Racing Angels -chp 21


Racing Angels


Webster’s dictionary defines Speed as the fallowing: the rate of change of position along a straight line with respect to time over a set distance. In other words, the quicker you can get from one place to another. The question is what do you, do when your family has spent the last two generations in search of ways to accomplish this goal faster and faster. Would do you do when the family business is the search for more Speed. For Robert ‘Robby’ McGuire the answer is easy. You grab your sister and strap on a pair of Formula One racecars then go for broke.


Chapter 21
The Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
I look out my hotel window at the city below, marveling at what I see. This is the fifth city that I have seen in the last four months. I knew going into this that I would be traveling my ass off. Hell, the whole team knew we would be bouncing around the world on this fun filled carnival. We’ve been here for the last week. In that time Beth and I have ran the course four times, twice every day. Twenty miles a day with Coach Hall right on our heels.

I swear that woman knows the layout of the course just a well as we do now. In fact, I know she does. She took over for mom yesterday during a test run as my spotter. She called all sixteen turns, both DSR zones, dead on, then nailed the straightaways as if she had been doing it from day one. I thought it was a fluke at first, but when Coach Hall did it again with Beth, I knew I might be on to something. The next afternoon during the practice run I had Kathy on the spotters stand with her mouther. I figured why not. After all the two of them have been riding me and Beth like they’re our personal trainers. Those two have been out on that course with us every time we ran.

I know this sounds crazy as the two of them have absolutely no experience in the racing community. I am seriously considering having them call the rest of our races. Sure, mom and dad are good, but Kathy and her mom are better. I think that it was them running the tracks with Beth and me. I’m not sure but that is the only reason I can come up with their reads of the track. I know that they were giving dad and mom tips on how to handle the Baku City Circuit.

I know that Chief Hailee and Marks have been listening to the two of them more and more over the last four weeks. Especially when it comes to setting up the cars for me and Beth. I don’t know what the two of them talk about as we run around the courses but whatever it is, they’re keeping it to themselves. Then again of everybody on the team who runs with us, they’re the only two who can run and talk at the same time, talk about being in shape. Then again one is the Head Cheerleader the other is a professional Coach and Physical Fitness trainer. The rest of us are just trying to catch up to those two. Not that I’m bitching. If it wasn’t for Coach Hall, I know that I wouldn’t have the stamina to handle these races.

A lot of people think that race cars drivers aren’t real athletes. That it doesn’t take any skill or natural talent. That all a driver does is show up climb into a car and drive 190 miles as fast as you can. If you think that, your ass is sadly mistaken. Coach Hall has never thought like that. The first day on the job, the woman came in and put our asses through hell. She hasn’t let up yet.

I know that all of the girls love what she has done for their figures with all the training. Hell, I know that I’m not bitching. I’ve gotten rather proud of my curves and other certain feminine aspects of my body. I may be living as a woman for all the world to see, but until recently I was never really proud of how my body looked. Yeah, I know that sounds kind of girly. But when you’re growing tits, fat ass, and wide hips it really screws with your head if you’re a boy.

I know that Kelly has taken a real liking to my feminine assets. Every time that we have time off, she takes me shopping. Always for clothing that accentuates my feminine looks and shows off my figure. Lately though we’ve been visiting a lot of bridal shops. I’m just happy that we were able to find that jewelry shop Detrick told me about when we first got here.

Looking down at my left hand I smile. One of the engagement rings that Kelly designed for us now resides on my left-hand ring finger. Three intertwined rings of white, red, and yellow gold, with a Marque cut diamond set at a forty-five degree slant. Just like Detrick said it only took them three days to make the custom rings. The only time that I take it off is when I’m driving. Even then I hang it around my neck from a gold chain the grandfather sold us with the rings. I had to laugh at the way the granddaughters acted around us. You would thought we were Lady Gaga or someone like that.

I know that Kelly is happy as hell that we’re no longer being hounded by the Paparazzi. It seems that word kind of got back to those here in Europe that Americans have a nasty habit of solving unwanted problems with violence. I think it had something to do with a paparazzi who got too nosey in my hometown. It seems that the local police turned a blind eye to the life altering beating the man received at the hands of some very concerned citizens. It is either that or what happened to the few that came snooping round our cars in Australia. The guys on the team hand out a few of the same types of beatings. I’m not too sure what the actual situation is, but I don’t really care. The paparazzi basically leave Kelly and me alone now unless we’re around one of the tracks.

