By Emily Atkins, Provinz Editor (from Provinz September 2014 page 35)
Not every superhero needs a sidekick, but without a foil to use them on, super powers are utterly pointless. The evil, dastardly villain is an absolute necessity.
It’s like that in racing too.
Starting out, as I have this summer, you have no idea at first where you run in the pack. The order quickly sorts itself out, however, and you find yourself running with the same group of similar-speed cars and drivers. And that’s where the fun starts.
If you are running around at the back of the pack or even in a gap in the middle, you’re not really racing. It’s lapping without the passing signals. You can go for ages without seeing another car. The only excitement is the moments you’re making sure to be a predictable rolling chicane as the leaders lap you.
But when you’ve got a competitor, suddenly the race comes alive, even if you’re the back markers. Now you’re matching wits and bravery as you battle for supremacy, corner after corner.
I’m happy to say I’ve found my nemesis. The pale blue, highly modified 944T is always there in the race pictures, either right behind, or more commonly, right in front of me.
And that’s where I like him. I’m a much better greyhound than rabbit. Give me someone to chase and I’m all over it; pushing and pushing and pushing until I find the chink in his tactics that lets me through.
I’ve always been like this for me—in duathlon racing I did the same thing on the bike, but more noticeably in the run. Find a target, reel them in, then stay a pace behind until it’s time to make your move. In running it’s usually a lot simpler though—there’s no risk of injury or crashing at the speeds we’re moving. And you only have to do it once, just before the finish line.
In cars it’s a bit different. There’s a lot more care and thought going into each move, even though the pace is faster and there’s less time to figure out if the reward is worth the risk. You’ve got to be either icy cool or let the red mist come down and take you places your rational brain may not want you to go.
The more you drive with the same competition, the better you get to know their patterns and “tells”. Just as the superhero knows what his archenemy’s favourite tricks are.
As rookies, I suspect we are prone to liking certain places on the track, and being uncomfortable in others. That’s how I’ve figured out how to take advantage. Coming up the back straight at Mosport, his car pulls on mine until we reach the bridge, then he’s either lifting, or his car runs out of torque and suddenly I’m gaining. I’ve learned—and maybe here’s where I should stop giving away my secrets—that I can brake late and lightly and steal the inside line as he drifts wide and brakes hard. The trick is just being close enough to his tail when we reach the top of the straight.
And then it’s pure joy and a huge surge of adrenalin as the pass sticks. But now roles are reversed and I’m driving in my mirrors, keeping a close eye on his distance from my back bumper.
But regardless of whether I stick the pass or not, it’s always more enjoyable when I see his car on the grid. Suddenly the adrenaline kicks in and I know there’s a race to run.
Every racer needs a rabbit—or a greyhound. Whatever form the nemesis takes, it’s what makes racing fun. It adds the frisson of danger when we let our competitive spirit take over. And, at least where I race, you usually sit down afterwards and have a beer to relive the heroic pass or laugh at boneheaded error you made in the last race.
So here’s to my nemesis! May he always be there. And may he always be in my mirrors as we pass the checkered flag.