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by David Zalstein

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January 26 is one of our great nation’s most contentious days of the year – Australia Day. Now being the simple folk we are at CarAdvice, we’ll leave debate about this country’s origins to others, and instead focus on enjoying this big island we all live on. Plus, we can use the day as an excuse to have some fun in cars.

Welcome to the 2016 CarAdvice Australia Day Challenge.

Last year’s CarAdvice Australia Day challenge was our first ever: An Australia Day BBQ battle royal. Armed with a Holden Ute, I took on James and a Holden wagon and – annoyingly for me – James won.

Anyway, a new year, a new approach. So for 2016, I’ve opted to take on James in the latest version of last year’s winner, the 304kW/570Nm, 6.2-litre LS3 V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive VF Series II Holden Commodore Sportwagon SS V Redline.

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Teaming a 143kW/470Nm 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engine with four-wheel drive and 225mm of ground clearance, James has decided to take on this year’s challenge with the new Ford Everest.

So what is this year’s challenge? Well, while last year was all about the classic Australia Day BBQ, this year it’s all about a classic Australian: The good old Aussie meat pie. It doesn’t get much more ‘Straya than that.

The goal then is to be the first person to get from the Anglesea Golf Club, located just off Victoria’s picturesque Great Ocean Road, to Kenty’s Bakery a few kilometres away in Aireys Inlet… With a pie of course.

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A loud and proud, “Three, two, one, go!” from our residenent shooter Tom Fraser, and we’re away.

Not content with my loss last year – and some ‘mild fettling’ of the rules by James – I ever so slightly jump the start by just a wee bit. Let’s put it down to youthful exuberance.

In, belt on, big V8 fired up, and I’m off.

Seemingly content with a ‘slow and steady’ approach, James hops into Ford’s latest SUV and rolls out of the Anglesea Golf Club car park.

With James not far behind in my rear-view mirror, my strategy is fairly simple: keep him back there and it’s a win. Seconds later, James turns right where we’re supposed to be going left. Great, now it’s anyone’s game…

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For the unaware, the most direct route from Anglesea to Kenty’s in Airyes Inlet is a 10km-odd stretch of the Great Ocean Road – a road and its near-by communities heavily affected by devastating bushfires late last year.

It’s also January in Australia, though, and that means two things: hot weather and school holidays. Being the smart guy that he is – and the father of a six-year-old daughter – James had already thought of these things and worked out a plan B: don’t go on the road, go off it.

The only real alternative to joining the throng of holiday makers meandering along the Great Ocean Road (GOR), is a run of around 17km worth of largely gravel backroads, slicing through scrub and trees. And this is the path James goes with.

Not even officially on the GOR yet, the Holden Sportwagon and I sit in traffic, banked up behind several other cars all waiting to peel out onto the iconic ribbon of blacktop.

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Meanwhile, James and the Ford Everest are already clocking up the miles at a good clip. Sure it’s dusty, sure it’s bumpy, but he’s having a ball. Even keeping an eye out for the occasional ‘drop bear’…

A few kays in, and finally, the low-speed crawl out of Anglesea is replaced by 80km/h zones and more space and room to let the Holden’s awesome sounding V8 rip a little. And let’s be honest, the only thing better than the view of the coast from the GOR, is that same magical view but with no cars in front of you.

With both cars’ satellite navigation systems letting James and I know we’re getting close, there’s nothing in it. James can see houses and the end of the gravel road, I’ve just passed the ‘Welcome to Aireys Inlet’ sign. This is going to be close.

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I crack on my left indicator to pull into the Kenty’s Bakery car park. I’m looking for James. I’m looking for an Everest.

“No way!” I see the big (and dirty) Ford already there and a very self satisfied James Ward calmly sitting outside Kenty’s with two pies in front of him – one half eaten.

And that’s that. The winner of the 2016 CarAdvice Australia Day challenge is James. And while I’m, yet again, hugely disappointed with the result, James highlights what Australia Day is really all about.

“It’s not whether you win or lose, or drive a Ford or Holden, or maybe win twice in a row. It’s Australia Day. It’s about getting out there, enjoying the country, getting some sun, maybe a little sunburnt, or perhaps relaxing and enjoying a pie with a mate…”

And on that note, from all the team at CarAdvice, Happy Australia Day.

Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Australia Day images by Tom Fraser.

Have you got a suggestion for next year’s 2017 CarAdvice Australia Day challenge? Let us know your ideas and you never know, you could even be part of it.

Note: If you’d like to make a contribution to the bushfire-affected communities of the Great Ocean Road – like CarAdvice has – you can, via the Wye River and Separation Creek Community Appeal or the Surf Coast Bushfire Appeal.

 






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