Monday, August 21, 2006

New Numbers, New Paint

One of the things that happen when you get a Vee is that you have to mess with it. It is a condition you catch from the car. As soon as you are the owner there are changes that have to be made.

Passenger cars are like static things. You get in one and the first thing you do is adjust the seats, the steering wheel and the mirrors. The car stays the same.

Racecars are not like that. They don’t have adjustable seats and steering wheels. What you do is adapt the car to fit the driver. This is the first stage.

Maybe you have to change the pedals to fit the length of your legs. Or make changes to the roll bar so that it is far enough over your head. There are lots of little things to do, but when you are finished, getting into it is like a putting on a snug glove. All the parts and pieces fit smoothly around you. Your hand falls easily on the shift lever, hard places are padded to keep them from bruising you. That trite old phrase about you being part of the car could never be truer.

Then there are the other things that you just have to fuss with. Maybe you want to make it look like it is yours rather than the previous owners. Maybe some neat racing stripes will make it go faster (or at least make you feel faster).

It doesn’t matter that you may not be a brilliant mechanic. It doesn’t matter that you don’t even know how to set it up yet. It doesn’t matter that the previous owner spent years honing the car so that it performs like a Swiss watch. You just got to mess with it. Change things. Fix things that are not broken. It’s a rule.

As soon as Hugh could keep both feet firmly on the ground after his first outing in the car, his hands began to itch.

We had already made some basic modifications to fit the car to him. We changed a roll bar brace, shifted some straps, and relocated the mirrors. Little stuff. The car came to us basically race ready. It was just tweaking that was required to adapt it to a different driver.

But he didn’t "own" the car yet. He hadn’t made it his. So it started.

He bought some Bondo and started smoothing out some nicks in the nose cone. (Nose pieces always get the worst of it in open wheeled cars. They are constantly blasted with small rocks and track debris, and when there is a crash, you can count on repairing or replace one) Then he started peeling off all the old numbers and the advertising from someone else’s sponsor. Stuff like that.

Then came the sandpaper. I slept late one morning and when I woke up he was on the back porch with some spray cans going at it like the happiest elf that ever existed. It was your basic fifty / fifty paint job. (Fifty feet away at fifty miles per hour it looked pretty good.)
The next week we were back at the track, ready to run his novice race in the "open wheel" group. New numbers, new paint, and it was finally his.

Even the track photographer got a shot of him in action.

My little brother was becoming a racer: at the age of 65.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never too late to get started!

4:54 PM  

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