed, but you do have to get a ways out. About 300kms South of the city there is a great piece of road that was built by a mining company but never really used, no idea why. It has a good surface, some great corners, and the visibility is excellent so if any boys in blue are around you will see them from miles away. Consequently they never bother, and it is in fact rare to ever see any other vehicles on that stretch.
It was there a couple of years back now that I let the Peugeot have a run and discovered, as is so often the case with European cars, that the speedo is dead serious, it pulled all the way to the 260km/h mark and pegged the needle...
But that's just straight line, whilst the corners are great they are not really that challenging. For a real driver's piece of road you need somewhere more interesting, and out of Port Augusta, where I used to live some years ago, there are some wonderful driver's roads.
You can take the back road to Adelaide, going via Claire, and if you leave early it is a glorious drive with hardly a car on the road and no cops for miles, or for a shorter blast you can just drive up to Melrose via the Horrocks Pass, a delicious set of curves and runs, but sadly now becoming a little deteriorated with pot holes where you don't want them.
Best of all though is the run to Quorn via the Pichi Richi Pass, a road that is still maintained and that challenges even the best of drivers.
During my time in Port Augusta I had my first Fiat X1/9, I've since owned another one, and if i could find one without rust I'd be tempted yet again. By no means the fastest cars around, although some things can be done about that, as I'll describe, but the handling is astonishing.
My first one I left on standard rubber, 13 inch Michelin XAS', but just about everything else was tweaked, the last one was on 14 inch wider rubber, but really, as I had thought, it made very little difference.
The engine and suspension was where most work was done, uprated gas shocks, free-flow air filter and exhaust, uprated pistons (it blew a piston whilst still under warranty so I paid a little extra and had a somewhat wilder cam and pistons installed and some head work to lift compression a little.) Lastly there was a deal of carbie work done, Weber, nice to work on.
When everything was done I had a car that still looked pretty stock, sounded a little warmed over but from out-of-the-box 75 bhp and 72 lb/ft of torgue, it now took the dyno to over 100 on both numbers with ease, but not so hot as to be unreliable. You can pull a lot more out of the little 1300 motor if you want to race, I just wanted a little more grunt, so I took the advice of an excellent company in Georgia, Bayless Racing, and kept it pretty simple.
Once all run in that blast up the Pass was calling to me like you wouldn't believe, and I had a secret weapon - my girlfriend of the time was a hot little red-headed cop who liked going fast, in bed and out of it. She casually checked on the speed trap activity at the station and Saturday Morning early looked to be the time....
We got up very early, had a bite to eat and as the sun was rising over the Flinders Ranges I took the targa roof off and we motored sedately out of town, across the cooling pond of the power stations, known locally as "Lake Knockout," and through to the turn off to Stirling North, letting everything, engine and rubber, warm up nicely.
We passed gently through the then small village of Stirling, and as the 110 sign appeared Laura gave my knee a squeeze and said "Punch it."
Down a gear and foot to the metal, the little car seemed to squat for a split second, then the speedo was climbing fast as we accelerated into the long straight before the climbing curves into the ranges. 110 was passed in no time, and the needle kept on climbing to finally peg out, with the tacho just nudging into the red, a calculated 180KMh, back in top gear, not at all bad for 1300cc's. Stock 160 was about it, but the mods had provided acceleration more than top speed, that was what was going to make those corners rushing towards us now such fun.
If memory serves the first corner is a nice sweeping right hander, that promptly doubles back on itself before dropping into a dip that climbs into a second corner, nice camber, and then the corners start coming thick and fast. I was able to stay flat out on the fiirst pair, no squeal, then on the brakes for the next much tighter one but still enough torque in top to not need a change, adopt the classic slow in-fast out approach with the car nicely balanced, well within limits but still pulling upwards of a G lateral, steering beautifully on the throttle, the Momo wheel, an essential indulgence, hardly moving in my hands.
The air was rushing past us but the well designed cabin was just letting enough in to tostle our hair nicely, Laura's long crimon locks fluttering at the edge of my vision.
About half way into the run, where the corners get tighter, a bike appeared ahead of us, Kawasaki 900, I knew the rider, someone else out for an early morning heartstarter. In two more corners we caught him, the perfect place, the next corner was open, I could see across it, no oncoming traffic, snatch third, balance on the throttle and we were past him just before the apex, him leaning in hard but no match for the handling of the little FIAT. I caught a glimpse of him grinning in the rear vision mirror, he had followed my hotting up of the car closely, but now it was about to become VERY busy.
Almost the last set of corners in the pass are closely linked right angles, advisory signed at 30kmh, a tight left over a small bridge, very short straight. hard right hander under a narrow railway bridge, curving immediately left again as you clear the bridge.
I brought the car into the first, heeling and toeing down to second and holding on the redline, revelling in the exhaust note and apexed at about 80, snatched third for the short straight, then back down again to repeat the process under the bridge - just because I could, the nice tight gearbox and quick clutch making it easy. A whiff of oversteer, FIAT built that in as a reminder to you that you are moving kind of quick, then the tail bit again and with very little lock applied we hurtled under the bridge perfectly set up for the exit corner.
From there it gets easier, and less interesting, a few more corners then the straight into Quorn.
We were over half way into the straight, redlined again when my Kwaka mate finally caught us, straight line he was always going to be a little faster than me, but not much, his cheery wave was a little unconvincing as he struggled his way past us....
Easing off at the town limits, burble down the main street and there he was just getting off the bike in front of the deli.
"Man!!! That thing flies in the corners!!!"
"Yeah, think I can do a little better yet, but, what was our time Laura?"
"14 minutes 38 seconds from Stirling."
"Hell!!! Ol' Doc Singh was bragging about doing it in 16:20 the other day, and that was in his 240Z!!"
The local rev head doc, he crashed three cars in the pass over the years, including a Ferrari, never put a scratch on himself, would have hated to have had his insurance policy.....
"Guess you own the record then, for a while......."
Owned it for quite a few years actually, until a rally guy came through in a Lancia Stratos and took nearly a minute off it. I could live with that, whilst lusting for a Stratos.....
We had a coffee then headed back, taking it gentler on the way down, the normal folks would be awake by now, but it was still a nice quick and utterly safe run.
As we cruised into Port the car felt sweet and happy, finally allowed to have its head.
Laura was positively bubbling, ever gone out with a cop? They definitely have their plusses, including a nice line in handcuffs...... wink, wink.
Early morning flat chat burn up, back for a day of kinky sex, there is a better way to spend a Saturday?