My thoughts were brought back to the here and now by the pounding on my room door. I shout out at whoever is there. “Just a minute.”

“Bobbie, mom wants you and Kelly to meet her in their room.” I chuckle at the sound of Joey’s voice. I can tell he is still pissed off about having to finish his sophomore year on the road. Especially as his tutor is Coach Hall. The woman is smarter than she looks and spares no minds. Coach Hall has been torturing his poor brain for the last days with test after test.

I opened the door to smile at Joey. “Will you just relax Joey. We got another seven hours before we have to be downstairs for that stupid party.”

“Bobbie, I don’t think that mom wants to talk with you about tonight’s party.” He leaned to the side and waved at Kelly. “Hey, Kelly!”

“Hey there Joey. Do you know what your mom wants?” Kelly asked as she walked up behind me. I smelled her perfume as she wrapped her arms around me.

“Gah! I would tell you two to get a room, but you already got one.” Joey bitched at us both with a smile.

“Oh, get over yourself already kiddo. You want to answer the question.” Kelly asked.

“Shit. Don’t ask me. The only thing that I do know is that crazy woman is back.” Joey tossed over his shoulder as he headed for the elevators. “When you see mom and dad tell them I’m headed for the pool.”

“HAY! What crazy woman?” Kelly yelled out as Joey hit the button to call the elevator. When he just waved Kelly got pissed. “WHAT CRAZY WOMAN?”

“Forget about it babe. I think I know who he’s talking about. Come on, let’s go see what mom wants.” I pulled Kelly out the room and down the hall towards mom and dad.

“Who do you think we’re supposed to be meeting?” Kelly asked me halfway there.

“Who do you think?” I chuckled. “I want you to think about what we’ve been shopping for lately. I mean do you really think that woman is going to let us buy just any wedding dress. HELL! I’m surprised that she didn’t meet us in Baku.”

When Kelly realized who I was talking about she didn’t hold back. Her scream of outrage could have woken the dead. “She won’t dare!”

As if summoned by the power of Kelly’s scream Madame Isabella La Fayette appeared in the open doorway of my parents’ room. “GIRLS! Come in! Come in! We have much to discuss. We have designs to go over! Plans to make!”

“Hi, Izzy.” I gave the woman a hug in passing. I wasn’t the only one to hug her, Kelly was right behind me. “Hey mom. So, when did you get in Izzy?”

“I arrived this morning Bobbie. I must say that you have come a long way.” Izzy gave me the full-body once over. “Have you been studying the girls on the team?”

“Nope.” I giggled then wrapped my arms around Kelly. “I’ve just been doing my best to make my fiancée proud.”

Isabella gave me the stink eye before dropping her usual air of superiority. “Bullshit. I’ve been following your career and watching you. You have done more than just embrace your femininity I would say.”

“Stop already Izzy. You’ll give her a fathead.” Mom complained with a smile. “Not that Kelly would ever let you get a fathead Bobbie.”

“Thanks a lot mom.” I griped. I turned to Kelly who was nodding her head grinning. Looking back at Izzy. “See what I got to put up with Izzy?”

“Bless their hearts they don’t know any better, dear. Just remember that they love you.” I almost laughed at hearing Lizzy use the great South Carolina disclaimer.

“Okay Issy. What brings you here? I mean you hate racing in general.” I asked.

“You get engaged and think that I wouldn’t hear about it? Then I hear you’ve been going to bridle shops without consulting me. Isabella La Fayette, the premier fashion consultant to raising stars of the sports world.” Izzy put on her air of French Nobility and sniffed her nose at me and Kelly. “How dare you?”

That was it I lost it. Kelly couldn’t hold in her laughter either. Izzy just smirked and waved for us to take a seat at the coffee table. There before us was just about every bridal magazine currently in publication. I’m talking about everything from Bridal Guide Magazine to The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner. I could only think of one thing to say and I knew it would get me in trouble.

