Australian Rules Drag Racing
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Three Portlands
Augur-Haruspex

The End Is Nigh

THREE PORTLANDS FRIDAY, 13 MARCH, 2020 $3.25/£2.50/₿3.5e-5

AUSTRALIAN RULES DRAG RACING

AUSTRALIANS RULE AT DRAG RACING

Sports Correspondent (Unofficial) Sofia Haugen


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It turns out Australians really like ACDC. Or "Akka Dakka", as my local guide called them.

SYDNEY, NSW — If motor sports were sexual partners I have had, drag racing would be my high school boyfriend, Glen Robertson, on prom night: disappointing, over far too fast, and one of the critical tipping points that pushed me from milquetoast bisexuality into full-on lesbianism. You might think that the analogy got away from me at the end; you would be wrong. You see, I grew up in a small, shitty town in eastern Washington, and the only thing for a teen to do other than smoking meth and getting pregnant was watching the guys who spent all their time and money fixing up classic muscle cars cruise up and down Main Street. One of these guys was not, in fact, a guy; her name was Kylie, and she was exactly the smoking hot butch mechanic that phrase conjures in your mind. I broke up with Glen approximately eighteen hours after he ruined my corsage with his premature ejaculation, and three hours after that I found myself in the backseat of Kylie’s car, having an orgasm-induced out-of-body experience.

Kylie and I broke up when I went to college—amicably, and we still hook up on occasion when I’m visiting home while single—but my lust for the sport never abated. Unfortunately, normal drag racing, however sexy the drivers or fast the cars, still doesn’t do it for me. This came up while my editor and I were getting absolutely hammered in one of Portlands’ seedier dive bars. We were discussing our more annoying kinks in between shots of Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard Seven, a Japanese absinthe so potent it’s banned in every U.S. state and most Canadian provinces; my editor was about to launch into a forty-minute monologue on why he commissions fetish art of dragons fucking trucks1 when a friendly cyborg saved our collective sanity score by interrupting to inform me—in an absolutely impenetrable accent, which may have been Glaswegian by way of Reykjavík—that in Australia, they do drag racing the same way they do football: suddenly, violently, and all over the place.

I was intrigued, of course, and pressed him for more. He told me of a land far across the Pacific, a land of billabongs and bunyips and bogans, where the ocean is warm and the beer is warmer; the home of the one and only Australian Drag Racing Association, a league for whom such petty concerns as physics, secrecy, and morality were the trifles of lesser minds. I had to go see it; anything lesser would be a betrayal not only of the Journalist’s Oath, but of my own younger self, experiencing erotognosis in a modified Hyundai. The next morning, neither my editor nor I remembered any of this, of course, but I had thought ahead, and recorded the entire conversation on my J. Jonah Jameson Junior Journalist tape recorder2. Since my editor had given verbal permission that night, I didn't even need to ask before I took the company card out of his wallet (he had passed out on my couch, as usual) and hopped out into PDX to grab the next flight to Oz3.

I landed in Sydney on the second day of a two-day hangover, having spent the first half of the 15-hour flight dry heaving into a series of airsickness bags. The young Canadian couple seated next to me graciously shared some of their emergency poutine with me, a gesture so thoughtful and appreciated that it almost made me reconsider my intense, irrational hatred of the Quebecois; but as we landed, they pulled out matching fleur-de-lis rosaries, and their bastard-French prayers to their false Catholic god reminded me of their true nature. I cursed them with boils as we filed off the plane. (In spirit only, of course. If I end up on the no-fly list, I want it to be for something more exciting than unlicensed witchcraft on a commercial airline.)

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Brenda. Ain't she a beaut?

