Altamont Raceway, LeMons 10 May 2008, 11:00 am
Holy cow. This is serious nonsense.
I walked through the pits checking out the various teams, chuckling at the different themes, taking photos and tried not to get run over. There were velvet clad pimps with feathered hats and platform shoes, a porcupine quill topped BMW, and a Rooster tailed Nissan. Here, a pirate driven Miata, there a mannequin & sex doll adorned Mustang.
There were a couple of really beautiful vehicles, and MANY cobbled clunkers that looked as if they couldn’t even run, let alone be let loose on a track. Added to the mix was a sprinkling of large tire squealing Mopars just to make things interesting. People everywhere where trying to breath enough life into their “vehicles” long enough to make the start of the race. “This is nuts!” I thought.
Now, I've seen some crazy stuff before... I’ve participated in Clamper initiations, lived among hippies in the mountains, (the type who still live in multicolored converted school buses deep in the woods), and been through the Navy Shellback ceremony, long before they became the kinder and gentler Navy. I have seen things on foreign shores that would cause a college student take up the cloth and make a biker blush…
But THIS was the largest collection of nuts in one place that I had ever seen. And there was GASOLINE involved. These people, most of whom were not allowed to play with sharp objects as children, were now here gathered to play with a mind bending assortment of jalopies crafted from the deepest darkest recesses of their minds, or recently pulled from a drainage ditch; sometimes it was hard to tell.
The cars lined up then paraded out of the pits and onto the track. For a moment I thought I should beat my feet before the cops showed up. Then as the cars slowly circled the track it became mesmerizing as a parade of bad paint, feathers, pirates and gun sights crisscrossed the infield. Slowly the track filled with energy; a coffecan muffler barked off to the left, brakes would squeal out on the right. The pack started to get punchy, and then the green flag dropped at random and ALL HELL broke loose!
(Great Video from team "Driving While Awsome").
At first it looked like a fast paced bumper car ride. Then it slowly became a long course destruction derby. Bumpers went everywhere minus the cars that brought them there. Hondas swarmed around the Mopars like feeder fish in front of a great white. Volvos and BMWs sparred with each other as if engaged in an ancient Viking-Germanic battle. The hairs on my arms stood straight up while my eyes and nose filled with smoke from burning engines and screaming tires. I was transfixed like a dog obsessed with a tennis ball. Or in this case, 100 burning tennis balls. After a few hours my eyes hurt from not blinking, and I decided to take a break and walk around the pits some more.
In one pit I saw what looked like it used to be a Jaguar with an Exoskeleton roll cage attached to the outside parked in the pits. A few team members were milling about, and I thought about offering my help if they needed it. After all, it was a British car, and I know Sir Lucas, Prince of Darkness. He is no friend of mine either. (Brit-car joke)
I started to say “Well THERE’S your Problem” as I pointed generally at the car as a whole, but noticed the faces on this team were obviously not having any fun and decided to STFU (i.e. shut the fuck up). An elder gentleman whom appeared to be the team captain was hyper-focused on solving some problem and did not notice me. I decided to move along.
That’s when I ran into my Datsun friend/nemesis Jesse standing near a Volvo in a drivers fire-suit. “WTF are YOU doing here” I chided. “I’m here with the Jalopnik V8 Volvo team, getting ready to get out on the track” he said.
“What? Really? Wow!” (Translation: I hate you)
“Yeah, they asked me to help drive the V8 Volvo. Pretty cool huh?”
Jesse and I both have early Datsuns 410/411s, and regularly run into each other at shows and such. He and I travel different roads to the same destinations, one bumpier than the other.
I pulled a dead rare Datsun out of a pile of junk then heroically bring it back to life, and get stuck in the back row of car shows for my efforts. He leaves his faded Datsun parked on the street and gets featured in Jalopnik. I clean and detail the snot out of mine and get a second place ribbon for stock 510 at Blackhawk (Um, only 1 stock 510 showed up and they gave me a left over ribbon). He washed and waxed his Datsun for the first time ever, and gets an “Outstanding Car” trophy at J-style.
Yeah, I’m jealous. Perpetually. And now he’s got a ticket on the coolest carnival ride on the planet. My eyes narrowed… “Good for you Jesse… you lucky dog…”
That’s it. The final straw. I’m gonna be at the next race at Thunderhill… I don’t care WHAT it takes, even if I have to sell Brownie the RV.
Game on, Jesse… game on.
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