Ted’s essays

Weekend of a Champion

Last night we enjoyed a 2013 movie, most of which was made by Roman Polanski during three days he spent with Jackie Stewart in 1971, leading up to and including Jackie’s drive in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Ya’all ought to know I am A CAR GUY. I have been a dedicated car guy, and in particular, road-racing car guy since I was five years old, or so. Anything that involves high-performance driving turning right as well as left has my interest.

I subscribed to Road & Track and Car & Driver in the 70’s, watching Jackie via those pages during his peak. I also found autocross and began legitimate sports car performance competition about that time. I differentiate that from the preceding 15+ years’ of rather illegitimate practices and competitions on road courses that were shared with everyday drivers and traffic.

The greatest beauty of sanctioned events is the ability to run at 100% of car and driver’s capabilities. There is no need to reserve margins for error or unanticipated obstacles. In an autocross, errors or malfunctions are rewarded with a lost split second or one-second-per-pylon penalties.

Near the end of that decade I began a 20-year love affair with my ’56 Speedster. I, and everybody I raced against figured that car was magical. Discounted was a score of times I raced in someone else’s car, besting their lap times as well as my own, or lapped far newer superior cars on racing slicks driving my obsolete Speedster on street tires. I truly did not connect those incidents even as they continued to stack up.

In the movie, Weekend of a Champion, Jackie speaks eloquently of balance, finesse, smoothness, feeling the car, anticipating its moves, regaining control and many other fine points that I always figured was what every one of us felt while driving near the limit.

Quite surprising to me, Jackie tells us that level of feel was uncommon even among the best road racing drivers in the profession … the upper .00000001% of the drivers in the world.

I’m guessing it is no more common today.

I sure wish I had more opportunities to exercise that particular rare talent I apparently have.

Maybe 2017 will hand some to me.

I mean beyond the Highway 93 hillclimb.