Feb 7 2006
Letter to Bill about first real race: |
Good Morning Guys,
I just came in from the shop.. Wondered if I would have an email from Bill, indicating he had come to work today? Not yet..... He's probably 'chewed his fingernails all the way to his elbows' in anticipation of this upcoming weekend and can't type on a keyboard!
The memory of my first race, in March, 2000, sure comes back to me now. I took the week off prior to the race. I was 'just finishing' the Alpine after a nine month restoration and still needed to go over many things on it. As it was, it was still "BONE STOCK" engine wise, with the original 1500cc (unrestored) series 1 engine. So unrestored that, (Andy, you'll remember me warning you about these...) the carburetor's were missing the tiny little 3/16" diameter balls from the accelerator pumps so the accelerator pumps basically didn't work, making the car difficult to drive. That race was at Sears Poinit. Friday was the driving school with all the Russell Instructors, then races Saturday and Sunday.
We drove down Thursday afternoon so we could get all set up in plenty of time. I recall traveling west on I-80 around Colfax. A car passed us and honked its horn several times. I looked over and got a terrific "Thumbs Up!" from a fellow about 60 or so..... Maybe a Sunbeam Alpine driver in his youth??
Aside from all the uncertainty of delving into something for the first time was also the fact that 'I had never, with the exception of driving the car on and off the trailer, so much as RIDDEN in an Alpine, let alone DRIVE ONE!!'. I had NO IDEA what this car was going to do when it reached turn One!!
Friday morning tech inspection..... I'm wearing this brand spanking new (do "NEWBIES" always look like "Newbies"!?!?!?) driving suit big enough for Lynne to get in with me, brand new shoes, brand new helmet, brand new gloves........ I get through tech with no real problems although I 'sweat a quart' over the 'unknown'.
After the classroom and instructor drive-arounds, we load up in our 'race cars' for lead-follow with the instructors. It's elation to finally be on a race track in 'your' race car, then very humbling when you consider that here you are..... going about 12/10's in your new, unknown racer, hanging it out on the line, defying death......... following a Russell Instructor out for a 'Sunday Drive' with one arm out the window, sitting crosswise in the seat while he chats with his unknown passenger driving a Mitsubishi SUV(!!)..... and you can barely keep up with him!
After what feels like 200 laps of Sears Point (you really drove about 15 laps at 50% ability), your sweat soaked from head to toe, exhausted, and feel like Bill's dad probably felt after his 11 1/2 hour marathon in '57 at Sebring in the factory TR3!!
After lunch your back out on the track WITHOUT instructors in SUV's, although they are positioned around the track and are going to give you some good critiques over what they saw after every session. Remembering that everybody today is a 'student', you look forward to Saturday with renewed 'fears' because now your driving with 'real racers'!
There's a bit of nervousness when you grid for qualifying practice, but you remind yourself that its "only practice"..... Yea... RIGHT!!!! I think I qualified 35 out of 38 that day.... a MAJOR achievement!! Some lunch, a lot of nervous chatter and anxiety, and suddenly "it's time!" to get suited up!
If you think "W the F am I doing here?" is going through your mind now as you wait on the pre-grid......... just wait till you come out of the last corner on the formation lap and await the green flag!! Then you see the green flag!! What you experience now cannot be described in words!..... IT MUST BE EXPERIENCED!!!
First objective, fit into traffic and get through turn 1 with paint intact! Whew... Made It!! Next objective, complete the first race lap! Hmmmm, I'm getting tunnel vision....... OH YEA!!!!! BREATHE!!!!!!! WOW!!, it's amazing what you can see when you start getting oxygen back to the brain!!
Somewhere between the 'green flag' and completion of 'lap one', the "sanity portion" of your brain overloads and shuts down! "Survival Mode" kicks in, and without realizing it you prove what every law enforcement instructor has ever told you..... Under great stress you'll function according to your training!
Somewhere in the next couple laps you'll realize your still alive and functioning. You see what that guy is doing in front of you and you start working yourself and the car. You see what his errors are and your about to capitalize on them! Since he's braking way too early for that corner you set him up and......
YEA. HOOOOO!!!!!! Your first Racing Pass!!!
Now the "hunter becomes the hunted"! You have to stay ahead of him. You find that's its a lot easier 'chasing than being chased'! You hold him off for a lap and notice that he's not as close as he was..... A 'good sign'...... Means your faster and pulling away.
About now your thinking you should'a packed a sack lunch! You've been out here seemingly for hours, and yet your only on your fourth lap!! You've settled down some, your thinking about what your doing, and now little perceptions from training are starting to make sense to you and your 'assembling' those perceptions into meaningful actions. You look at that guy in front of you and realize your inching up on him.... Can I possibly make another pass? We MUST be running out of time..... I think we've been on this (30 minute heat race) about four hours now...... I've got to be running out of gas by now........... when alllll offfffff aaaaaaa suddennnnnnn................ WHOSH!!!... WHOSH!!!.... WHOSH!!!..... WHOSH!!!!...
Sonofabeech!....... I was just passed by a Lotus 61, two Mk6 Titans and a Merlyn! Four guys passed me and I never saw one of them in the mirrors!!! Hey, "Gravy Brain".... WATCH YOUR MIRRORS!!! Jesus Christ, look at them pull away!! I thought I was going soooo fastttttt, I think I can get out and walk!!
While it seems an eternity, all too soon your coming down the front straight and there's a checkered flag! It's Over!! You relax a bit, slow down (you concentrate on slowing down because all of a sudden "slow" is about 100rpm's under "race" rpm's!) A 'thumbs up', wave, or some indication to the corner workers who are giving you an enthusiastic wave or hand clap! WOW!! I never realized how important these guys are! When that guy spun in that corner I would'a NEVER seen him if it hadn't been for that gal waving that yellow flag!
What did my instructor say the difference was between a standing and a waving yellow??? I'll have to check..... It musta' been important!
Back in the paddock you taxi in, pleased that you remember the sequence of shutting off the fuel pump 10 seconds before shutting down the engine!
Talk about "silence"!! You realize you've just functioned for close to 30 minutes in 100% 'sensory overload'!! After experiencing some real difficulty climbing out of your race car you 'quietly so as not to call attention upon yourself' release the seat belts and remove the steering wheel. Man, I GOTTA go find that guy in the green Crossle' that I passed! I'm PUMPED!!!!!
AND..... THIS IS ONLY SATURDAY..... THAT WAS ONLY THE QUALIFICATION RACE!!!........ TOMORROW IS THE "REAL THING"!!
Well, Bill, all I can say is that the 'jitters' and anxiety, and nervousness, and everything else your feeling now....... Doesn't Go Away!! You'll experience it 'every time'. You'll recognize it, and tame it, and put it aside, and prioritize what you need to do, but your not alone! Everybody feels that same way.
This time next Monday it'll be but a memory.... A MEMORY YOU'LL NEVER FORGET! And this time next Monday...... why.... you'll already be planning for your next race!!