We are the Champions ... of NatMeet!
06 May 2014 / Words & Photos: Bryan Shedden, Photos: Phil Mayo, Trackphotos
NatMeet XI – Caloundra Qld – 12-15 April 2014
For those who came in late, NatMeet is the biannual national meeting of the MX-5 Clubs of Australia. The 2014 event was hosted by the MX-5 Club of Queensland at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. It was the 11th NatMeet and marked the 25th Anniversary of the Mazda MX-5.
With over 1000km of travel for most of our club members, there were a variety of options for the long journey north. Some arrived several days ahead of time and enjoyed a pre-NatMeet holiday on the Sunshine Coast or visiting with friends and family. Most of Team Hunter arrived on the Friday via the dreaded Pacific Highway, which gave them plenty of time to settle in and prepare their cars for Concours. A convoy of seven MX-5s (one on a trailer!) opted for the inland route on the New England Highway. Along the way, they picked up Stephen Carter from Tamworth and then Fiona, Alex and I in our two MX-5s at Warwick making a total of ten cars for the final leg. We avoided the final commute through Brisbane suburbs by seeking out the twisty roads to Gatton, Esk, Lake Somerset and Peachester before finally arriving at Oaks Oasis Resort, our home for the next four nights. And then there were the "Ladies of MX-5" who opted for the jet set and were chauffeured by their husbands from Maroochydore Airport.
With such a distance to travel, it was inevitable that there would be the odd car casualty along the way. Jean Cook and Lesa Bunn arrived with cracked windscreens. Lesa managed to have hers fixed at a local repairer, but Jean's was beyond repair. Keith & Sue Monaghan's NB suffered a smashed quarter glass in the door thanks to a stone impact. A few phone calls later, Keith lined up a replacement window from Automotive Plus and detoured to Brisbane to pick it up. Many hands (and supervisors) made light work of fitting the new window in the resort carpark.
Day One - Saturday
NatMeet commenced with the traditional frenzy of car preparation for the Concours d'Elegance. Hoses, buckets and vacuum were available in the resort carpark and the queue was endless. Mark Gray worked tirelessly to help all of Team Hunter with their final preparations, and then shared the love with other New South Welshmen who thought they were "finished". Colin & Elaine Caldwell's REV851 looked immaculate as always, and Dave & Amy Perin's blue NA with matching trailer was already gathering an admiring crowd. Trevor Griffiths, a first time NatMeeter, lifted the covers off his supercharged NC with customised leather seats, carpets and flocked glovebox and boot. Stunning!
By mid afternoon, it was time to register for NatMeet and collect our welcome packs. What a haul! Mazda chipped in a picnic blanket and cooler bag from their branded merchandise range - very handy. The special NatMeet items included a polo shirt (in golden yellow to match the local sunshine - more on that later), MX-5 cap, event program, metal badges, and lanyard with name tags. We were also given a colourful beach bag with a sarong (uh-oh!), some Meguiars sample packs (in case we needed MORE cleaning products!), pen, stubby holder, keyring, stickers, an assortment of nibblies, and a wad of tourist information.
The organisers also put on an optional waypoint run to see the local beaches of Caloundra. A handful took up the offer, but most preferred not to risk sullying their carefully detailed cars and packed them away for the night.
The formalities kicked off in the early evening with a Welcome BBQ & Poolside Party. Sarongs were de rigueur and they clashed colourfully with those saffron polo shirts. The bar opened and the chit chat had only just commenced when the unthinkable happened ... it started raining! A decision was quickly made to shift all and sundry to the dining room. So off we shuffled, desperately clutching our sarongs to avoid an embarassing display of flesh. Head honcho, John Tait welcomed us all and talked through a few formalities. The buffet eventually found it's way back inside and everyone tucked in after their hard day's work. Once the music started, Team Hunter launched into what would become a familiar theme by hitting the dance floor and being the last to leave the party.
Day Two - Sunday
Concours d'Elegance at NatMeet is a massive event, and one that is very resource intensive. A selection of attendees were roped into judging the cars, working in pairs to assess each aspect of presentation. The cars were displayed in generations on the grounds of the resort, and the mass display was an amazing sight to behold. The myriad photos of shiny MX-5s speak for themselves. While the judges moved from car to car and debated the merits of each, the rest of us were left to wander around, admire the cars and chat amongst ourselves. It was a nice relaxing morning for the majority who weren't involved in judging.
