It’s quite a production helping a driver get into a race car. That’s because it’s not like getting into a normal car.
Tight doesn’t even begin to cover it. You wear the car like a suit.
Justin slides in through the window at an improbable angle. His racemates Z and V scurry around him, and the following happens: Justin adjusts his seat, making sure he can reach all controls. Mirrors are adjusted. HANS device is put on. Helmet is put on. Harness is loosely connected. Anti-submarine belt is adjusted to proper height, where the buckle mechanism and side belts are in the proper place across the hips. Side belts are tightened so that they are tight across the hips. Shoulder belts are located to HANS device and tightened. HANS clips to helmet are connected and verified. Radio wires to helmet are connected. Drink tube is placed where Justin wants. Steering wheel is connected. Radio is checked.
This is an absolute flurry of activity. I’m standing on the sidelines, there to take care of the racing team for the weekend. This mostly means getting them food and water when they come off their stints, drunk from the endorphins of racecar driving. Making sure they don’t pass out at our campsite. That sort of thing.
I’m not crew certified so I’m not allowed to even touch the car.
As I watch them send Justin out for his turn at the wheel, I’m not even sure who is doing what. The team moves as a single unit, getting Justin set for his time on the track. Really, V and Z do most of the work for Justin because Justin can barely move. That’s kind of the point of safety gear. You don’t want to be able to move around too much.
Z not only hands Justin his shades but pushes them on Justin’s face. Z taps the hood of the car. This means “you’re good to go.” And Justin peels out of the paddock.
I travel with a racing team. Z keeps offering to let me use his Miata to learn how to drive stick. And several years ago, I managed to get an aged Jetta to and from Red Lobster. I was the one stalling out at every other light.
The goal of the whole thing is to fix up heaps and race them. It’s about endurance. We’re just glad to finish.
You would think racing would be all about competition. But it’s really not.
The most brutal struggles are really over blanket hogging in a 30-degree tent when the bitter weather sets in.
I’ve learned a lot about cooperating to compete, from traveling with a racing team. Because they are competing against other teams — and against each other, to a certain extent. After all, racing time is a premium. It’s limited and expensive. When one person has time in the driver’s seat, others don’t.
In a way, it’s kind of like the car is their mutual partner and they’re all metamours (a word for your partner’s other partners). They’re sharing something limited — but they’re doing so beautifully.
And honestly, if freaking racecar drivers can share so seamlessly, there’s hope for the rest of us, I say.