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You Might As Well

Fit In Your Whole Garage...

Hanging out in the paddock in between sessions, the guy with the big station wagon gets to have two different experiences. Becoming known as a regular and being a member of the advanced run groups has diminished the severity of Stage I considerably.

Stage I

Its in the air. You can smell it: Guys walking by or just staring. You can sense what they're thinking. "Who is this idiot? Doesn't he know he's out of his league? That he doesn't belong here?" Typically its just a casual sort of cold shoulder, but on occasion I've been asked flat out what my problem is. If the conversation turns to lap times, I've been told my timer is certainly malfunctioning.

Knowing whats to come, I relish these morning moments. And I can hardly blame them. I remember one time on Laguna Seca I was parked right up against the track fence, backed in and up to the fence line, I was lined up alongside a whole pack of Lotus Elises and Exiges. The car - as low-slung as it is - towered over the bunch, and stuck out so far... it looked like someone had parked a moving van in the middle of those cute little critters.

So who would take this pig seriously? Nobody, in Stage I.

Stage II

After the first session; two max, the change is dramatic. I have a steady stream of visitors. If I'm walking across the paddock I overhear conversations about the car. Its both gratifying and a lesson in humility: Don't let it go to your head. You can easily tell the people who love motorsport from the ones who simply have their egos wrapped up in the sports coupe they spent a lot of money on. When it comes to the snooty types, you have gone from small and contemptible to completely invisible. These are people who have just been dipped in icewater and now know that - even with $200,000 worth of spectacular all-wheel-drive, purring automotive magnificence - um, they are slower than a station wagon. That driver is going home in a black mood, indeed.

The true motorsports enthusiasts, on the other hand, want to know "How in the hell did you pass me like that? Jesus H. Christ thats incredible. What did you do to this thing? Dangit ... how cool is that?" They are having as much fun as I am, and thats how it ought to be for everyone. I wander off and get worked up over other people's cars, myself.

At last, to the point!

It was during Stage II that I was chatting with a Porsche pilot, doing some kind of work on the car and dipping into the load of tools and gadgets I brought along with me. He wistfully observed that "If you have the room to bring along your whole garage, you may as well!"

Yes indeed. I do love the ability to pack up the car. And I cannot count the number of times having all that gear is a godsend, both for me or the guy a few stalls over who needs a particular tool or socket ... and you bet, I've got one of those you can borrow.

Originally I packed up with a just four wheels.

The front seat gets light duty holding a small overnight kit for my relaxing stay at the palatial resort next to the race track, a silly hat and the really important stuff: Spare brake rotors.

The floor behind the front seats is stuffed with tool boxes and bags (that ammo can holds tools instead of the 200 rounds of belted 7.62 it contained originally).

Just above those tools, in the front of the cargo area, gets stuffed four track wheels.

Followed by the critically important lawn chair. A zero-gee recliner is essential in the paddock

Next comes the jack, fifteen gallons of fuel (If you race a school bus you bring gasoline) and the equally critical ice chest (raise your hand if you have a half hour to burn standing in the chow line at the lunch counter). The stand-up version you see fits great.

Chuck in the Big Duffel Bag that holds things like your fireproof undies, gloves, helmet, umbrella, batteries, flashlights, snacks etc. etc. And the tripod for your timing transmitter.

Round it out with spare brake pads, half a dozen bottles of brake fluid and bleeder bottles (all essential when tracking a bus), and you still have loads of room left over.

Life is good! But this was amateur hour. We're only bringing 4 wheels and 15 gallons of fuel. Lets up the ante to 6 wheels and 20 gallons and see if we can do it.

In go the first four wheels. The trick to making it happen is to remove the upper floor in the back of the Magnum, giving me a few more inches of much needed vertical clearance for the next step.

Looks like this might work. The two wheels are held in place more or less with the chocks I will need later on in the paddock.

Done. The floor jack is hiding under the duffel bag. The lawn chair is laying on top of the tires. And yes there's still lots more room. What if it might rain? It would be nice if we had rain wheels and dry wheels. Can we fit in 8 wheels?

Rain wheels up front...

Slicks in the back. Nowhere near as spacious this time. For an 8-wheel setup we can only fit in a single extra fuel jug, must use a lunchbox instead of an ice chest and - the worst part - must give up on the zero-gee lounger in favor of a walkstool. But if its a choice between tires and the recliner... well you know how that has to go.

The six-wheel setup is the standard. And P.S. ... there's even more room under that lower rear floor for a spare I don't carry

Matt Robertson's small picture
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Matt is the Managing Partner at Leland-West Insurance Brokers, Inc. He started with the firm while still a college student, way back in 1984. According to Matt his only remaining hobby is Motorsport ... because its all he can afford ("will work for tires"). Reach him at matt@lelandwest.com