“Holy shit! What is this? The assault on Normandy Beach!” Instead of getting chewed out Mom, Izzy, and Kelly just busted out laughing. “This is not funny.”

Mom wrapped me in her arms. “Oh honey we’re not laughing at you. We’re laughing at the situation. You accidently put into words what every girl knows about weddings.”

“Your mom is not joking Bobbie. The planning for the D-Day assaults took less time than an everyday wedding. When you add in the popularity of one of either the bride or groom things really get ramped up.” Izzy quipped.

“Oh, come on. What is there to plan? Go down to the Courthouse, get the license, find a Judge in good standing, exchange vows, and bingo. You’re married.” I figured that this was the best time to put forth my idea for our marriage, elopement. The ass chewing that I expected earlier finally came. With far more fireworks than I had expected. You would have thought that I had just shit on the Constitution.

“IF YOU THINK THAT I’M GOING TO JUST ELOPE WITH YOU ROBERTA LEE MCGUIRE! YOU GOT ANOTHER THING COMING!” Kelly screeched at the top of her lungs.

“You can forget that bullshit idea right now! I didn’t carry you in my womb for ten months just to let you go gallivanting off to be married by some courtroom crackpot. You’ve been sucking down too many hi-octane race fumes!” Yelled out mom right behind Kelly. “And you can damned Skippy forget about Vegas as well.”

“Oh, come on mom. Give me a break already. I’m not that bad of a guy.” I complained.

“The hell you’re not.” Kelly bitched. “If you didn’t have to wear a dress for the sponsor parties. You’d be in a t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes.”

Before I could correct Kelly, mom started chuckling. “Yup, they’re definitely a couple. I see them being together for a long time to come.”

“Yes, they shall grow old and gray together.” Izzy put into her two cents sagely. “Now, let’s get down to business. First off, the two gowns.”

“Wait a minute. Who said anything about needing two gowns? I’m wearing a tuxedo.” I told Izzy bluntly. I figured I needed to secure some control here over the wedding. Boy was I about to be proven wrong.

“Remember your contract with Mercedes-Benz, Bobbie.” Mom said bluntly. “You know the one that you signed in front of me.”

“Okay mom, no need to break out the whipping post. Sheesh!” I pouted. “I’ll wear a damned wedding gown already. Just don’t make it to frilly. Please?”

“Oh no you don’t, missy. You’re not going to rain on my wedding.” Kelly snapped. “I don’t care what you want. We’re both wearing matching gowns. Understood?”

“Kelly, my love.” I started off sweetly. “I’m only asking for you to try and curtail your natural girliness. Just a tad bit.”

“If I promise not to go over broad, you have to at least sit here and look through these magazines with me. Deal?” Kelly held out her hand.

I just sighed and gave into the inevitable. I just shook my hand. “Deal.”

“Good now that, that is out of the way. Let’s get down to work.” Izzy picked up the following magazines The Ultimate Guide to Gowns and Brides Guide to Gowns. “Now, I have selected a few gowns for you two to look over.”

Two hours and forty-seven dresses later, I was seriously wondering what Izzy’s idea of a ‘few’ really meant. I swear that the dresses just seemed to blend into one continuous gown by the time we got done. It also felt like my eyes were crossing. As for mom, Izzy, and Kelly they were ready to go for another two hours. I could see it in their eyes. Thankfully I had to be down at the track for a late afternoon test run. That was something that even Kelly couldn’t argue with.

After a short stop, back at our room, to grab my gear and leathers we head for the track. The car ride wasn’t that bad today. Most of the traffic was heading away from the track today. At least for today. Starting tomorrow things will change. The fans have already started to show up. After today the traffic will be murder as we’ll be fighting the fans to get to and from the track. It will be at it’s worse on Sunday morning. The day of the race.

The moment I step foot into the pit area Chief Hailee stops me. “Bobbie, have you seen your sister?”

“She should still be up at the hotel Chief. If you try our parents’ room you should get her. Why? Is there something wrong?”

“Naw, anything is good. I was just hoping to get one more practice run in with her new setup.” Chief Hailee gave me a reassuring smile. “Say why is she in your parents room? Something going on that we need to know about?”

