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A night on the track

​My friend asked me if I wanted to be the passenger in his speedway car on the weekend, "of course" I said quickly - soon followed by "I suppose if I hate it after the first race, I can just sit in the pits for the other 3 races", to which he replied "No, you're in or out - there are so many people that want to jump in the car with me, you can't bow out after the first race." 

" OK, I'm in!"

You see, the Speedway is held in Kununurra every 3 weeks. Depending on the night and the track; there's generally 4 races for each class of car, and 8 laps per race.

Getting 'kitted out' a few days before the race, I tried on all of the gear in our friends shed (with the temperature sitting around 35 degrees Celsius). First is the fire-proof clothing: a long sleeve skivvy, pants, socks and balaclava; then a zip up racing suit, racing boots, neck collar, helmet and gloves. 
I also did a test run getting into the car and getting locked in ready to race. Climbing in through the window feet first, pulling my body into the racing seat and closing the window net. I had to learn the process of putting on the seat-belt; a 5 point harness which locks in at your waist. Pulling the tabs tight until you can't move your torso; it's really not an experience for anyone with claustrophobia!! 

Race day comes around quickly, we head out around 3:30pm to have the car and our gear checked by the scrutineer. Then help out setting up the track for the races - placing traffic lights around the edge of the track, for the drivers, and laying the line on the inside of the track with lime (which totally stinks by the way!). It's hot and dusty out on the track at this time of day; which makes me think of how uncomfortable it will be putting on all of the gear later.

The afternoon goes quickly and the sun fades. I start getting ready; jumping into the fireproof suit, and then my race suit and boots. Placing my balaclava, neck brace, helmet and gloves in the car. We head over to the drivers meeting, it's 6pm; they're talking about things that go over my head, I was zoning out a bit - until I hear them talking about it being a quiet night on the track, there weren't a lot of drivers due to other events on in the area - "we have decided that you will race 5 times tonight, oh, and we'll increase each race to 10 laps." "Is anyone else hot all of a sudden??"

The 'mods' (modified vehicles) raced first, we went to the fence to watch them. The track was looking good: dry and fast. Next up were the women - about half way through their race I headed back over to the car, to get myself ready to go: I'd become a bit worried about not being in the car, strapped in and ready to go by race time; so I gave myself plenty of time, with the juniors to race after the women. 

Sitting in the car, I close the window net, and get my seat-belt locked in. I put the balaclava on, and then my helmet - opening the visor to let some air in, I strap the neck brace around the bottom of the helmet. I then pull hard on my seat-belt straps, really making sure I can't move, before putting my gloves on.
He jumps in the car beside me, and is ready in 30 seconds flat. Turning to me "you ready?" "yep".... "you nervous?" "yep!" "we'll be right".

Pulling up to the pit lanes, ready to drive out onto the track, the energy is high. The gate opens and we whip out onto the track - my heart in my throat, and my breath caught inside the tiny space of the helmet. My body tenses as we take off around the track, looking into the crowd to try to spot some familiar faces. We round the track a few times waiting for all of the drivers to join us and pack up - all of the cars need to form up into a tight pack before the race begins coming out of the 4th corner - the light goes green and we're racing. OH MY GOD. WHAT HAVE I DONE! 
Still looking into the crowd to see where my friends are sitting, after a couple of laps I'm dizzy and have to refocus my attention on the track. My whole body tensed and pushed to the right hand side of the seat; absolute terror in my eyes, I can't even scream, my voice caught in my throat. The track is dry and dusty, in spots visibility is low, as the cars stir up the dirt. The race is over before I know it, my breathing is heavy as I sit waiting for the gate to reopen.
We drive into the pits, parking the car - removing each layer of head gear before loosening and undoing my seat-belts. I remove the window net and clamber out of the car - happy to have my feet on solid ground, although my head still feels like it's on the track. "How was it" he asks, interrupting my thoughts. "fast" I reply, unable to say much else. "We got stuck behind ol' mate, it wasn't even that quick" he replies. Freaking out a little internally, I grab a cup of cold water and skull it down, calming myself.

Before we could head out for the second race, the water truck does a few laps in an attempt to tame the dust. 

Heading out, it's evident there's been too much water applied - the track is incredibly slippery, and the car struggles to stick to the inner line. Cars are sliding all over the track, and we lose control coming out of the third corner, doing a 360 on the track; cars flying at us from every direction, trying to hold traction themselves. We spin back the right way, and the foot goes down again, back into it, the cars in front of us spitting mud up at us this time, my visor becomes covered, and I tare off a plastic slip to reveal the track ahead again. We repeat this slipping and sliding throughout the whole race, my head overthinking every spin and slide; although travelling a lot slower than the first race. Coming off the track every car and driver is covered in mud. Maybe I am getting the hang of it now?

Heading into the third race I turn to him and say "this one is ours!", excited by the thrill and getting into the spirit of being part of the team.
He comes out of the fourth corner fast, taking the outside line. The rest of the cars sticking to the inside of the track, but losing control like the last race. It takes a couple of loops and we're in front of them all - speeding along the wall line; this in itself is quite terrifying, as we're getting quite a lot of speed up, and driving very close to the concrete barricade that encompasses the track. His tactic paid off, and we won the third race! Elated we pull up to head back through the gate; looking down to my right, I see his hand waiting for a fist pump - We did it!!

It's half time now, and the pit gates open, allowing spectators in to see the cars and drivers - a really great initiative by the club, as kids are allowed to come down and talk to the drivers, and sometimes jump in the drivers seat - gulping down water my friends are patting me on the back and asking questions, still a bit dazed I suppose and fueled with adrenaline I don't say a lot.. just taking it all in.
Half time is over before we know it. I help the boys refueling their cars, before getting in and ready to race again.

Once again the gate opens and we fling back out onto the track, clearly fueled by the encouraging words of the onlookers we're going pretty fast as the race begins, by this point I'm really enjoying myself. Watching more closely the drivers hands moving quickly on the wheel, completely in touch with the car. Other cars bump into the sides of us, but the focus and skill (and passion to win) exceed the fear. I let out a BIG scream as we get pushed up close to the boundary wall, in absolute excitement of the adrenaline rush. 
The race is finished and although we didn't win this one, one of the boys from our team took out his very first race; everyone was buzzing!

The final race didn't go so well, we came into car troubles about half way through. Pulling into the middle of the track he removes his gloves and helmet in a fury, yelling and cursing at the car - not the way we wanted to end the night.
The race finished and we pulled off the track, parking in the pits, getting out to discuss what had happened. Needless to say, the team had some work ahead of them, over the coming weeks.

He asked me "did you enjoy it?" "sure did!" I replied. " you can jump in again if you want, you did great."

So, I guess, until next time!

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