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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:24 am

The agony and ecstasy of (grassroots) racing
It's different for pros like Kurt Busch—he showed us—but any racing ups your heart rate.

With 15 minutes to go, I put on my helmet and retreated inside it, focusing on what to do next. My heart rate had been steadily climbing all morning in anticipation of racing in anger for the first time in 2014. One of my team mates, Scott, has been out on the soaking wet track for the last two hours, but he’ll soon be visiting the pit lane for a fuel stop and to hand the car over to the next driver; the next driver being me. Way back in 2011, I wrote a piece asking (and answering) the question of whether it was possible to learn how to race cars just by playing video games. It was my first real foray on a track after nearly 20 years of wanting to get into motorsport, and I’ve not looked back since. No games this time. Rather, as someone who simply races for a hobby, I’d been curious about quantifying the physical workload involved.


Even though I’ve accumulated a respectable amount of racing hours in the intervening years, I still spend the hours between waking up on race day and getting in the car questioning why I'm actually doing all this. "So what if one time I drove here and came back to the pits on three wheels? Didn't we fix that and come in fourth the following day?" I've felt much better about my pre-race stage fright after hearing Felix Baumgartner discuss his own problem during the Red Bull Stratos jump, and I gave myself a similar pep talk. “The car will be good. You’ve done this before, you know what you need to do. Build up to speed. Concentrate. Focus on your driving, ignore the lap times.” As Scott brings the car into the pit lane, I wait atop the pit wall, seat insert in hand (I’m short and need a booster seat). Only four people are allowed over the wall if the car's gas cap is open; the fueler, someone wielding a fire extinguisher, the driver, and one other person who can help, strapping in—or pulling out—the driver.
World Racing League

The WRL is the latest venue for grassroots endurance racing, evolving from ChumpCar and the 24 Hours of Lemons. Instead of limiting competitors to much older, much cheaper cars—something that has given those other series a reputation for being a demolition derby for old bangers no one cares about—WRL features a number of different classes based on power-to-weight ratios, and it maintains a strict no-contact policy, something that is helping to attract owners of more expensive race cars that have competed in more established (and more expensive) series run by organizations like SCCA or NASA.

Getting situated in the car happened smoothly. I tightened the straps as a helping hand plugged in my radio jack and the dry-break connector that joins my cool shirt to its chilled reservoir. The cool shirt is a wonderful thing. Worn underneath that heavy nomex, it's a t-shirt crisscrossed with surgical tubing. Cold water is pumped from an insulated tank through the tubes and across your torso, at a rate determined by a knob on the dash. On hot summer days it comes into its own, removing 'it's hot' from the (very long) list of things drivers want to complain about over the radio. ... ts-racing/

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