Artful Summernats 26! What had sounded like being this year's festival's mindless attempt on the Guinness World Burnout Record now looks as if it may after all have something mindful about it. This may spike some of the guns of some of the fogeys gearing up for their annual whinge against Summernats as just a jamboree of hooligans.
Now Summernats and the National [Anti] Tobacco Campaign of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency have announced they will be partners in an attempt to set a world record for the largest simultaneous burnout, with a target minimum of 50 cars.
The festival and the government agency seem unlikely partners but Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez believes that the National Tobacco Campaign ''will be a fantastic partner for the event''. ''The message we're sending to our patrons is that smoking belongs on the burnout pad,'' he says.
Louise Sylvan, chief executive of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency that manages the National Tobacco Campaign, says "the world record burnout attempt is a different and interesting way for us to connect … it will generate huge interest in Australia and around the world''.
''We are always looking for new ways to promote the key [anti-smoking] messages of the National Tobacco Campaign … ,'' she says.
Yesterday's attempts to contact Andy Lopez and Louise Sylvan for some finer details about what they're up to were thwarted by it being Boxing Day and the nation being closed, with its phones turned off.
But this columnist is extremely fond of Summernats, perhaps because for a story-seeking journalist it is the kind of paradise that a chocolate factory is for a chocoglutton.
One day, going news gathering in a Summernats camping area I saw seated obediently right on the kerb exactly the kind of dog you'd expect members of the Summernats classes to bring to the festival. It was a mongrel, part cattle dog, part alligator, posed serenely. Going up to it to congratulate it on its good looks I discovered the secret behind its serene stillness. It was a stuffed dog. Its liberally tattooed owner reported that in life this dog had been his best friend so that when it died he'd had a taxidermist impart a kind of immortality to it. His tenderness contradicted the common belief among Canberrans that the Summernats boys are uncouth brigands with no feelings.