How not to drive a golf cart

The Mole has never been much of a golf player but The Colonel was bitten by that strange bug a few years ago and now regularly plays at the Wildwood Club, if only because it is down the road and reminds him of his childhood when a rather masculine nursemaid used to read him the stories of Toad of Toad Hall.

"Yes, I always liked that too," said The Mole. "Although I must say I always prefered Badger to Mole."

Once or twice The Mole had accompanied The Colonel but he has never played.

"I much prefer racing around in golf carts," said The Mole.

He was reminded of the conversation on Monday when news came in from the United States that Paul Tracy has rolled a golf cart while trying to jump it over sand dunes.

"He's done a Montoya," said Penelope (Roedean).

"I should remind you that Montoya hurt his shoulder playing tennis," said The Mole, with a tiny twinkle in his eye. "I remember at the time asking a doctor if it was possible to get such an injury when playing tennis and he replied: 'Sure, if you jump head-first off the top of the umpire's seat and go shoulder-first into the ground'. Those were his exact words."

There was not much happening in the Formula 1 world and a Champ Car driver hurting himself is always something that F1 folk keep an eye on - although this year it seems that has happened rather too many times.

"It seems pretty strange to me," she said. "I mean who takes a golf cart into the desert to jump over sand dunes. I think we should investigate."

The Mole had nothing better for Penelope to do. The Scott Speed to Champ Car story can wait a little.

It was only an hour before Penelope reported back, having called her people at Langley.

"Wild!" she said. "The story that came out over there was like the edited highlights," she said. "And Tracy left out all the good bits. For a start he forgot to mention that he and his pals were all in fancy dress when they were doing this."

"Was he dressed as a clown?" said The Mole.

"No," said Penelope. "But it ended up looking a bit like Halloween. Anyway, it seems they were at a party in Las Vegas, you know they have all these golf developments over there with big houses backing on to the courses. They all get a bit tanked up and then Tracy suggested that they go for a spin in new toy, a souped-up golf cart that will get up to about 70mph. They are all the rage in the US these days. So he talks them into it and then he's off at high speed on one of those mini-roads they have on US golf courses. He goes hurtling over a brow and on the other side there is a right turn with the camber sloping away from him. So the cart slides on to the grass, digs in and flips. Tracy lands on his shoulder, one of his pals cuts his head pretty badly, another is unconscious and stuck under the cart. Now here is the crazy bit. They are all in fancy dress so no-one has a mobile phone and so the guy who isn't badly hurt runs back to the house about a mile away and calls 911 and so they all end up in the hospital for half the night. They tell me they were lucky that none of them were killed."

"Wow!" said The Mole. "Pretty grown-up thing for a 37-year-old to be doing. I don't know. I mean can you imagine Michael Schumacher doing that sort of thing."

Penelope shook her head.

"Kimi Raikkonen maybe," she said.

The Mole smiled and nodded.

"I didn't tell you the best bit," she added. "Well you know that the Champ Car guys have been having a lot of trouble this year, what with Cristiano da Matta's accident, Justin Wilson's broken arm, Katherine Legge's huge shunt at Road America and so on. Not to mention AJ Allmendinger deciding to go off to NASCAR."

"Yes," said The Mole.

"Well, apparently, the golf shunt could have taken out more than one Champ Car driver!"

"What do you mean," said The Mole. "You mean the other guys involved were racing drivers as well?"

"So they say," Penelope added. "I did hear that one of them was a motorcycle racer but the other two were a couple of Tracy's rivals. No-one will tell me their names. There is a bit of a racing community out there in Vegas because it is sort of central and has some decent tax breaks and there is lots of opportunity in the real estate market. The climate is nice and it is a good place to be training, particularly in the winter."

"Racing drivers are all mad," said The Mole. "Look at Mark Webber. He gets a few weeks off and so decides to go off to Tasmania to spend six days in driving rain and freezing wind to swin, cycle, canoe and hike through the jungles of Tasmania."

"There aren't any jungles in Tasmania," said Penelope.

"You know what I mean," said The Mole.

The was a pause.

"It looks like Tracy may have to miss the last Champ Car race," Penelope said finally. "That would mean that three of the top six won't be there for the finale. You've got Allmendinger off in NASCAR. Wilson out with a broken wrist and Tracy with a shoulder problem. No wonder Sebastien Bourdais has won three titles."

November 6 2006

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