10 Things You Gotta Do to be a Racer
The 70’s rock band “Boston” once lyrically asked “What Does it Take to be a Man?” That’s a rather simple question, when viewed technically. It’s simply a matter of plumbing. One would assume the question was meant to be viewed through more figurative lenses, resulting in a less blunt answer. But sometimes blunt is good (I hear you snickering, Colorado).
Along those same lines, those of us who eat up all things motorsports like a Jack Russell in a room full of Cheet-os have at one time asked, or been asked “What does it take to be a racer?” It’s established that anyone can go fast. Afterall, the USAF once put a chimp in a rocket sled. Narrowing down from there, almost anyone can go fast through a turn, with a little instruction. Some can even learn to trail brake. Yes, the ability to turn fast laps does count, but if you really want to be in the Brotherhood of The Line you have to meet more esoteric criteria. And some of it is counter to everything your DE instructor told you. To wit:
- Spin. Find me a road racer that says he’s never spun a car, and I’ll show you a driver with pequeños testículos. If you want to win, you have to learn to drive the car at the edge. And unless you’ve found the edge and then crushed the edge in a spectacular fashion that deafens the dead with the side-sliding squeal of all four tires in the process of becoming less round, you’ve not lived la vida loca.
- Show up unprepared aka forget your gear, at least once. If you show up for every race with every tool, spare part and both Nomex socks, you’re far too organized to be a race car driver. Your calling is “Crew Chief”.
- Kiss a teammate. If nothing so exciting happens during a race that you don’t spontaneously grab another human and plant one on their puss out of pure giddiness, you need to do something, anything, to generate more adrenaline.
- Polish off a bottle of Scotch in the paddock. Alone is okay, with fellow enthusiasts is proper etiquette and stops rumors. Or starts them. Depends…
- Lie about how fast you are. Keep in mind that this is far more effective at a singles bar or high school reunions than in the paddock. Lying in the paddock is like bringing a sandwich to a buffet. You better be packing a damned big dagwood if you plan to impress.
- Rebuild a motor. The one thing wrong with Cole Trickle – other than looking like Tom Cruise while rehashing his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell – is that he don’t know nothin’ about cars. To truly love, you must get intimate.
- Drive by the seat of your pants. Yeah yeah, visual markers can be helpful, Mr. Instructor. But you have to learn to feeeel the car, the slip angle, the balance. When to release the brakes and when the car is settled and ready to open the throttle and say “Ahhhhhhhh”. Not to mention recognizing the prescient tingle you get just before things go wrong. Your butt is actually a measuring device telling you when to slow and when to go. Learn to speak its language.
- Lose your brakes. Nothing can describe the sudden pit of fear when you mash the stop pedal and it effortlessly bounces off the floor pan. Doing so at the end of a fast straight into a sharp turn has made Atheists pray. Surviving it with the car intact makes you 15% more Awesome.
- Lose sleep. At some point, everyone will spend entire nights before the race double checking the toe-in, changing the diff oil, and in extreme cases, doing an LS1 swap. The more potentially futile the effort undertaken and the later the minute, the better. If you’ve never woken up underneath the car at 4:43am, drool pooling on cool concrete while a leaky tranny seal quietly drops oil on your chest, you must have a crew chief.
- Win. While there are far too many true gentlemen racers that never land on the podium, winning is the object of the game and you can’t pass into Valhalla until you’ve hoisted the cup overhead. Sorry, that’s just the way the rules are written.
Now that you know, it's time to get busy.