With Concours judging completed and lunch consumed, the heavy overcast skies decided that we'd had our fun and it began to lightly rain... and rain.... and rain. Sunshine Coast? Yeh right. Still there was a drive into the hinterland to be had, so off we went in small groups, peering through the mist and marvelling at the views we couldn't see. Our route took us around the Glass House Mountains and up to Maleny for a break. It would have made for a wonderful drive, but the rain put a dampener (no pun intended!) on the enjoyment.
Preparations for the evening fancy dress night were rudely interrupted by a fire alarm that forced an evacuation of the accomodation blocks. While we were waiting for the firies to attend we got our first glances at the efforts many of the attendeeds had made with their costumes. And then there were those who came out in hastily thrown together clothing - fresh from the shower!
After this exciting interval, preparations were completed and it was off to the 1920s Speakeasy ... for dinner, drinks and much merriment. We had an assortment of gangsters and molls, flappers, film directors, barbershop singers, and a pair of Blackpool bathers. The costumes were fantastic and the room buzzed with excitement and laughter. Musical entertainment was provided by a local performer who did his best Pavarotti impersonation. Once again, Team Hunter were the life of the party and hounded many to join them on the dance floor. I even shocked my wife and danced with her for the first time in decades. It was a fun night and again we partied on until they kicked us out.
Day Three - Monday
And still it rains. Phil and Greg have written about the track day in another report, while Bob has covered the funkhana. Suffice to say that despite the passing showers, treacherous track conditions, and scary nature of the Lakeside circuit ... I had an absolute ball out there. Lakeside is now my firm favourite and I sincerely hope I can return for another go in the not too distant future.
Returning to Caloundra after a brilliant day at the track, we had the night all to ourselves. Many of the NSW crew gathered at a local Thai restaurant ... while others opted for takeaway.
Day Four - Tuesday
After all the tension of Concours and thrills of the track day, it was time to relax with a cruise in the hills, finally with dry skies and even a little sunshine too. Our waypoint run took us on some great twisty roads to Kenilworth for morning tea. The various coffee shops were well attended and the cheese shop proved to be a popular choice. The young and young at heart enjoyed a bit of exercise in the playground. Then it was off again on some more twisty roads to Flaxton Gardens for lunch in the sunshine with a superb vista.
The Presentation Evening and Gala Dinner was held in the dining room at the resort, and proved to be an incredibly successful one for the MX-5 Club of NSW. In Concours d'Elegance, trophies were awarded to Mark Gray (NB8A Standard), Peter Hilkmann (NB8B Standard), Jen Boyko (NB8B Modified), Annie Taylor (NC RC Standard), and Trevor Griffiths (NC RC Modified). The People's Choice award went to Dave Perin, tied with Mark Seville from Queensland. Our motorsport winners were myself (Standard NA6A), Keith Monaghan (Standard NB), Phil Mayo (Modified NA6A), and Peter Feutrill (Modified NC). I also won the Regularity and in accepting the trophy, gave thanks to a certain Queenslander who convinced me to nominate a faster time than I initially noted. In the funkhana, Rachel Crawford was the winning driver and Mark Gray the winning co-driver. Mark Seville won the overall Individual Champion for Queensland, with Mark Gray and David Rigby tied as our highest scoring representatives.
The level of excitement, cheering and interstate competitiveness escalated as each NSW award winner was announced ... until finally, after many many trophies had been awarded, it was time to announce the National Champion.
And the winner is ... New South Wales! The crowd goes wild - woo hoo!
Our club has been National Champion at three previous NatMeets but this is our first ever away win. It was an incredible effort by all our attending club members who helped accumulate a total of 1352 points, to pip the Queenslanders on 1333 points. Thank you!
The event was closed and the Queenslanders were applauded for hosting a successful event. As we departed, we were already looking forward to the next great NatMeet - Tasmania 2016.
Full gallery of Lakeside photos can be found at www.trackphotos.com.au.