Nothing mumsy about ladies' day out

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 12 Jan 2013 | Latest News | Otago Daily Times
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BMW Driving Experience instructor Mike Eady takes Catherine Pattison on some smoking hot laps around the Boomrock track. Photos by Simon Watts

Motoring reporter on-maternity-leave Catherine Pattison recently exchanged taming her toddler and changing her newborn's nappies for a ladies day out - throwing knives and charging around a race track.

I hastily accepted BMW Group New Zealand's offer of trip to Boomrock - a corporate and social retreat 30 minutes from Wellington - to take part in their first ladies day at the stunning coastline location. Then reality set in.

Two days away and six hours being spoilt at Boomrock seemed like bliss but I now have not one, but two small children to account for.

The 2-year-old was easily distributed between grandparents, partner and a friend, but the baby was a different matter. Her preference for mother's milk straight from the source and aversion to any imitations, meant that along with my notebook, pen and camera, I took 3-month-old Jade.

Full and effusive thanks must go to Kelly Allen, BMW NZ's corporate communications and marketing assistant, for being so accommodating about transporting us both, hosting Jade's babysitters and generally making it possible for this petrol-head mummy to enjoy some pampering.

Boomrock is Johnny Eastwick's entrepreneurial brainchild. About 15 years ago he looked farming hard in the face and decided diversification looked prettier. He started with the lodge, built in a spot where he used to picnic with his family. Nestled on a cliff, staring 250m down to the Tasman sea and out towards Marlborough Sounds and to Mt Egmont, it sits within 1214 hectares (3000 acres) of farmland.

It seats up to 100 and is used for weddings, conferences, corporate events and, in our case, a lavish lunch for 11 lady journalists. The lodge sits at the end of a twisting gravel entrance road and was where I deposited a sleeping baby with her great-aunt and uncle, who had kindly stepped in as child minders.

Free for the next few hours, I was chauffeured up to the track, which Eastwick had built about nine years ago. Not long after it was finished, the late Peter Brock visited and suggested some changes, which include a fast constant-radius corner and a barrier protecting drivers from a steep drop-off at the end of the straight, which is punctuated by two blind brows.

Although more of a test or training facility than a track, as its width only allows one vehicle at a time, it was a scenic proving ground for putting the BMWs through their paces.

BMW NZ has this year forged a new relationship with Boomrock, whereby it has an X5 stationed there and works with local dealers to bring in 3-series cars for its driver days.

For our particular function, the BMW Driving Experience team of Mike Eady and Martin Collins had brought along their M3 coupe, 320D F30 and 125i M Sport. The women were split into two groups and mine began with a series of braking tests in the latter two models. Accelerating to 60kmh then later 70kmh before jumping on the anchors when the instructors yelled ''brake'' fully demonstrated the efficiency of ABS as we halted abruptly.

After doing a level-two driver programme with Eady and Collins at Pukekohe Park Raceway four years ago, it was great to be back on a track with them and practising braking points and ideal cornering lines.

Later Eady demonstrated that his race credentials have in no way waned in the years between my Auckland-based hot laps and the ones he gave us in the M3 coupe at Boomrock. Motherhood blissfully relegated to the back of my brain, I once again enjoyed the sensations of pure unadulterated speed and tyres screeching as the powerful Beamer ate up the asphalt.

Our group then took a 4WD tour with Boomrock's property manager Andre Gratzer, whose sense of humour and propensity to elicit screams from his passengers made for an entertaining trip in the X5. Its various off-road capabilities, including stability control, xDrive and hill descent were demonstrated as our driver talked us through his picturesque workplace's evolution.

The latest facility to be added is The Bunkers Beretta shooting experience, set among the farm's native bush. Although us girls did not partake in it first-hand we did get to try out clay bird shooting, knife throwing at a wooden target and archery.

Along with the driving, these more traditionally testosterone-associated activities were relished by all and were a perfect way to demonstrate Boomrock can be more than a bloke's sanctuary or a stag-do Mecca. For me, it was an absolute treat to take some time out from being mum and take an indulging trip down the memory lane of my motoring career.

PS. If there are any ladies reading this, or men that care about these matters, baby Jade slept peacefully for three hours, and then hung out happily with her relatives, while her mum enjoyed a leisurely lunch.