Danny drove like a demon, he did his best to look after his tyres and not wear them down too quickly but keeping the distance between himself and Tony was his biggest concern. For the first few laps after the pit stop Tony’s lap times were better than Danny’s, which was to be expected, and Danny did all that he could to maintain his lead. As they had done for most of the race the two drivers fought lap for lap, each fraction of a second Tony gained Danny would get back the following lap, each time Danny pulled away slightly Tony crept closer. Even with the three car lengths between them it was nail biting racing.
By the time the race was down to the final ten laps the commentary team for the television telecast were on the edge of their seats, screaming into their microphones, repeating their own comments time and time again and trying to make sense of the battle they were witnessing play out in front of them. But it wasn’t until one of the back markers made a mistake that saw three cars into the wall that the commentators truly lost it.
While the actual accident did not effect either Tony or Danny, because they were well clear of the accident zone, the resulting safety car had a major effect. The remaining cars bunched up behind the safety vehicle as the officials and crew cleared the track. Each car swerved left and right trying to keep warmth in their tyres while sitting on the speed limiter at 80kph. It always seemed the recovery crew worked faster to clear and accident in the dying laps of an exciting race and the teams were all radioing to their drivers to expect only two laps under safety car conditions.
What it meant for the remainder of the race was that it would be a five lap dash for the line with up to seven drivers all able to fight for a spot on the podium. For Danny the only saving grace was that before the accident happened he’d managed to put one back marker between himself and Tony. It wasn’t much because an unwritten rule relating to courtesy on track, which all drivers played by would come into effect, but it was all Danny had and he hoped he could take advantage of it.
Throughout the safety car laps Danny’s team talked to him on the radio. They updated him on what he needed to know related to the car, his position and how he was fairing on the race track. But most of all they talked to him to keep him calm and keep him thinking about the job at hand. It wasn’t that Danny’s temper was rising or that he was pissed off, Danny’s team, like all teams monitored, their driver’s heart rates constantly throughout the race, depending on Danny’s heart rate as to how much his crew tried to calm him. He knew it happened and in most cases was happy for the little voice in his ear telling him to keep it calm.
Danny dropped off the rear end of the safety car when the orange flashing lights on the roof went off, providing he stayed below the safety car speed limit until he got onto the start finish straight he could set the pace without fear of any driver passing him.
When the safety car pulled off into the pit lane, before the final turn, Danny slowed even more forcing the pack up to bunch up closer together. His plan, as would be any driver’s plan in his situation, was to have the cars behind him going as slow as possible, possibly even changing down gears, so as not to run into the car in front of them. Then as he came through the apex of the final corner he would plant the right boot and hopefully pull away from the pack. It wouldn’t give him much advantage but any advantage he could get was worth it and with a lapped car between him and Tony even the smallest advantage could get him closer to winning the race
Although the back marker behind Danny didn’t take off as quick as he did by the time Danny was over the line and heading towards race speed in his mirror he could see what was going on behind him. As expected the back marker, in a show of courtesy, had pulled off the racing line allowing the faster cars on the lead lap to go by him without hindrance. Danny had a lead, it was much but it was the best he could hope for.
For the last five laps Danny and Tony drove hard and raced hard but through sheer will power, excellent driving and good luck Danny was able to hold Tony at bay. It was some of the toughest racing of his career and several times the two drivers swapped paint as the cars touched in the breaking zones of corners. Despite the small nudges and pushes neither driver felt uncomfortable with the others actions, it was simply good, hard, racing.
Three hours after Danny had stood on the top step of the podium and sprayed champagne all over the crew and the cars below he was ready to go home. As with the first race there was no big party in the pits, there was a few drinks and cheers thrown around but that was it. Danny had managed a few interviews after his cool down, he managed something to eat and he’d managed to find Tracey.
Unlike after the last race Danny and Rick did not plan celebratory drinks together post race, it had been a long weekend and neither of them wanted anything more than to head home. Had Tracey not driven herself to the track for race day Danny would have gone back to the workshop with the rest of the crew. Instead he chose to head home with Tracey and pick up his ute from the workshop the following day.
As they headed down the highway for home, Tracey driving and Danny in the passenger seat, Danny was still on an obvious high from the win. But there was more to it than just the race win, he was leading the championship, he had a great race car, a great team and his wife was beside him. If he was forced to admit it his life was pretty bloody good once again. The question was, could it be better.
Previous Racing story here.