“Nope. She is talking with Izzy.” At his blank look I chuckled. “Izzy, found out about our engagements and has appointed herself as our wedding planner.”

Chief Hailee stood there blinking his eyes at me for a few seconds. When what I said finally sank in, he started to chuckle then laugh outright. It took him a good ten minutes to get his act together before he could finally talk to me again. “I know this is going to sound fucked up Bobbie. But I would pay good money to have seen your face when Isabella dropped that little bomb on you.”

“Let’s just say that I was more than a little surprised, Chief.” I gave him a sideways smile. “Chief when you got married. How much planning went into it? Wait that didn’t come out right. How much work did your wife put into it?”

“Let me guess. Izzy, Kelly, and your mom, are planning your girls’ wedding like it was the D-Day invasion of Europe. Am I wrong?” Chief Hailee chuckled as I winced and nodded my head. “Bobbie, my girl, if this was just the first day just wait until you’re six months from the date. That’s when shit will really get crazy.”

“You mean to tell, it gets worse?” I whined. Only to have Chief Hailee laugh at me.

“Speedy, you have no idea how bad it can and will get the closer to the wedding date. I think my Marry, came close to shooting her bride’s maids at one point. I won’t even go into what happened with the reception hall screw up. Or the seating arrangements for the wedding and the reception. My God! Then there was the fight between her mother and mine over where to hold the wedding.” The more Chief Hailee talked about the headaches of his wedding the more the idea of eloping appealed to my more practical side. “Already thinking about eloping kiddo?”

“I’ve been thinking about it for the last two hours Chief. And that is with just my mom, Kelly, and Izzy in the room. I don’t even want to think about what it’s going to be like when Kelly’s mom gets involved.” I explained.

“IF you think that Kelly’s mom isn’t already involved Bobbie. You have a lot to learn about being a couple yet. Trust me on that kiddo.” Chief Hailee chuckled. I just shrugged my shoulders and looked over at the car.

“Is she ready for our last test run, Chief?” I asked him.

“She’ll handle anything you can throw at her and ask for more. We’ve tweaked the suspension as far as we can and still be within regulation. As much as you loved that old powerplant we had to replace it as well. We tried to rebuild the old one after your last test run. Unfortunately, we found heat-stress fractures in the block. The good thing we had enough spare parts on the trucks to replace the engine. I’m just happy as hell that the one truck showed with the rest. We still haven’t figured out how it got separated from the rest of the team trucks.” I could tell that Chief Hailee was still pissed over what happen in Baku with the trucks.

He wasn’t the only one either. I know that just about every member of the team is pissed off over what happened. I don’t blame the truck driver, but I can understand how it happened. One of the FOM directors told the driver to move his truck out of the way for the next truck inline. The stupid mistake damned near cost my team a shitload of money and possibly our season. When we found out what had happened, dad blew his fucking top and filed at least six formal complaints against DHL and the FOM jackass that lost our truck.

“Any word on the new radios?” I asked him. The old ones were dropping out for no reason ever since the wreck in Bahrain. Not constantly, or all the time. It has only been in the last week that they’ve become truly unreliable. We’ve tried everything under the sun to try and fix the problem. It has finally come down to replacing the whole setup. From the spotters down to the car radios.

“They got here last night, and we replaced them this morning. I’ve had Danny up in the nest. We’ve double check those radios as best as we could.” I could tell that there was something bugging him about the radios.

“It short they need to be tested under driving conditions. I kind of figure that already. Any other changes that I need to know about?” I was already getting worried over the number of changes to the car as it was. I really hoped that was all there was to deal with. Any more there could be some massive problems.

“Nope that is all. Keep it under the radar and on the ground for now. I want you to break that powerplant and transmission slowly.” I got the drift. Chief Hailee was still pissed over me blowing the last one to kingdom come.

“Understood, Chief. Nice and easy.” I headed for the trailer to change into my leathers and Nomex suit. Twenty minutes later, I headed back out to the car. I was amazed at how fast the crews got the car ready for me to take out.

Danny helped into the cockpit and handed me my helmet and gloves. I slip my earbuds in and pull on the baklava. It takes me ten minutes to get set for the test run. I hold my hand and give the thumbs up. I feel the chained demon of speed, that I have strapped my ass to, come to life. I feel the rumble of its roar through the seat. I shift into first gear and let out the clutch. As I roll down pit row, I start going over the track layout in my head.

