Sydney, Australia – May 2010, Part 1

I wrote most of this the week when I was in Sydney, but failed to complete it due to the fact that I was enjoying Australia too much to be in a hotel room pecking at a keyboard. Then I lagged when I got back to LA because….well I guess there's just other shit to do than pecking at a keyboard. Anyhow, here goes:

After having a hectic week preparing for the trip to Australia with Sierra Sierra for the Superlap Australia World Time Attack, I finally made it to Sydney. The 15 hour flight in economy between a 2 year old whiney little boy and a 4 year old girl who couldn't stop moving was a little rough. I can't really sleep on planes, but the only thing that kept me from sucking on a pistol between the two little kids was Quantas' kick ass entertainment system, my iPod, my Droid, and my excellent pair of AR noise cancelling headphones which was the best damn $29 I ever spent in my life. They were on a crazy one day only sale at Fry's from their normal $99 price about four years ago and I happened to be there and snatched them up right before a flight to Japan. Fuck those ear bud type headphones you stuff in your ear. They have shit for bass. If you think your ear buds have bass, you are probably a white dude whos listens to metal or jazz. There's nothing like wrap around headphones with full sized 30mm drivers that envelop your ears with deep, full bass. 30mm or 3mm? You figure out which one has more bass. Would you run a 1.2″ subwoofer in your car or a 12″ sub? Anyhow, for those of you old enough to remember the Acoustic Research brand, FYI the only thing left of the legendary speaker company the existed between 1952-2004 is the name. The company was bought out by some Chinaman company and now they make mostly crap products like power strips, cheap headphones, and other home theater accessories. I happened to buy probably the only good product the Chinese AR probably ever made.

Anyhow, I got off the plane and waited for my luggage. The thing that absolutely sucks ass about checking in a Pelican case filled with 3 laptops, a mess of cables, electronics components, looms, mil-spec connectors, spare ECUs and diff controllers, power adapters, etc. is that the contents always look like you're ready to reprogram the flight path and target coordinates for a nuclear bomb through the x-ray machine and the TSA always cuts the zip ties and checks the contents of the case. As a result, I think the TSA has a special cargo bay in the plane that guarantees you to get your luggage last because you made a TSA employee actually work. It took about 45 minutes after luggage started appearing on the carousel before my Pelican case showed up. Then after waiting in line for about 45 minutes to clear Australian customs because nine flights landed at the same time, I finally got out.

Allen @ Tomei Powered in Japan introduced me to the CEO of Superlap Australia (thanks Allen), Ian Baker. Ian was cool enough to offer to pick me up from the airport at 7AM. After I exchanged some greenbacks for Australian monopoly money and bought a prepaid cell phone at the Vodaphone kiosk, we went out to the parking lot and loaded up my luggage in his Holden “ute” with a 6.0L “Chev” LS2 engine. A ute is basically what we Americans would call a pickup truck. Aussies refer to anything Chevy as “Chev”.

Ian's truck is a version of the Pontiac G8 sedan with a bed instead of the rear seats and trunk. The build quality and fit and finish of the Holden is actually pretty nice. Left to right: Ian from Superlap Australia, Richard from SS, and Mike from SS. This picture was taken later in the week when we were on a grassy hill discussing the track from an elevated persepective.

After leaving the airport, Ian gave me a quick tour of Sydney and then we went to a French cafe in Balmain (first suburb right outside of Sydney) and had some excellent breakfast and “flat white” coffee. A flat white coffee is kind of like an inverted milk/coffee ratio latte which is perfect for me. After breakfast Ian dropped me off at the Vibe Hotel in downtown Sydney and he went to the office to handle some Superlap business. The Vibe staff was cool enough to let me check in early so I went upstairs and knocked out for about 45 minutes. At this point I was starting to suffer badly from jet lag and 36 straight hours of no sleep. hooked up an “Executive Room” at the Vibe Hotel Sydney at below the retail price of a standard room. The executive rooms are quite large and very comfortable with one wall built entirely of windows. My room was on the top floor too so I had a good view and got to feel like a baller for a couple nights. The Vibe is kind of like The Standard hotel, but without the pretensious trendy bullshit, shitty staff, and inflated room prices. It is centrally located in the city too. I definitely recommend the Vibe if you're planning to visit Sydney.

It was a bit cold in Sydney to use the pool because of the opposite seasons due to Australia being in the southern hemisphere, but the pool area was pretty nice.

Ian came back with his mate and engine builder, Jim, in a taxi and we headed to Darling Harbour where their mate Tyso (short for Tyson) docked his boat. The plan was to watch the 16 year old girl, Jessica Watson, who sailed around the world return to Sydney after 210 days at sea, but it was all really an excuse to hang out and drink beers. When we got to Darling Harbour I was looking around and came to the conclusion that Sydney is a beautiful city. Sydney was clean, charismatic, modern and traditional all at the same time. Anyhow, there were 6 guys on the boat shooting the shit and drinking beer. Then I looked around and saw there were other boats with people chillin and drinking beer, champagne, etc. I was starting to realize a theme here: Aussies like to drink. Aussies are all pretty friendly too so after I met everybody on the boat, I was immediately offered a beer. I figured when in Rome, do as Romans do. So what if I only had 45 minutes of sleep in 38 hours?

