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When You're Racing, It's Life


Caution on the tracks!!!


Editor's note: The following column by Prof. McGuirk was posted yesterday, but was cut off when posted. Our apologies for the confusion. Here is the piece in its entirety.

Gold $426 Silver $7.20 Monday 13 June, 11.45pm Sydney.

I see that silver has taken a breather and settled back to the $7.20's which was not altogether unexpected. I thought it would hold around $7.25ish but you never know with silver. Looking for next support at $7.12 but a retest of $7.45 looks more likely.

Gold is the same price as when I left for the big Kart race on Thursday. Go figure. Even Sir Alan couldn't do all that much with his gabfest late last week but I am flying blind at present and will catch up in the next couple of days as to what he pontificated. I'd be lying if I said I knew anything about the metals markets of the last few days. I hear there was a G8 meeting as well. I've been enjoying a weekend like no other I've experienced in my soon to be 40 year old life. And I broke a drought that has been killing the Australian farming sector, all in one holiday weekend. Best I inform you of the weekend before I crash out!

Lisa and I arrived back in Sydney a couple of hours ago after driving in a 24hr Endurance Kart race at a little place in western New South Wales called Dubbo. It's a town of about 20,000 people and a huge agricultural hub of Australia. Lots of meat, fruit and grain are supplied from this region. It is about 500 kilometres from Sydney.

My little brother, Damian, invited me to drive in his team after I went and watched him race here in Sydney. I accepted and soon found that Lisa could also drive in the race, as he was entering two Karts in the race and he was a driver or two "short". It looked pretty easy from the sideline and reckoned I could do it, no worries. Wrong banana-head!

We arrived in Dubbo late on Thursday and headed out for dinner with a couple of our new teammates. A great steak, a few beers, a couple of nice reds, a visit to the local pub, a few games of pool and, geez louise, it was 2am! Not exactly the prescribed "training" for motor-sport, but we are pretty unconventional down here.

We woke to a Friday of perfect sunshine. It hadn't rained a drop in 19 weeks in Dubbo, and the last meaningful rainfall was in 2002! Today was practice day and, with a sore head, we headed off to the track at about 10am. The last thing I needed was a couple of engines buzzing 2 feet from my head! We were informed that practice wouldn't begin until 3pm and so we elected to head out to the famous Western Plains Zoo to kill a couple of hours while Rowie, Daisy's business partner and chief mechanic (he is a real maritime mechanic), tuned up our chariots. Daisy, who knows the kart "mechanics" better than most, joined us with his Princess Annie for a little "family time". The western plains zoo is on huge acreage and we saw Cheetah's running wild, hippo's swimming and wallowing in waterholes and all sorts of animals out in their natural environment. Well, maybe not their natural environment, but way better than a concrete cage that most zoo's have. I didn't realize just how big a bladder the White Rhino has. Seriously, they should've tapped the beast and they could've watered half of the state, such was the volume expelled. But I digress.

We headed back to the track to find all sorts of teams getting their conveyances ready. That was when both Lisa and I thought maybe we should have declined the invitation to race. There were some serious teams there. Fun, but seriously hardcore kart enthusiasts.

As we had never driven one of these karts before, it was imperative that we get as much practice in as possible and we thought most of Friday and early Saturday practice would be sufficient. That was until the karts wouldn't "go right" and we finally got on the track at about 7pm on Friday, under lights. It was hard enough learning the 1.1km course and the car in daylight, but at night? Gimme a break. Things couldn't get any worse, and I was starting to feel somewhat apprehensive about the whole deal. Never challenge "worse"!

The big hairpin at the top of the track had brought me undone in every lap at practice. Damian told me that the left pedal was a brake and so that helped somewhat. Timing the use of it was an altogether different deal! Lisa was going great guns until she beached the kart up on the very same corner where I had so much trouble. Anyway, after an hour or so I started to get the feel of it and even got a lap in at just over a minute, which I didn't realize was that good. But it was the only lap I didn't screw up in some way or another. The lights went off at 9pm and that was it.

We took it easy on the Friday night with pizza and a few boxes of beer and were in bed by 1am. My forearms were a bit tight and my shoulder blades a bit tender, but little did I know what was to come. A 24hr race doesn't sound that hard but.....

I woke up at 6am to find Dubbo saturated with rain and blowing a gale. Things were getting worse! But I thought, "how nice for the farmers" and went back to sleep. We scurried out of bed at 8am to be at the track by 9. The driver briefing before practice was something else, but everyone from the Mayor down said the rain would stop before we raced at 3pm. It never rains in Dubbo for longer than 3 hours and they'd had 5 by then. It hadn't stopped by the time that the "hot lap" for grid positions began at 1pm and there was no way I was gunna bust up a kart before the race by "practicing". We went out with Rowie driving the 808 "new" kart and our young mate Todd driving the 888 "old lady". Todd lost it at the big hairpin but still qualified us in the top half of the 32 karts. Rowie got pole with a flying 1.13 seconds in the rain which, to me, was suicidal.

The race kicked off and Rowie led the field, which was started under the safety car due to the conditions. That he spun out on the first corner under those conditions wasn't inspiring. Anyway, they were off on the first lap of somewhere near 1500 that would be done over the course of the 24hrs. Everything was going well with both cars in the top ten at the first hour mark. The "triple 8" which Lisa and I were slated to drive was the first to bust something. No big deal, it's a long race they all said. We dropped 20 laps getting it fixed. The 808 was flying and never out of the top 3 until about lap 400 when someone took them out at the bottom of the straight and totally screwed the front end. It looked more serious than it was and a few of us on crowbars fixed it up pretty quickly. Something else broke on the 808 and after being fixed and unfixed numerous times over a few hours it was decided that she would be retired rather than totally bust up the brand new kart. Our big hope at winning the race had gone. But we still had the 888 going round but not nearly as quickly as the 808 was.

