Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oil & Hay - 21

I'm not losing ground. In fact I'm close enough to pressure Checho at the slower corners; not to pass–yet–but to harass, to worry him a bit.

It's a pleasure to be in this position. When cars are racing close the trailing driver has a certain power–an authority, even–over the leader, by virtue of what he might accomplish should his rival make the slightest error. The leader's naked, exposed, vulnerable. Blind. His pursuer is relaxed, happy. Hungry. What bliss it is to see up close the dark maw of the engine and the pair of pipes that frame the herky-jerky helmet of the laboring pilot. All of it inflames desire.

After a few laps I'm in his draft on the straights and I know it won't be long. I nose to either side of him going into corners, sniffing opportunity. He closes the door adroitly. Here the balance of power becomes more complex. If a quicker driver can't pass, he's a fool. I try not to become impatient, unnerved.

Then I come out of Blanchimont, a fast leftward bend, with exceptional pace. I must take advantage of it. I draw up on Checho to the left, up to his rear wheels, letting him believe I have the hubris to pass on the outside of the La Source hairpin. I wait for him to defend. I wait, and wait. And wait. Finally he drifts over a little and I duck back to the other side. As we approach the corner I have to believe the line belongs to me. I have to believe he won't turn in. I know I'll have to brake late, late, late. Keep it in shape. Most of all I must fill the track with my imagination. It's mine.

I'm a little more than halfway past the Hewitt-Clark when I get on the brakes. I feel the front end go loose right away–I'm skidding, swerving in this space I've arrogantly claimed. The wall of adverts at the end of the straight is fast approaching: Esso, Esso, Esso, Esso. Photographers. Gendarmes, staring dully at us as they do. I pump the pedal to avoid losing control completely. Little gasps of traction let me keep the line. I know I've got Checho beat as long as I can make this corner. I commit to it, a little bit too fast–too late to brake again; I'd skid into the hay. The back end loses traction now and I drift around the hairpin, giving quick bursts of throttle so I don't spin around. I don't care where Checho is; I can't care. On the other side now, I've got the front wheels in the right direction. I get back on the throttle all the way and the car shakes into shape. I fly down past the pits again, elated. P1.