Danny Holmes stood beside the car transporter trailer that his racing team was repacking so that it could be taken back to the team’s workshop. He was stunned and shocked not because he won the first race of the season but because his wife, who he hadn’t seen since she walked out of their house three months earlier, turned up at the end of the race with no excuses as to why she left. Not only that her parting words as she left Danny standing beside the transporter were that she’d “see him at home.”
“Oi Danny!” The voice was from somewhere behind him but he wasn’t paying attention. “Danny!”
The second call of his name got his attention and broke him out of the trance. In the fading sunlight, made darker by the pit garage lights and the over head flood lights which were just starting to warm up, he turned to see the owner of the voice, It was Rick one of the technicians.
“Hey Rick, what’s up?”
“Where the hell were you man? You looked like you were miles away.” Rick said as they approached each other.
“Yeah I was, Tracey’s back.”
All the team knew about Danny’s personal life but Danny and Rick were mates, not just because they worked so close to each other trying to drag those elusive milliseconds out of the car to decrease lap times but because they had known each other since Danny first started racing go-karts nearly 20 years ago. Over the years their jobs had deviated slightly, Danny still drove fast bit Rick was now one of a team who monitored every sensor on the car and worked to saved hundreths of seconds.
“I saw her before, figured you must have let her in.” Rick responded.
“Well I guess I did in a way, I never took her name off the guest list.”
“What’s she want?”
“Told me she wants me back. She’s just left, reckons she’s going to meet me at home.” The confusion in Danny’s expression was evident as he spoke.
“Fuck man! Isn’t that what you want?”
“Well yeah, but walking back in after three months without saying anything?”
“What are you going to do?” Rick asked.
Danny didn’t even think about the answer he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “I dunno. Anyway, were you chasing me for a reason? I was heading home.”
“Well yeah I wanted to bounce a few ideas off you.”
“Like what buddy?” Danny replied happy to forget about his conversation with Tracey for a little while.
“Something was bugging me in those last 20 laps so I was analysing some of data between the race and practice and despite not changing the car in between there is something definitely wrong. You were clocking .034 of a second slower in those last laps.”
“You know what it’s like man, race trim, the car was getting tired after 100 odd laps, especially the way I pushed it. These things happen, it’s hard to match practice and qualifying times in the race, you of all people should remember that.”
“Trust me man it’s more than that. There is something I can’t put my finger on.”
The in car telemetry told Danny a similar story while he was racing, it wasn’t any where near as precise as Rick’s gear and that’s why he trusted what Rick was saying but during the race he was concentrating on winning and since then he hadn’t really given it much thought.
“No worries, we’ll work on it during the week. Like usual bring it up in the debrief tomorrow and we’ll take it from there.”
“Yeah I suppose you’re right.”
Danny could see there was something still on Rick’s mind. “What’s up buddy?”
Rick thought for a few seconds. “I dunno man, was just bugging me that I couldn’t figure it out. Kind thought we could hit The ‘Barrow and throw a few ideas around, you know the car better than anyone.”
The ‘Barrow reference was the Broken Wheelbarrow, a pub five drunk minutes walk from Danny’s place a pub the two often them often frequented when they were home.
“Should tell Dave I know the car better than anyone else, that will go down well!”
They both laughed, Rick continued after he thought about what he was asking. “As if! Anyway sorry man I didn’t realise Tracey was back. I understand you want to get home. We’ll work on it during the week.”
Danny looked at his best mate, thought about what had gone down since he’d crossed the finish line and decided that going home early wasn’t what he wanted, a few wind down beers with his best mate was.
“Mate, if Tracey did go home, she still be there when I get home. She’s left me high and dry for three months another few hours isn’t going to change anything. How long ‘till you’re ready to leave?”
Nearly two hours later Danny pulled his Holden Dual Cab into the drive way of his house, he hit the remote control for the garage door and drove in. By the light attached to the door motor he could see a second car in the garage, something he hadn’t seen for three months. Headlights of a second vehicle, Subaru Forrestor, pulled in directly behind Danny and both men exited their vehicles. Rick stood at the front of his car holding a laptop computer while Danny walked out of the garage and used the button on the door motor to close the door. As the garage door unrolled down its tracks and the beeping of two car alarms being set echoed in the quiet suburban street Danny could see the curtains of the kitchen window move. Tracey was looking out to see who was in the driveway obviously not expecting two cars, Danny waved and then both he and Rick set off walking down the driveway headed to the Broken Wheelbarrow.
He didn’t have the fan base a rock star might have but Danny still had a public profile and he was recognised most places he went by at least a few people, the ‘Barrow was no different, especially given that it was his local pub. Given that it was his local the regular crowd also got over Danny’s presence fairly quickly, of course they wanted to congratulate him and shake his hand but after that they pretty much let him get on with whatever he wanted to do.
After shaking the hand of nearly everyone in the bar and having a brief chat with a few of them Danny and Rick took up a table in the corner while the other patrons went back to what they were doing. As Rick opened the laptop and booted it up Danny placed their two beers on the table and shuffled the seats so they could both see the screen.
“Look at this,” Rick said pointing at a screen of data. “Every time you went through Power’s chicane you were down .016 of a second on practise, then you dropped another .018 three corners later at Sanders bend. Every lap of the last 21 laps.”
Rick pulled up a few more screens showing what the computer had been recording, he then loaded the in car video. They watched a split screen of the race video and the data trying to figure out where things were going wrong. 0.034 seconds may not have seemed much to some people but to them it could easily mean the difference between first and second place, on some race tracks it could mean more.
They looked at the screen of the laptop for more than two hours, they’d made some notes to be checked the following day at the office where even more data could be processed but they had found nothing definitive and as the clock on the screen ticked over midnight Danny realised that the screen was becoming blurry. He wasn’t drunk but he was definitely tired and heading towards drunk.
“Man, we need to look at this with fresh eyes tomorrow.” Danny said looking at another empty glass. “You want one more or shall we head back to mine?”
“We’ve gotta be at work in hours, would make sense to go home I suppose.”
Previous Racing story here.