Matt Shirvington still loves his track time
POINT Matt Shirvington at a track and the sprint specialist's drive to succeed comes to the fore.
Shirvington - who held the national 100m title from 1998-2002 and remains Australia's second-fastest sprinter with a time of 10.03 seconds (equating to almost 36km/h) - has swapped spiked shoes for a steering wheel.
A Volvo S60 Polestar is his weapon of choice for track days at Sydney Motorsport Park but a V90 Cross Country is his daily drive.
It's a far cry from the 1976 Saab 99 he owned as a 17-year-old juggling year 12 studies and training sessions.
"It was a cockroach-looking thing with eggshell white paint and an orange velour interior,” Shirvington recalls. "It's the only car I've ever really owned: I broke the Australian record at 19 and got a car deal after that.”
Life after running landed Shirvington numerous television roles, from presenting segments for the Beyond Tomorrow TV series on Channel 7 to roles with Fox Sports. culminating with him hosting Friday Night Footy on the dedicated NRL channel Fox League.
Track and television have allowed him to travel some of the best roads in the world.
He rates the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles as one of his most memorable road trips.
"I was filming for Beyond Tomorrow with (renowned videographer) Jay (Justin) Hanrahan,” Shirvington says. "We were only in a (Mercedes) Viano or something like that but Jay could drive a bit. Between the roads and the scenery it was an epic trip.”
Test-driving an Ariel Atom at Goodwood was also a highlight. However, if money was no object (and if he didn't have to fit a family), he covets Porsche's wildest track toy, a 911 GT2 RS.
The reality of commuting and carrying his daughters to and from school instead means Shirvington pilots the Volvo.
"We call it the beach car because it carries all the junk we take on trips,” he says. "It's a big car but it doesn't feel like it and all the sensors make it easy to drive in carparks.”
Shirvington rates the City Safety autonomous emergency braking as the V90's biggest asset. "You get a warning before it slams on the brakes and the beeps have saved me a few times,” he says. "People randomly spear into your lane and then expect you to deal with it.”
That level of ignorance of driving etiquette and physics is Shirvington's greatest frustration behind the wheel when he's in Australia.
"It's not just one thing - there's a list. We're the worst in the world for driving on freeways. I don't understand why people can't stay in the left lanes unless they're overtaking.
"What's worse is when you're trying to merge and the cars won't match the speed the traffic is moving at. It's like running a relay - you try to accelerate to the speed of the guy approaching you to make a smooth transition but as drivers we just don't get it.
"I'm not sure whether it's lack of training or whatever but it causes huge delays. And then we're happy to give other drivers a lecture - from the safety of our car - and that's 30 seconds of our lives that served no point at all.”
Still, he doesn't let other motorists rile him. "I'm a pay-it-forward kind of guy, so if I smile and wave I hope it has some effect on them.”