Motor Racing is Dangerous

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Throughout the world, your pit pass for a race meeting will have printed on it “Motor Racing is Dangerous.” This is a legal requirement in many countries, as otherwise the organizers might have to pay compensation if you get injured by a flying wheel or even a flywheel, which I have seen twice, coming straight up and through the bonnet of the Lotus Cortina while the car was in the pits! The other was a Cooper Maserati which had a monumental blow up with piston rings rolling down the main straight at the Lakeside circuit in Queensland, Australia.

But this is Thailand, and this concerns my TBX Retro Racing Ford Escort Mk1. The workshop we used to use was not far away from the Prince Bira circuit, and as the car was road-registered, we did not have the hassles of having to find a trailer and securing the car to it. It is a trifle noisy, but we trundle along at about 2,500 rpm maximum and there’s no real fuss. In fact, there is so little fuss with the car on the public highway that after practice one day, I decided to reward the pit crew and asked them if they would like to drive the car back to the workshop. The answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” These were very inexperienced crew and quite a few years ago, but very willing to make up for their lack of race car fettling.

Just a little warm.

I had not gone more than 50 meters down the road when the phone rang. “We’ve lost a wheel,” was the message from the crew.

We drove back, to find the race car parked at the side of the road on three wheels and a dejected pit crew walking towards us with three wheel nuts.

Luckily the damage was not too much. A flare was broken, the rear guard creased and the wheel had some marks, but was still usable. We jacked up the car, replaced the wheel with the three wheel nuts and I drove it back to the workshop.

But the greatest damage was to the crew confidence as it became apparent that in their excitement to get going they had failed to tighten up the wheel nuts on the left rear wheel. Not only that, but as it started to fret on the studs as they drove along, they did not stop to find out what was causing the ‘clunking’, thinking that somehow all these strange noises were part of what a race car felt like in the inside.

We managed to repair the damage to the flare and guard, and it looked presentable for race day, so the crew was forgiven, but there was damage that we had overlooked. The battery lived behind the wheel arch in what used to be the well for the spare tyre, and the battery position had been moved as the wheel hit it. In the last race of the day, the battery moved further forward under braking and shorted out the terminal, causing the battery case to catch fire, and our first non-finish.

No, motor racing might be dangerous, but for me, just getting to and from is even more so.