I used a cheeky little chameleon charm to skip customs, because I had an extra bottle of Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard Seven tucked away in my carry-on and in Australia that stuff is legally classified as a chemical weapon. Finally, I emerged from the airport into the bright Australian sun, and met my contact in the ADRA4, a gentleman who goes by the nom de sport "Three-Thong". I asked him the origin of his name, and he explained that it referred to his preferred racing gear: "two thongs on my feet, one thong on my junk." Mercifully, when I met him, he was wearing pants. Well, those zip-off cargo shorts with one of the bottoms unzipped and the other still on. Mostly pants. He picked me up in a trashy old "Ute"—sort of a hybrid pickup truck/sedan thing that I don't think exists anywhere else (for good reason, the things are hideous). The make and model was, I shit you not, the "Subaru Brumby"; TT calls her "Brenda". We drove off, thrash metal blasting on the sound system, headed straight for the track.

The closest ADRA track to Sydney is Two Blackbutts, an extradimensional space accessible from both Blackbutt, NSW, and Blackbutt, Queensland. Those of you who live in the best goddamn city out of the world might think that this is a little on the nose, maybe an upside-down-world copy of our favorite Anglo-American miniverse; but names have always had power, and dimensions like ThreePorts are more common than you'd think5. Apparently they had to shut it down for a bit because of a Yowie6 infestation, but they cleared them out by introducing cane toads—which has always worked really well for Australians, and could never be a problem in the future.

By the time we got to Blackbutt, we were both stoned out of our gourds. TT had a whole jar full of these massive blunts, as thick around as your middle finger and almost as long, and we'd been passing them back and forth the whole way down from Sydney. I think we blazed through four or five of them in like an hour and a half, and of course we kept the windows rolled up, so there was just this pungent, sticky fog enveloping us and coating our mucous membranes with THC every time we inhaled. Don't worry, Brenda took care of the driving, and she only had a few hits7. Anyway, we drove out to this clump of woods behind a suburban strip-mall, and collapsed out of the doors in a puff of smoke, and took a quick nap there on the grass, just for an hour or two, until a few more of TT's mates showed up and it was time to actually head through to the track.

To get through to Two Blackbutts, you need to build a ring of eucalyptus branches around whatever you want to transport, and then set it on fire8. Since eucalyptus burns very easily, and the Way doesn't care if you soak it in gasoline first, the only limit to how much you can transport is the size of the ring. By the time we actually set the fire—we'd moved into a parking lot, don't worry—there were about a dozen people and almost as many cars packed into a ring made from two full trunkloads of branches. I was still pretty stoned, so I didn't even notice when we'd made the transition—I think I was back in Brenda taking another nap, but I'm not really sure. When I regained awareness, we were at the track, surrounded by an impenetrable wall of trees.

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Two Blackbutts drag strip. The guy on the left is named "Zeffo"; I really hope that's not a slur.

The first few races were, unfortunately, for mundane cars. A little bit of an amuse douche, or whatever it is they call that first little bite in fancy restaurants that they don’t let you take the whole plate of no matter how tasty it is. I wasn’t really paying attention to these, partly because—as I’ve mentioned—regular drag racing just doesn’t do it for me any more, and partly because the airplane chicken parm took its revenge and forced me to spend a solid twenty minutes in a portapotty, contemplating homicide. But I survived my bowel movement (as did everyone else), and returned to the stands just in time for the real attraction to start.

One of the first racers to actually use magic was my boy Three-Thong. He had, as promised, stripped down to his flip-flops-and-panties ensemble—plus driving gloves and a helmet, for safety—and I could now see the reason for his near-nudity. Every square inch, or centimeter, I guess, of his skin, other than his face, was covered in some kind of intricate magical tattoo. I asked him about them afterwards. “Yeah, well, I got them up in Thailand. This monk bloke’ll do ‘em for free, but ya gotta swear, like, a vow to give something up. So like, this whole arm, that’s Macca’s. For my back I swore off lager. And then he made me swear off all other booze to do my, uh, unit, said I had kind of cheated with just lager. Left leg was Warcraft. It’s like I’m wearing full kevlar, yeah? Totally impenetrable. Still gotta worry about internal injuries and all that, but it’s not like race gear would stop those. And, uh, I don’t wear clothes because I don’t wanna ruin my trousers and shit, yeah? Thongs are cheap.” Hardcore.