I got in the 888 kart at 6.30pm at the 3rd driver change. It was then that I found that there was an inbuilt camera on the 888 which broadcast my drive! I had never been in a race but they weren't going that fast due to the conditions, and so I thought I'd better go and "suck it and see". I jumped in the kart and Daisy said to me to "just take it easy" and "keep it on the black stuff". I looked pretty cool in my brand spanking new racing suit, an iridescent blue with red stitching and all the lapels and stuff, and my new black and silver helmet was very intimidating. That I couldn't drive for crap was secondary. I looked far too kool for skool.

I got, "clearance Clarence" from the marshals and hit the accelerator. I had to come out of the pits, which were covered. I looked out at the track and the rain/drizzle had turned into a full-scale bloody monsoon! Seriously, my first lap in a race was in a tropical rainstorm that only Thailand or Vietnam could throw up. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and so I went. The first corner at the end of the straight had 3 karts spun out and they looked pretty fat targets to me, but I turned the steering wheel and the bloody cart went where I pointed it. I missed them! Phew. The rest of the lap was one of survival and I didn't even lose it at the hairpin that I had screwed up every lap the night before. No one passed me either. Hmmm. I made it all the way around my first lap and didn't hit anyone else, get passed or spin out. I was saved by the safety car as there was carnage all over the track. I got in a heap of laps under safety conditions so I got a chance to get used to the track, the conditions and the kart. I was actually enjoying this! I stayed in the kart for just over an hour and gave our better drivers a good rest. Lisa opted out of driving in the rain and that was a very, very smart call.

The 888 kart had some problems with chains and clutches and stuff that I don't understand, and we were dropping down the leader board. I got my second shift at about 11pm and hit the track full of beans. The rain had subsided and a lot of the water had run off the track but it was still very wet and getting bloody cold. It snowed at Orange, the next town down the road, said the locals. I had a ball driving the second shift. I even did a fuel stop and was really enjoying the driving. I'm not that good in the dry because I'm too loose but in the wet, its perfect for me. Anyway, I was flying down the hill at full clip (about 100kph) when the kart in front of me went too wide in the chicane and I went past, when an almighty smash came back into my kart and I was sent spinning. He came out of the bloody grass!!! The ar$sehole had gone off-road and then speared into my back end at speed. It smashed in the back safety frames, busted the chains and whatever else. I haven't been so pi$$ed off in a long time and wanted revenge!

I've always played rugby and, if someone crosses the line and does something nasty, then there is always the bottom of a ruck where you can exact yours. A quiet kick in the head usually satisfied the requirement. But how do you do it in karting? Daisy just shrugged and said that it will even itself out. 4 Laps later the other cart, whose number I took and looked forward to revisiting at turn 1, was dragged off the track with some front end damage. Hmm, I still prefer the kick in the head solution. But Daisy was right, stuff happens and so get on with your own game.

Our mate Sean, a rally driver, took over from me once we fixed her up and just ate the track up. He was a revelation, as the 888 was the "reserve" kart and we were the novices. He'd never driven a kart before either but this man was fearless! We novices were 24th but climbing the ladder.

Lisa again decided that her place was being "pit bitch" with Princess Annie, rather than driving. The rain stopped in the wee hours of the morning but the track wouldn't dry out. Half our team was asleep by 3am but Daisy and I stayed up. We had another "bingle" in the 888 and blew out a rear tire. That we had no other wet tires was a problem, but, who'd take more than 1 set of wets to a place that hasn't seen rain since my young Billy was born? We had to go out on a new pair of slicks. I went out for 30 minutes on them and nearly freaking killed myself! Best leave that stuff to the real drivers.

Rowie awoke at 7am and must've dreamt something and had an epiphany of sorts 'coz he came out and said" I know how to fix the 808". He did and they re-entered the race but with no hope of catching anyone, but they got to run in the motors and show everyone what a serious kart it is (except that it was a 24hr race not a 12hr one!).

The sun was out all day and I got another couple of drives in perfect conditions. Those karts are a different beast when they grip the track and that was "real" racing. Even Princess Annie saw me overtake a guy under breaks at the end of the big straight and yelled out, "how good was that," to all our team who were waiting for me to go through the side fence. I actually think I may be able to do this one day, but no way could I be as good as little bro' and the rest of them. I get too tense and strangle the wheel and "throw" the cart around where they actually "drive" the machine. The best lap recorded all race by anyone, was by Rowie in the 808 at 58.82. Daisy goes all day at 60 flat. I did a 61.41 in the 888 so I guess I wasn't all that bad. Lisa decided that she was too cold and intimidated by the "hardcore people" to race. That will change 'coz she got the bug at practice but the rain spoiled everything and by the time it was nice, she was happy to let it slide. The 888 came in 16th. Not bad for a second team!

Tonight I can hardly move my arms, and my shoulders and back hurt. Turning a door handle is hard work and no way could I squeeze an orange. I guess I'm getting old. Seriously, I can hardly type!!

A great weekend away with my little brother, doing something that he loves. It should've happened a long time ago and it will happen a lot more often, I'm sure of it. Lisa loved it and has devised a whole "system" for "operations" on raceday, that we discussed on the 8 hour trip back to Sydney. Never try and get back across the Blue Mountains to Sydney, after a holiday weekend.

Steve McQueen said before Le Mans in 1973 - "When you're racing it's life! Anything that happens before or after is just waiting". Hmmmm.

Enjoy the day, I need a massage and 24 hours sleep.


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