Monday, July 21, 2008

A racing companion

For most people (particularly men) who follow motorsport, it's a lonely pursuit. Unless they have equally enthusiastic friends who are into the sport, they're forced to find internet forums where they can have rewarding, meaningful discussions and engage in discourse about their hobby. I can imagine this could get frustrating.

Luckily for me, that's not the case. When I first met my partner K nine years ago, there was little indication that she had any interest in any sport, never mind motor racing. She didn't even have a TV, let alone cable and she'd never seen the Speedvision channel. A typical situation could have developed where one partner learns to tolerate the interests of another, but in this case something strange happened.

Straight off the bat, she developed a fondness for my cranky but lovable Alfa Romeo Milano. This was a good start. Then she began to come to races, beginning with a trip to the Wine Country Classic historic races at Sears Point. That weekend was brutally hot and could so easily have turned her off racing forever. It didn't, perhaps because historic racing presents such a friendly, low-key environment or maybe because she was able to witness first-hand my enthusiasm.

When I bought a motorcycle she was envious, having had a certain amount of experience in hanging out with the messenger biking crowd here in SF, as well as having learned to ride many years ago. It wasn't long before she was also on two wheels again. As my interest in motorcycles grew, so did my interest in motorcycle racing, so she was able to share in the process of learning about this new side of the sport.

It wasn't too hard a sell in 2002 when we went to Italy for three weeks to convince her that we needed a night in Milan (to ensure a visit to the Alfa Romeo museum the next day) and a night in Modena so we had time to visit Ferrari. She loved the Alfa facility (which felt more like a private collection) but was less excited about Ferrari, which was more of tourist trap.

Back in the US my interest in rallying began to increase, and before long I'd had a chance to go to the WRC event in Sweden which convinced me to learn how to co-drive. My first event saw K come along to work as a timing marshal. Despite the fact she stood on the side of a mountain in pouring rain for hours on end she continued to enjoy rallying. It was at this point that she revealed her mother had been a co-driver many years back. Aha! So it's in the genes! Now everything started to make sense....

Late in 2003 we both went to the WRC event in Wales. This was surely going to be the make-or-break moment. As we stood in freezing fog on the Rhondda stage on Sunday morning, with her favourite driver Carlos Sainz out of the rally two days prior, could she still muster excitement and enthusiasm? The answer came from behind a tightly-drawn hooded rain jacket... "yes!"

Pretty soon she was joining the annual pilgrimage to the July bike race at Laguna Seca, initially World Superbike, then MotoGP for the last four years, each year educating whichever newcomers had joined us that year.

It was only a matter of time before she came with me on the ultimate racing trip... a visit to the Le Mans 24 Hours. Sadly, the gods decided that since she was clearly able to cope with wet motorsport events, it would rain like the devil on Le Mans in 2007. Once again she kept her chin up, and was rewarded with a great time and apart from the first and last couple of hours, a dry race (and a dry pitwalk on the Friday, evidenced in the picture below). It was quite a step up from our annual Le Mans weekend barbecues back in San Francisco which she'd taken to leading the arrangement of.

She was even brave enough to come to see NASCAR this year. She got a very good look at Michael Waltrip:

So, where to next for my racing partner-in-crime? Well, after we take the plunge of actually becoming married, she can look forward to a little high-speed action herself, perhaps beginning with an autocross and then moving to some track days, now that we have a car worthy of such pursuits. If past experience is anything to go by, I should be ready to start buying tyres on a regular basis, as she proceeds to become equally excited by engaging in some on-track fun as I have been.


Sameer said...

Congratulations to the newly-engaged!

Nic Fetter said...

Congratulations on your engagement. Did u enjoy the races?

patrick said...

Congratulations on your engagement. And good luck with the Autocrossing.

Kristin said...

Holy Moly - you made me weepy!

Forrest Gump said...

So you are making the Ultimate Commitment huh? Congratulation's your engagement. Are you going to Blog the wedding?

Jaime said...

A girl who loves Carlos is a keeper!