Turn 1 is the main overtaking point at Catalunya, it has a hard braking zone at the end of a long DRS straight. The inside and outside are equally difficult for overtaking; drivers who can hold the line around the outside of turn 1, can get the inside line for turn two. The corners themselves make up a medium-speed chicane, drivers tend brake rather late for turn 1 and downshift into second gear. Turn 2 is almost at full throttle as they try to gain as much exit speed as possible. Turn 3, the Renault turn, is a long, flat-out right-hander that has a g-force of about four. It leads to a short straightaway and the beginning of section 2.

Turn 4, the Repsol curve. It is another right-hander, turn 4 is similar to Monza's Curva Parabolica. A lot of drivers brake hard and take an early apex, usually in third gear, carrying a shit load of speed off of the exit. Turn 5 feels like it comes out of nowhere and is a slow left-hander taken in second gear which drops rapidly downhill towards the left kink of turn 6 which is ignored by F1 cars. Turns 7 and 8 make up a medium-speed, uphill, left-right chicane. Most drivers brake and shift down to third gear and most try not run too wide as turn 8 has a large curb on its apex which could tear up or damage a cars' suspensions. Turn 9, Campsa Corner, is a very fast, sixth-gear right-hander which is made incredibly difficult by being completely blind. Drivers can’t see the apex on approach. The approach is steep as shit and uphill while the exit is downhill, it’s quite easy to run wide onto the astroturf. It exits onto the back straightaway while nowhere near as long as the front straightaway it leads to the beginning of section three.

That straightaway leads into turn 10, La Caixa, a second-gear, left-hand hairpin. Turn 10 dumps out into turns 11 and 12, a left kink before a long, slow, third-gear righthander. The second half of section three was redesigned by German engineer Hermann Tilke to lower speeds for the 1,047m pit straightaway. It starts off with turn 13 a tight, third-gear right-hander. Drivers have to cross the track quickly to take the racing line through the slow left-right chicane of turns 14 and 15, best taken in second gear. Turn 16, the New Holland turn, the last turn, is a flat-out right-hander which exits onto the pit/front straightaway. Between the exit of turn sixteen and turn one, cars across the start/finish line on this 1,047m straightaway.

As I roll onto the track in second gear, I have to fight to keep my excitement under control. I can already tell the difference with the new powerplant and transmission. I have shit load more power. I key my mike. “Chief is this one of mom’s new engines?”

“Sure, is kiddo. I was wondering if you would notice.”

I chuckled and keyed my mike. “Who’s in the nest?”

“Kathy is up there right now. She’s on channel two. Listen up kiddo, that powerplant is close to twenty-five percent stronger than the old ones. Take your time and get the feel for it. I do not want to explain to your parents why their daughter got hurt doing something stupid. Especially during a test run.”

“I’m with the Chief on this one Bobbie. Keep your foot off the gas in turns five, seven, eight, fourteen, and fifteen. Each one of those is slicker than black ice on route thirty-one. Do not open it up all the way on the back straightaways. As much as you want to, don’t. They’re not as long as you think. You got one straightaway out there that can handle the full power of that new powerplant. That’s the front straightaway. Even that is fucking iffy. The track conditions have been shifting all day long. Carlos Rivera spun out in turn three for fucks sake. I mean come on. That turn practically screams for higher speeds.” I wanted to laugh at Kathy’s description of the track. The sad part was that she was right. Of all the turns on this course turn three was a high speed turn.

“And watch your ass on that uphill run going into turn nine. Vasquez and Lucas both damned near lost it in the apex. After that you got a clean track until you hit turns fourteen and fifteen. That chicane is wicked sharp. Muller flat spotted all four tires because he went in too fast. The straightaways between turn eight, and nine, nine and ten, along with the pit-row straightaway are your best bet for overtaking someone. Forget about the DRS zones unless you absolutely have a clear shot at overtaking the guy in front of you.”

Damn the girl was on the ball. “Kathy, how long have you been up there?”

