I’m in in a tiny metal cage. Airborn without wings. Slow motion. My collarbones and testicles strain paintfully against the 5 point racing harness. Breath caught in my throat as I try warn Nath through the intercom about what happens immediately after we come crashing back to earth. For a fraction of a second, as the car pitches forwards at an absurd angle, attempting to land safely at 100+ km/h on nothing but our front left wheel, I wonder what the hell I’m doing here, and if I will live to tell the tale. And if I do survive, will I ever be able to have children? God this harness is tight.
“I guess I could be at home watching Motorsport. It’d be a lot easier, and a heck of a lot cheaper. But I’d much rather be doing what I love, rather than watching others do what I love.”
Flash back to Friday night, and we’re 12 hours into a 12.5 hour drive. Behind us we’re towing a trailer, carrying on it a baddass 4 wheeled weapon known as a 2014 Polaris RZR XP1000. Inline twin cylinder 1000cc Polaris engine with 107 hp. 4wd. 3 link trailing arm rear suspension with 18inches of travel. A arm front suspension with 16 inches of travel. Walker Evans Coilovers shocks on each corner.
After the ‘2014 Polaris’ bit I have no idea what I just wrote. But I can tell you how all that feels. Bumpy, ballsy, and bloody quick.
We were heading to the Goondawindi 400, a stage in the ARB Off Road Racing Series. Initially, team owner/driver Nathan Weissel graciously allowed me along as pit crew, and then, after a last minute cancelation, asked if I’d like to ride shotgun as navigator. How could any DSM Reporter resist such an offer?
“I liked the idea of being timed rather than judged as you are in Drifting. I wanted something like Drifting though, where the winner of a class isn’t always the person with the biggest chequebook. Also I have a couple of mates who race and the idea of traveling with them sounded good. Funnily, only one of them has come to one event this year. But I love it.“
And after the first corner, I can completely understand the
attraction addiction. Put to one side the fear you feel pushing 130km/hour on roads that you’d trip walking down. Put to one side the price tag, the days spent driving between events and the discomfort of having your helmeted head bashed against a roll cage for hours at a time. And you’re left with the most exhilarating sensation that has to be felt to truly understand.
“The part I love most is that at certain points you become one with the car. Everything else is blocked out. The wheels feel like an extension of your body. You just think and it happens. It’s like moving your arm.”
“But it’s a balance, like everything. If I’m not pushing, I drop out of that zone. But if I push too hard, especially in this Off Road series, the machines just can’t handle it. Like this weekend; we were sensible and still snapped a drive shaft and ripped the spare off the bracket. So you always drop in and out of that feeling during a race, but that’s the thing for me, that’s what keeps me going.”
Luckily for Nathan, myself and all the competitors and officials, I wasn’t actually too bad at navigating. I assume I was ok at least, as we stayed on the road all weekend for all 400kms.
After hanging around with the teams at the Goondi 400, I feel pretty sorry for people who love Motorsport. At DSM we advocate doing the shit you love. But if that shit has an engine and wheels, you better be freaking rich or you ain’t doing shit. I pray that your passion is for knitting, not driving fast machines.
Nathan owns and runs his own mechanic business, 02 Autoports on the NSW South Coast in a town called Nowra.
“If I couldn’t build and maintain the car I couldn’t do it. And we are the lowest budget team in the whole series. The really quick guys in the top classes, all of their gearboxes are literally worth double our whole setup.”
After two gruelling days of racing through the rural South Western Queensland scrub for over 400kms, there was just 15 seconds between first and second place in our class. We were 2nd. For the last 10kms we could see the dust of first place just ahead, but were running so low on fuel that the engine would cut out on hard right-hand corners as the remaining dribble of petrol sloshed to the other side of the tank. We found out after we crossed the line that no one in our class of vehicle had ever even finished this stage of the serious ever before. I counted that as a win. Nath didn’t. That’s probably why he’s the race car driver, and I’m the storyteller.
To keep up with Nath, or get your car looked after see 02 Autosports.