From left to right there's Jim, Ian, and Tyso in the red shirt. Tyso's boat is a pretty damn sweet 48' Mustang. It is full baller spec and optioned out. Below the deck are two bedrooms, two baths, dining area, kitchen, and even a central vacuum. It is powered by twin Volvo Penta diesel straight 6 engines. The Volvo Penta engines are twin charged with both superchargers and turbos. The boat also has an optional little joystick that allows the boat to move sideways. I'm not sure how it's done, but I bet it's pretty damn expensive to make a boat move sideways. Anyhow it makes life much easier when docking the boat and driving through Sydney's packed docks. While docked we were all eating fresh big ass prawns and having beers. Seen that movie District 9? Remember the “prawns“? The Aussies saying the word “prawns” reminded me of that movie.

Cooper was using pieces of prawn as bait and caught a Chinese Leather Jacket. I have never seen a Chinese Leather Jacket, but it is supposed to be good eating. I don't know if the Aussies were just fucking with me and inserted the “Chinese” before Leather Jacket, but they said the fish in recent years had invaded the local waters and started to take over. That sounded pretty Chinese to me so I bought the idea (see Monterey Park, CA). Just don't pull out the hook with your hands because the little fish has a shitload of little teeth like a pirahna. Anyhow, it turns out that Cooper is the owner of Turbosmart (the Aussie wastegate, boost controller, and blow off valve people) which explained the random discussions about wastegates, rotaries, and 6 second drag cars on the boat. Later in the trip I visited the Turbosmart facilities, but more on that in a later post.

Six Heinekens and some Italian beer later I discovered that being powered by alcohol eliminates jet lag. Sure I was a bit tired, but ticking along just fine as long as I was sipping beer and enjoying the scenery. How could I possibly let the jet lag kick my ass? The weather was perfect, I was on the other side of the world on a sweet ass boat docked in Darling Harbour, drinking beers (and I'm not even really a beer drinker), and hanging out with some cool guys with crazy accents talking about cars and fish. Tyso took us all for a cruise to various harbors around Sydney. If you ever visit Sydney, you have to check it out from the water. It has got to be one of the best ways to see Sydney. I was fortunate enough that Ian and his mates were showing me around, but there are various ferries, water taxis, and even jet boats that are easily accessible for enjoying the scenery.

Here's where all the boats dock at Darling Harbour. Sydney is built around the harbor so it is designed so that you can also get around by boat. My shitty camera phone could not capture the entire Darling Harbour, but you really need to see it in person to appreciate it. We dropped off a couple of the guys at various docks around the harbor. You can almost roll up to anybody's dock, get off or on, and then take off. The concept was all new to me having grown up in LA where you get around only by car so I thought that was awesome. It turns out that boats are another method of mass transit that people regularly use for commuting to work.

The Sydney cityscape seemed never ending even from the water; especially after eight beers and no sleep. I've been told that the ultimate panty dropper is to check out Sydney from the water at night.

The Sydney Opera House is probably one of the better known landmarks in Sydney. Up close it looks pretty crazy if you appreciate architechture. This is the view from the water.

After cruising around for a while and enjoying the sites, Kyle, Shamus and Cooper had to go home so it was me, Ian, Jim, and Tyso. We docked the boat, finished off the beers in our hands, and  walked out to Tyso's Turbo Cayenne. Once in the car and buckled up, he proceeded to drive like he was in the Tasmanian Rally through a residential district. I have to say that the twin turbo Porsche V8 propels that 4500 lb. mass of car pretty damn good. We rallied our way to a pub called Dick's in Balmain where we had more beers and a good dinner. It was a good time at the pub with those guys. Jim and I shared philosophies on engine building, customers, and parts while Ian and I discussed the future of Time Attack both in Australia and globally. Jim told me some funny stories too. It turns out Jim is the guy that Cosworth refers people to in Australia for vintage Cosworth engines such as the BD, YB, and DF series.

After dinner the jet lag kicked in full power and I was completely done. At 8:15pm Ian put me in a cab (because he wasn't done drinking yet) and I went back to the Vibe to pass out after having only 45 minutes of sleep in 48 hours. In the past 48 hours I was 30,000 feet in the air cruising at 650mph, cruising at 32 knotts in Australian waters on a damn nice boat, did a psuedo residential rally stage in a twin turbo Cayenne, drank probably a case of beer, met a whole group of cool Aussies and got to check out Sydney by water. That was a pretty busy 48 hours.

Getting over jet lag as quick as possible via alcohol is really kind of a new trick for me. By not sleeping until when you are supposed to (in local time) by being powered by alcohol, you are almost back to a normal sleep schedule by the next day. The excessive amounts of beer helps to keep you sleeping for longer than you would without drinking. Instead of waking up at 4:00AM like I probably would have without drinking, I slept all the way through to 8:00AM. All these years of travelling around the world and I never thought to power through jet lag with drinking. That was pretty stupid of me.

More on Australia in a near future post.

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