If anyone can better James Whitham’s hire car story, it’ll be Parrish. Not to be confused with the Crystal Palace chairman, the ex-GP racer and consummate joker was a long-time partner in crime with Barry Sheene, and his highlights include being banned from Macau, impersonating a doctor to allow John Hopkins to fly, and lots more that can’t be publicised.
In recent times, Stavros is better known for his more gentlemanly practical jokes. A personal favourite of mine is the luxurious chocolate-covered condoms dished out at public events…
Anyhow, here are (some of) Steve’s best rental car tales.
“Barry Sheene got me into it, and taught me what we could get away with. It was probably more rife back then because they couldn’t trace you so much. One of the best ones was Daytona Beach, where I got a bit bored with not much going on, so we decided to see who could jump their hire car the furthest onto the beach. They put ramps to stop you inadvertently backing cars onto the beach, so there was this competition between all the riders.
“I made my two mechanics get in the back to get the weight right for take-off. It was an American car but, believe it or not, a lot of them were front wheel drive, and I knew it was going to nose-dive, hence the mechanics in the back. I backed it up as far as I could, hit the ramp at about 50-60mph, and flew through the air. Even with the boys in the back, it started to nose-dive and it came down at about 20 metres. But it landed so hard, it bent the car – the whole thing was so twisted, it put a kink in the roof and we couldn’t open the doors so had to escape through the windows.
“I obviously ended up leaving it on the beach and I was panicking a bit. We all ran off to the hotel and scampered. Within 20 minutes there was a police helicopter landing beside the car, and there were fucking sirens going off and all sorts. We went to bed and tried to forget about it. The next day, it had gone, so I rang Hertz and said I’d lost my car. They asked where I’d left it, and I told them it was on the beach. Their reply was that cars were banned from the beach, and that the car was at the police compound.
“So I went down to the compound and gave them all my details. One of the coppers down there said, in a dry manner: ‘Sir, if you’d taken the proper entrance to the beach, you would have realised you’re not allowed over there at night.’
“They let me take it. It still ran but I had to get in trough the window and drive it from the police compound. I had Keith Huewen and Trevor Nation with me all week, and they got pretty fucked off with getting in and out of this car through a window. We left it at the Hertz airport car park and I didn’t get a bill – I just got a letter saying I was banned.”
“The biggest bill I ever had was at Lausitzring for a World Superbike race. It was €13,000 from Europcar. We found a dirt track from the Lausitzring back to the hotel and fired this Renault Laguna over the jumps. It lasted pretty well until Monday morning when I agreed to give Colin Edwards and his wife a lift to the airport. We were on the way to collect them and hit this jump way too fast.
“I knew she was injured immediately because all the warning lights came on, and sure enough, I jumped out and saw the sump had gone – pissing oil everywhere. I got back in and tried to drive it, as we only had a few miles to get to the track. As soon as we got the tunnel at the Lausitzring and saw Colin standing there ready to get in, she nipped up. I explained to Colin that we weren’t’ going anywhere.
“I phoned our producer and told him we needed assistance. While we were waiting, I got the pressure washer out from Colin’s motorhome and cleaned it all down, and it looked ok – apart from the ripples on the front wings where the suspension struts had broken.
“I explained to the Europcar guys at the airport that we left it at the track because there were a load of warning lights had come on. They thanked me, until they picked it up and saw the damage.“
Bonus: Stavros’ top hire car tip
“If you ever get into a bit of bother with a hire car company/wreck a car, undo some of the wheel nuts and ask them if they tried to kill you. They think it’s their fault and you get away with it. If you haven’t paid the insurance waiver, drop the wheel off, chuck it in the ditch and tell them to come and get it.”
44t rating: 8/10