I took turn four at an easy pace waiting for Kathy to answer me. “Me and mom have been out here since we got back from our morning team run. We’ve watched every driver that has made a test run today. Mom has been filming them while I’ve been taking notes. We’ve been trying to figure out what is going with the track all day Bobbie. Slow down and hold the inside line for turn six. The outside edge has gone slicker by the hour. We think it’s the rubber buildup on the track.”

I took her advice and came out in a better position to take on the seven-eight chicane at a decent speed. Good enough to take the hill into turn nine without having to overpower the rise. Kathy’s warning about the turn apex being treacherous was more than enough for me keep my foot off the gas. As I cleared the exit off turn nine, I was caught off guard by the back straightaway. The new powerplant had more power than I thought. I had to stand on the breaks and downshift like crazy before going into turn ten. I can understand why Kathy said this was a perfect spot for an overtake. If the other driver wasn’t ready for it, you could slide by them like butter on a hot griddle.

“Bobbie, you got company on the track. They’re coming on hard and fast. I think they’re going to try and pass you on turn thirteen or the next chicane.” Kathy’s warning let me know that whoever it was wasn’t out here to say hello. “Bobbie, I know the Chief told you to take it easy on the engine, but this asshole isn’t going to let you. Time to take the gloves off.”

“Kathy’s right Bobbie. That fool is one of the two new assholes gunning for you. Don’t worry about the powerplant or transmission. If you break ‘em we can replace them. Just don’t let that shit bird anywhere near you.” I thought my teeth were going to snap as I ground them going into turn twelve.

“Bobbie come in tight for turn thirteen and let your rear end slide. That will set you up for the fourteen-fifteen chicane. Remember that is the tightest part of the course. You’ll want to use your lower gears.” I did exactly what Kathy told me. “Watch the exit on turn fifteen. There is a buildup of loss rubber in the area.”

When I came out of the chicane, I was set perfectly for the DRS zone just before the righthander of turn sixteen. I couldn’t believe how well she called the setup or how fast she was able to spot the changes in the track conditions. When we ran the track this morning there wasn’t any rubber buildup. Now, the whole outer edge was like driving on marbles. If she hadn’t warned me of the buildup, I would have powered my way off the exit of turn fifteen, straight into the gravel. Instead I’m setup for a perfect DRS pass if I need to or to block one.

“Okay, you can start poring on the power. Just remember that you have to hold back until you clear the exit for the final turn. After that you can really open that bad boy up. Just remember turn one is a snake waiting to strike at the end of that thousand meters. Marks and Handready both came close to losing it earlier this afternoon. The only thing I can figure out is the track is building up loose rubber.”

“Understood, Kathy. Where is my playmate?”

“He’s coming out of turn eight and powering up the hill for turn nine. Oh shit! Mary, Joseph, and Jesus! Bobbie pull into the pits. Forget about going for another round. That dumbass just lost it on the apex. Oh fuck! Bobbie get off the track. NOW! They’re rolling the emergency crews now.”

I could tell by the sound of Kathy’s voice that crash was bad. “Are they rolling the fire truck? How bad is it?”

“Just get off the track now, Bobbie. It’s bad. Real bad. I see fire trucks, and ambulances rolling. The Marshals want everyone off the track.” That was all I needed to hear to start gearing down and head for the pits. If the Marshals are clearing the track the wreck was a bad one. I don’t even bother to head for the pit. Instead I head for the garage. I pull in and shutdown the engine. Danny and Kelly are right there helping me out the cockpit. As I hand my helmet to Danny, Kelly reaches in undoes my safety harness. They each grab an arm and help me to climb out the car.

“How bad is the wreck Danny?” I ask him.

“Like Kathy said, it’s bad Bobbie. The jackass tried to take turn nine at almost three quarters full power. He lost control, spun sideways, and rolled the car.” He never took his eyes off the direction of turn nine. “The first reports aren’t good.”

“Damn. Does anyone know who was driving that car?” I asked Kelly.

“Some new guy for Fontana’s old team. That is all we know for now.” Danny answered.

“Why do I get the feeling that they went out there to force me off the track?” I asked looking around the pit area.