You’ll probably be surprised to hear that TT’s dragster is good old Brenda. Inside that ugly old ute, TT has installed a custom five-cylinder Abramelin-Ulam turbine, capable of converting infernal resonances into pure kinetic energy at a remarkable degree of efficiency. To start her up, TT has to summon a demon into the containment vessel at the heart of the engine. I took a demonology class back in school9, but his methods were like nothing taught in the hallowed halls of Deer; they mostly consisted of swearing, kicking things, and occasionally poking at parts of the engine with a set of lead and silver wrenches. Eventually the engine had been subdued to TT's satisfaction, and he tossed a live chicken under the hood and slammed it closed. There was a horrible meat-sound and a puff of feathers; and then the thing roared to life, spitting black fire from the tailpipe and stinking up the whole track with sulfurous fumes.

His opponent was an enigma in black leather. From her carbon-fiber helmet to her steel-toed boots, not an inch of skin was exposed—except for the tips of her fingers, peeking out from her fingerless driving gloves. She rolled up in a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, its tasteful lavender exterior concealing an interior upholstered in Lisa Frank-esque rainbow cheetah print with gold snakeskin accents10. As soon as she stepped out of the car, I couldn't take my gay little eyes off her. I won't go into my thoughts in detail, but suffice it to say they were graphic, and she kept the fingerless gloves on. I was interrupted from my reverie by the announcer, introducing the race and the drivers: "And in the infernal category! On the right, driving a classic sport ute, you know him, you love him, it's THREEEEEE-THOOOOOOONG." The applause was almost deafening. My boy TT was a clear hero of the people. "And on the left, a newcomer to our fair shores! Hailing from the far-off exotic land of Northern England, driving a 1970 'Cuda, THE ROOKIEEEEEE!"

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I forgot to actually take a picture of Rookie's car but this one is pretty similar.

The crowd cheered for this "Rookie" almost as loudly as for Three-Thong; either she had a reputation here already, or they were just in an excitable mood brought on by fast cars and free beer. The racers waved to the crowd and climbed back into their cars, starting another round of cheering, and then started their engines. Well, TT's engine was already started. So Rookie started her engine. And by "started her engine" I mean that she stabbed a syringe into her arm and mainlined some sort of effervescent orange liquid, and then open-palm-slammed a cassette into the tape deck. The opening riff of Motley Crüe's "Dr. Feelgood" blasted out the windows, and the car transformed.

Starting from the driver's door, a ripple moved across the surface, transforming the glossy metal into rough scales. Horns burst outward from the headlights, curling upwards until they stabbed into the hood and drew blood. The grille parted, revealing a gangrenous maw filled with jagged teeth; a warty tongue squirmed between them, dripping motor oil spittle onto the track below. The tires were black bone; the bumper was grey chitin; and inside, ensconced in something that now more resembled a liver than a seat, was the Rookie, eyes glowing the same orange of the demon-drug now running through her—and the car's—veins. Never seen anything that sexy in my goddamn life, I tell you what. Anyway, once the transformation was complete, the announcer did the standard "on your marks, get set, go" deal, and then they were off.

The race, from start to finish, took about thirteen seconds. Most of this next section is gonna be from a bunch of phone videos and eyewitness accounts (see? I'm a real reporter!) that I gathered after the fact. I missed most of it because I was planted by the starting line, and I couldn't follow them down the track because I'm slow as hell and my psychic remote viewing abilities were on the fritz because of all the weed. And because I don't have any psychic remote viewing abilities. As far as I can tell11. Strap in your seat belts (or don't, I'm not your mom. I hope.) and get ready for some HARDCORE RACING ACTION.

