Please welcome our latest contributor, Bill Caswell, he of the $500 Craigslist Rally Car (and the movie about it) and exciting adventures and even more exciting misadventures. Bill will be writing a weekly column for us about the world of cars as seen through his crazy eyes. — Ed.
Welcome to the first edition of Skidmarks. Sometimes it will be awesome, like the marks that Petter Solberg leaves on the way to a World Rally Championship. And sometimes it might be closer to the other meaning of the word.
It will be my perspective on cars, car people, and the things we do with cars. For this first article I want to talk about motorsports. My favorite thing to do with cars. But not the drivers or the cars or the races, but the spectators. It's the only part of the sport that has gotten worse over the decades and I know a way to fix it.
Sure if you want to sit at home and not smell race fuel or smoking tires, your view has improved substantially with crazy high definition, in-car video. But if you love going to the track to see the cars in person, it has gotten worse. Way worse. Every year we get moved farther back. I get it. Spectators get killed. Remember the 1955 LeMans? A Mercedes launched into the stands in a giant ball of fire, killing 81 and causing the manufacturer to pull out of racing for nearly 40 years.
Racing is dangerous.
Ultimately, I don't care. I want to be closer to the cars. We can send men to the moon. Swim hundreds of feet underwater for extended periods of time. Why can't I watch the race from the racetrack? Why isn't there some awesome 10,000-hp tour bus that can drive with the prototypes down the Mulsanne straight at LeMans.
Sure we would need a giant cage and 50 race seats and fire gear but I think it would be awesome and I would pay a fortune to be out on track during the 24hrs of LeMans. Watch the race happen first hand! Ok so maybe the bus won't corner real well and maybe it should just run the straightaways and exit at the end of the straight but I want to get out there. I want to be inches away from heroes. I want to look into their eyes as they claw their way past a competitor. How cool would that be?
Yes, I know. I am absolutely out of my mind. But why not? I usually don't think about whether something is even possible, but rather what I think would be awesome. Then I try to find a way to solve for it. Why can't I pay some huge fee and strap into a racecar as a spectator? So maybe it needs to be a fleet of Porsche GT3 racecars with passenger seats, but then I found this. It's a VW Bus with the running gear from a 911 turbo and the driver is smoking real racecars at Spa Francorchamps!
Yes Mr GT3. You just got passed by a 1963 VW microbus. But seriously. Why isn't there a spectator van running around the track at the same time? Oh they might get hit by a driver? These are supposed to be some of the best drivers in the world. And they can't deal with a large vehicle running near their speed on the track? I think it would add a really cool dynamic. Get by the van and jam your competitor behind it like it was a backmarker to get some open track.
We came across this phenomenon with that giant pink stretch limo at the 24 hours of lemons. It would cover two apex's at once blocking the entire track. I loved it. I would look across the track for that flash of pink trying to estimate where and when our pack would hit it. Then use part throttle here and there. Enough to slow the pack down but not enough for them to pass you. But if you do it right, it puts you alongside the limo allowing you to pass right before going into the corners. And if you do it just right, only you get to pass and the field gets jammed for 20 seconds while you make a run for it.
I know, I'm ruining the purity of the sport by adding a non-competitive driver onto the track. I'm sure at some point someone said putting referees in the middle of a football or hockey game was a bad idea. And I'm sure they get hit here and there and it's bad sometimes but its part of the sport. Like my spectator bus.
Once you get past the absurdity of the whole thing, it starts to make a lot of sense. What do you think is the best way to watch a race in person?
Photo Credit: Getty Images