That was a longer day than I anticipated… Big old race day. All the teams going it at hard. Fun and games in harsh conditions. The dust on the track has been treated with a by-product of the Australian paper industry – some kind of thing that binds evergreens together. Resin? I think it’s probably closer to the sticky stuff that sweats through the thick bark of redwood trees. It sticks together molecules of dust and makes them heavier so there’s less crap flying in the face of the drivers. There’s always gonna be plenty in this tank range, but it’s not much of a viewing experience if all the camera can take in is a cloud.
All the teams were on point this morning, raring to go. Everything to race for today, then a day off, then again.
These incredible machines are a thing to behold. One driver in the cockpit and those vast tires and then the suspension! All of the drivers will be exhausted now. Taking those bumps and corners at that speed… They are titans. And they have to do it all again, from scratch, the day after tomorrow. Anybody who has ever been go-karting knows how fit racing drivers must be just with sheer gravity and these tracks? They are unkind. They’re extreme.
Conditions were not friendly today. For the semis it was reasonably calm but incredibly hot. I had forgotten my flask and was trying to make do with cups of water but failing. At half ten, after 4 hours of heat, I started to headrush when I stood up, so I immediately went to Doctor John and got a sachet of electrolytes, drove back to the hotel and drank them in a cold shower. Then I put new clothes on, got my flask and picked up Jess. “It’s hot. It’s really hot,” I told her. Jess is a redhead. She too ended up in medical with an asthma attack from the heat and the dust.
I stayed on site from then, pouring water into my face and out of my skin. I tidied areas and filled sandbags and moved water and refilled things and attempted to help with or learn all the odd jobs needed on site. The day passed in a blur of racing and thinking and waiting and stinking. I can’t stream the final race as it goes out on terrestrial, but while the track is hot I’m positioned next to my car for emergency driving. Inevitably the call came. “Al Barclay to the back of medical.” One of the drivers had a wee bang. Likely nothing serious but you can’t just shrug it off and see like you and I do with injuries. Not when you’re competing at this level with another race coming up. He was airlifted, and two of us were sent to be Extreme-E representatives at the hospital far too far away. Just as well I had plotted my emergency route. I’m told a Fiat people carrier with large boot capacity and worn out tyres can happily sustain 160kph but much faster and it’s too much for the wind resistance so you start to feel lifty. I would never behave so rashly of course. But if I did I would have made remarkable time.
We got there in time to see the copter landing from the road. Unexpected hitch: while we’ve all been making a race in a tank range, Italy has gone into some sort of COVID related meltdown. Loads of people were standing outside the hospital looking worried. They all had people in there and not even partners and parents were allowed through the door. Just patients. We had to wait for nurses to come give info about the driver and all we wanted was info. This, oh constant reader, is a long way from The Crown Prince’s Personal Suite in Tabuk…
Eventually we got the info we wanted (everything totally fine), and we swept back through the hills with the last of the light – a journey that might have been a touch more pleasant if I hadn’t realised that the diesel light was on and the range was showing “—” with over 30km to travel through reception free hills in the gloaming. With a combination of good luck, coasting, racing lines, high gears and the fact these instruments lie in order to make sure you refill in time, we made it over the hills to the station. I got my passenger back in time for his tender. We weren’t forced to camp in the mountains. Then I went for that decompression meeting down at Aldo’s beach bar with the rest of the team. Good mens and good womens. I’m happy to be here with them. I’m happy to be here full stop, even if it’s harsh in the heat.