Both racers roared past the starting line, spitting black flames and sulfurous yellow smoke from their tailpipes. Neither had a clear lead, and it only took about a second and a half for them both to resort to outright sabotage. Three-Thong took out a blowpipe from who-knows-where, and shot a dart at near-supersonic speed toward the Rookie's open window; she caught it, blew him a kiss, and then stabbed it into her own neck. As far as anyone could tell, this just made her go faster—some funky drug interaction with whatever other crap was already in her system. In response, the Rookie drew some big fuck-off hand cannon, and just started blasting at Three-Thong. He deflected the shots with his palm before they could damage Brenda's bodywork, and started casting some sort of hex. The track in front of the Rookie started undulating as if there were worms beneath its skin, and someone's phone camera even captured a tentacle beginning to rise from the asphalt, but the Rookie's car leapt up and levitated about half a meter above the ground and TT gave up on his spell. And that was when the Rookie pulled out the rocket launcher.

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This is the last car picture, I promise. It's Pommy Pete's James Bond car. Very swanky.

She slapped the cruise control button—probably unnecessary, given the amount of track left, but a good dramatic flourish—and leaned out the window, firing a singe rocket-propelled grenade basically point-blank at TT's hood. Brenda's engine was reduced to a smoking wreck, and with the Rookie leading by about a quarter car-length it seemed like the race was over; but Three-Thong still had some secrets tucked up his eponymous underpants. From a bag on his passenger seat—my bag, in fact—he pulled out a bottle of nothing less than Ultimate Wormwood Princess Death Bastard Seven, and poured it into a small funnel hidden in the center console. Then he hit a very sexy red button that I hadn't been allowed to touch on our drive down here, and a massive rocket engine lifted up from Brenda's truck bed. A cocktail of liquid oxygen, illegally potent absinthe, and black lamb's blood surged through the rocket's ignition chamber, and Brenda put on one last burst of speed as the racers neared the finish line. It was a close one, and everyone held their breath as the cars skidded to a halt, leaving burning trails of rubber and bone on the asphalt; but the photo finish showed Brenda's cattle-catcher cross the line a hair's breadth ahead of the Rookie's insectile bumper.

The Rookie was a gracious loser, and once the drugs had been flushed from her system she extracted herself from her slowly recovering car and shook Three-Thong's hand. In hindsight, the handshake lingered for a little longer than was strictly necessary, and there was quite a lot of suggestive eye contact; but I was too distracted by visions of fingerless gloves dancing through my head to notice. I briefly introduced myself to the Rookie, and she agreed to a quick interview later—I did specify "in private" with a wink, but I think she was looking away and didn't notice my attempt at innuendo. Any alternative would require me to re-evaluate my assessment of my own incredible lesbian charisma, and my ego is far too fragile for that sort of self-reflection12. Anyway, after the track was cleaned up for the next race, I went in search of her for the promised interview—and found her, behind a row of port-a-potties.

There, parked next to the Rookie's magnificent set of wheels, was Brenda, rocking back and forth suggestively. Her windows had been mirrored, some sort of privacy charm no doubt, but every so often, the charm would be briefly disrupted by a hand pressing up against it. Some of the hands were covered in mystic tattoos; and others wore black leather fingerless gloves. I spent the rest of the day moping, and got a ride out from another racer, "Pommy Pete", who spoke in an upper-class British accent so crisp it had to be fake. Pete drove an Aston Martin, which had originally been owned "by the real James Bond, not the one from the films". I didn't believe him, of course, but it did have an ejector seat, so who's to say?

Pete took me on a breakneck tour of Australian Rules drag strips, and the wonders we saw there could fill a whole newspaper's worth of sports columns: a ghost-powered bone-wagon howling through the streets of Perth, circa 1881; an actual phoenix bursting out of a crashed Pontiac Firebird and turning a hundred-meter circle of salt flats to black glass; a race between a pair of identical twin cyborgs, the winner choosing a piece of remaining flesh from the loser as a trophy. But, despite my protestations, there is a limited amount of space dedicated to the noble art of sports journalism in each issue of the Augur-Haruspex13, so I can't fit it all here. Further episodes of Sofia Goes Down Under can be found on my secret blog, which is only visible from public library computers during prime-numbered days.

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