“He was out there trying to prove that he was the better driver, Miss McGuire.” The man’s voice had me turning to face someone that I wasn’t expecting to ever meet socially. Albert Reizenstein, Belgian Formula One driver, replacement for Hans and Detrick Richtmann. “My teammate is not one to let a woman out drive him. Especially not an American woman. In his eyes you do not belong on the circuit.”

“I take it that you do not follow in his footsteps?” I asked politely.

“No. You and your sister have already proven you are worthy competitors and deserving of my respect. To disrespect you and your sister the way that Shafer and so many others have. To do so is an act of true folly, while inviting one’s own doom.” I had to give it to the guy. He certainly was a smooth talker.

“Care to explain what you’re doing in my garage area?” I fought like hell to keep the skepticism out of my voice.

“I came down here to actually meet you face to face in a less formal manner. Unlike our fellow drivers I have no use for the nightly cocktail party bullshit meet and greets. I prefer to face my competitors like a man.” I could tell that this man was more than just a driver. He was honorable and polite, a true representative for his countrymen. Not like a few of these other numb nuts.

I held out my hand. “I look forward to racing you then sir. Fair, and honorable. Deal?”

He took my hand. “Deal.” Before I could say more the sounds of a life-flight helicopter came over head. We both turned and looked towards the infield. “Damn. This is not good. If they’re flying Shafer out, then it is bad.”

Truer words could not have been spoken as we both turned to the sounds of the wrecker pulling into the garage area. Almost everyone in the area got a good look at the wrecked car. I should say what was left of the car. The only thing that I could think of for what happened to that car was a total failure of the fuel cell. And just about every safety function of the car.

“HOLY FUCK! What happened? What did it do, explode?” Kelly asked in disbelief.

“Yes.” We all turned to see Kathy and Coach Hall walking up. “From what we saw form the spotter’s nest we can expect to get a visit from the Marshals.”

“Why? I mean we’re well within regs for every safety requirement under the sun. Exactly what happened out there Kathy?” Chief Hailee demanded.

“All I know is Shafer hit the apex well over what his spotter told him. I could tell he was going to lose control the second he crested the hill. He let the front end come off the ground. By the time the it touched back down he was halfway into the apex of the turn and way too close to the outer edge. The left front hooked the curb and yanked the whole front end around. After that it was all over but the crying. The car spun out and continued to slide off the track sideways. That was until the right side tires blew out and after that the car just rolled. Until the nose dug in. After that the car started to cartwheel into the retaining wall.” Kathy got this faraway look in her eyes. “I watched the footage of the wreck in Bahrain. It may have been a single car wreck but Bobbie, this wreck was ten times more violent than that one. Shafer’s car hit ass end first on the wall.”

The second Kathy told me about how that car impacted I knew exactly what happened with the fuel tank. The sudden impact ruptured the cell. The fuel hit the hot engine igniting and boom. One massive fire bomb. I just hoped like hell that the cockpit’s safety features worked as advertised. If not, Shafer was a dead man. It won’t matter what the doctors did he would most likely die. Fire was one of the greatest fears that all professional race car drivers face. Burning to death is not in my top ten ways to die. I would rather slam into the wall at Daytona at one-ninety crushing every bones and organ in my body or slowly from cancer than burn to death.

I looked down the garage areas to see the Marshals stopping at each team. I knew straight up that this wasn’t going to be good news. When they got to us my suspicions were proven correct. “Your cars’ fuel cells will be inspected. If they are not up to standard your cars will be impounded for the next five races. The drivers will be fined ten-thousand Euros, and the team fifty-thousand. All owner points will be forfeited along with all driver’s points. The fuel cells will be removed for inspection. You have two hours to be ready.”

Those words were a death sentence for any team with non-regulation fuel cells. To be banned from one race was bad enough. Getting banned from five races would end any teams season. It wouldn’t matter where they were in the standings. The rest of the penalties were nothing more than icing on the cake. As far as the Marshals were concerned those penalties were just deserts.

As they walked away, I overheard one of them say to the other. “Double check these Americans. I won’t put it past them to cheat with oversized fuel cells.”

I snatched up a torque wrench off the toolbox. If it wasn’t for Danny grabbing me from behind, I would have caved the fuck’s head in. Thankfully, Chief Hailee stopped the asshole before he walked too far. “That was uncalled for sir. We will be filling a complaint with the FIA. This team has had enough of your harassing tactics. Especially from you Mister LaRue. This bullshit will end.”

