Vanity seems to be a necessary trait for anyone making a bid to become ‘Gobshite of the Year’, the benefit being that the applicant doesn’t realise the amusing role egotism can play when enhancing an already quirky character.
Formula 1’s high profile regularly attracts eccentric types with, it usually turns out, even less money than sense. The 2019 season produced a beauty – not quite the right word for this hirsute individual – when William Storey appeared as CEO of Rich Energy.
His statements were so absurd they eliminated the Gobshite entry by Haas F1 as they took it upon themselves to make Rich Energy their title sponsor. Here was a team punching impressively above its weight and adopting an energy drink with barely enough strength to appear on a supermarket shelf.
When Storey, in all seriousness, then claimed his brand would challenge Red Bull commercially, the bearded wonder had done nothing more than open a can of worms. Rich Energy would be hit by copyright infringement court orders as frequently as Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen drove into each other.
Exaggeration comes in many forms but none more unexpected than the surprise awaiting Alan Baldwin when he received his hire car bill for the British Grand Prix weekend. The Reuters motorsport correspondent had picked up a Hyundai at Heathrow and used it to shuttle back and forth to Silverstone before returning the car to the airport. Even though he was not on unlimited mileage, the journeys had been so routine that Baldwin never thought to check the distance covered.
Five days later, he received a bill for £1,950.40. Allegedly, he had travelled 10,599 miles. Baldwin immediately queried the charge on the assumption that, when reviewing such absurd figures, Avis UK would see the error. But no.
Avis, clearly not having abandoned the motto ‘We Try Harder’, came back with a patronising ‘Explanation’ that ‘kindly informed’ their client that the bill was precisely according to their Terms and Conditions for the recorded mileage and ‘we can confirm the correctness of the charges’, adding that ‘when you signed the rental agreement, you gave us permission to take payment.’ They weren’t joking.
Baldwin took to Twitter and it didn’t take long for his followers to note that he must have averaged 110 mph during 96 hours of full-on motoring, not taking refuelling into consideration. Either that or the Hyundai had extraordinary fuel consumption that the world needed to know about. Baldwin’s dexterity was equally admirable as, in the middle of this marathon, he had managed to file his usual quality daily reports.
Faced with the reality that their Heathrow operative had suffered a digital malfunction, Avis had no alternative but to back down. The company advertises an appropriately named ‘fast track service’ that states ‘the more you rent, the more you’ll get’. Baldwin, a regular customer, can’t argue with that.
The website also says Avis is an award-winning brand. Indeed it is. Now they can add the much-coveted ‘Gobshite of the Year’. Avis will be relieved to note there is no ‘additional charge, parking, traffic or related administration and processing fee’ for this.
Happy New Year!