Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oil & Hay - 3

I sat in my Star-Apogee and twice pumped the throttle, the motor roaring venomously at my back. I looked to my left and saw Santiago Bragato, the Argentine, adjusting his goggles in his hunter green Hewitt-Clark. Ahead of us in the first row were reigning world champion José das Chagas in his Cavallo Nero, offset to my left, and Zo at the far left in his. Zo and Zé. Teammates and tempestuous rivals. Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Beyond them Louis Chiron held his hand up: five.

I tried to contemplate the calm between my heart's concussive beats.


I stepped on the clutch and engaged first gear.

Three. Two.

I pressed the throttle to the floor. The motor noise rose to a continuous shriek of extreme urgency, all its energy lusting keenly for release.


Louis steps aside and waves the Monégasque red-and-white with an extravagant flourish. I release the clutch and my rear wheels spin madly for the merest moment; soon they find purchase and I shoot forward, ducking under Zé. Up to second gear. To third.

How to overtake a car? Pretend it isn't there. View its claim to existence with scorn. Occupy the space that it would occupy. Ignore the laws of nature and they'll concede something to you. Not much. An inch or two. Enough to get by.

Ignore the laws of man as well. You've got to be ruthless in racing. Criminal-minded, really. Every time I overtake someone I feel as though I've picked his pocket. Though he must howl with indignation, I don't care. So what's in my spirit? An airy elation where shame's supposed to be. To race and to win is to be rewarded for sin.

As we approach St. Devote I push Zé out, brazenly insisting on my line. There's Zo ahead of me on the outside. He started like a rocket. I'll slip in behind him like that's the way it's meant to be.

I hold my breath and make it stick. That's one thing I do whilst overtaking: I hold my breath.