Chumpcar 24 Hour Enduro – Pikes Peak Raceway June 11-12 2011
”OK, this will work. I can’t see, but then I realized, I don’t need to see to get around corners. It was like a Zen moment or something.” – Steven
Our sealed beam headlights were old, tired, yellow, and dim. They might have as well have been the original lamps, installed 23 years ago. Maybe they actually were! We had considered adding a couple of lights, but lighting is expensive, and our intention was to comply with the rules. Little did we know that million candlepower headlights were exempt from the price cap, since they were considered a safety item. The rules are not at all clear about this, and our interpretation of them turned out to be mistaken.
Nearly all of the competitors had run in the series before, and a few had done so many times. There were only a handful of other Chumpcar virgins, like us. Our unfamiliarity with the series had led us to make some erroneous decisions, a few of which would make our race far more difficult than it might have otherwise been. Significantly, one of them was to rely on the original sealed beam headlamps.
“The hands follow the eyes” is a basic tenet of road racing. You will soon be where you’re looking, so be sure to look for a happy place. Don’t look too long at that wall, or the car pirouetting into the dirt. Don’t just look over the hood: look up and out. Find your markers. Look for your line; your racing line, and you will follow it. Seeing is absolutely essential, and quickly interpreting visual clues leads to good situational awareness.
With that awareness in mind, the hands and feet can smoothly apply whatever control inputs are needed to stay on course. Rapid and smooth inputs are continuously applied to change the racecar’s course and velocity. Brake and throttle are smoothly applied and released, and of course steering, which is the primary control input. When performed well, it’s very much like a dance. There is a rhythm to it all, and there’s a simple equation that sums it up: smooth=fast. Whether or not they know the latest steps, and they usually don’t, all racecar drivers are good dancers. Some of them are even musicians: all of them have rhythm.
Children, especially young children, have a store of knowledge about things that are soon forgotten as they grow. We raise, feed, and comfort them. We protect them, and with gentle love, try to lift them out from the difficulty of being very young and small. We heal their wounds and soothe their fears. There is a particular fear that all children know: they know that the boogeyman awaits them in the dark.
It was during my second driving stint that the sun set, and the lights came out. You could say that was when the lights went out. The track only had lighting available near the pit areas, and the rest of the track was soon plunged into darkness, or worse. All of our lights were working, but sadly, would not be giving a stellar performance tonight. Soon, the onrushing track ahead nearly vanished. It was then that the boogeyman came out to play.
What seemed a very long time later, our pit held up our number 86, signaling one hour, and I came into the pits. Our race strategy was to try and extend each driving stint upwards from an hour, to 75 minutes. I had come in after just an hour, however. Exiting the car, I offered my explanation as calmly as I could manage, “I couldn’t see anything out there.”
Dennis, our team captain climbed aboard next and quickly roared off of pit road. An hour later, we signaled to him, and he pitted without hesitation.Flipping up his visor, his first words were spoken with emotion and conviction, “It’s INSANE out there. I couldn’t see a thing! One hour stints!”
We needed to improve our lighting. The lack of sufficient lighting was a mission critical problem, and we needed to resolve it. We had very few options available, and we used all three of them. We cleaned the headlights and windshield, and began to use the high beams exclusively. Ed was up next, then Charles, Steven, Brian, and then me again, as I was sixth in our rotation.
Each of us in turn roared out into the black maw of the darkness. Each driver returned from their driving stint with some very colorful remarks about what they couldn’t see. Nearly all of us had to do it twice. The second stint was a bit easier perhaps, since by then we all knew how to survive the blackening conditions. None of us would in any way describe it as “easy”.
Many of the other teams were having difficulties with the darkness as well, and the six turn infield course was pretty much a dust storm throughout the night, revealing many agricultural excursions. Considering that June 12th is one of the shortest nights of the year, it sure lasted for an awfully long time. In defiance of the danger and the dark, we found ourselves laughing.