“Either start treating this team with the respect that it has earned, or you can bet your pretty little ass the FIA will be hearing from us. Do we have an understanding?” Chief Marks snarled from his place on the other side of the garage.

“Are you gentlemen implying that I would use my position of authority to show favoritism towards another team?” The asshole almost snarled.

“If they ain’t, I sure the fuck am.” I snapped. “Every time we’ve turn around Mister LaRue you have been there snooping around. Looking for a reason to fine us or penalize this team. Enough is enough.”

“Is this true? Has Marshal LaRue been abusing his authority?” One of the other Marshals demanded of us.

“Fuck yeah it is. That cock-bite has done everything he can to fuck with this team.” Chief Donaldson from the Red Bull team told the man. He wasn’t the only team Chief to come forward. Six other Crew Chiefs came forward in our defense. After hearing from the four other Crew Chiefs the Head Marshal looked over at LaRue.

“You sir are fired. You can pickup your final pay check. You have twenty-minutes to be off the grounds. Now, get out of my sight.”

“You can’t fire me, Cutter.” LaRue countered.

“Wrong, LaRue. I can higher or fire any Marshal that is proven to be abusing their position. Which with seven well respected Crew Chiefs I have more than enough reason to fire you on the spot. Now get out of here.” This Cutter guy ordered LaRue.

“You will regret this Cutter. Sooner or later those filthy, laying, cheating, worthless Americans will get someone killed.” I swear the more LaRue ran his mouth the more he was just asking for a highspeed attitude adjustment, by torque wrench.

When I went to go after the fuck stick Chief Hailee stopped me. “Leave it be, Bobbie. He’s gone and we got a fuel cell to pull. Not that it matters. Unless we completely redesign the fuel cells for every team that wreck won’t be the last.”

“Excuse me, sir. Would you care to elaborate?” Cutter asked Chief Hailee.

“The fuel cells we use are nonstandard issue.” Chief Hailee answered with a smile. “Our tanks are heavier. They’re a triple walled system made from a high impact resin polymer. Each cell has twice the number of baffles to prevent back wash.”

“God lord! No wonder your fuel cells didn’t fail during the Bahrain wreck. Talk about over engineering for safety.” I could tell that Cutter was beyond impressed. “How do you compensate for the added weight?”

“Sorry, but that is a trade secret, Mister Cutter. All that I can tell you is it is in the construction of the chassis.” Hailee explained.

“How can that be sir? I saw that wreck. If you shorted the chassis it would have failed. Your cars could have been made race ready in less than four to five hours.” Cutter was doing his level best to figure out how mom designed our cars.

“Sorry, Mister Cutter, we’re not telling you how our cars are built.” Chief Hailee chuckled at the Marshal’s attempts to find out more about our cars.

Cutter finally got the hint and chuckled. “I see that I have been caught. Very well, sir. I’ll leave you to get ready for the inspection.”

When Cutter was gone. The pit crews went to work. I knew that I was in the way here. Chief Hailee looked over at me and Kelly. “You two girls have a party to get ready for. Go on and get out of here. We got this.”

“Are you sure about that Chief?” I was trying to find a way out of the party. The whole team knew I hate going to the sponsors’ party. Of all the parties that I have to go to this is the one I hate the most. I always feel like a slab of meat held in front of a starving lion. The irony is we need those shmucks to keep operating.

“Get out of here Bobbie. Go get showered and changed. You and Beth are the face of our team. Now, just suck it up and do your job. Go to the party shake that little ass and get us another sponsor. Someone needs to pay for the new radios.” Chief Marks wise cracked as he pushed one of the toolboxes over to the cars.

“It’s like the Chief said. Now get out of here.” Danny yelled at me from across the bay. “We got this.”

Kelly could tell I didn’t want to leave the garage. “Come on, babe. They got their job. We got ours. And ours is to go make the sponsors happy and gain more sponsors. Just remember that it is all part of the glamorous life of a Formula One Driver.”

I just looked her in the eye. Then blew her a giant raspberry.

-----tbc-----



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