The off-season for motorsports is always a barren time for petrolheads, the withdrawal symptoms driving many true fans to extraordinary lengths to simply get a second of the glorious engine note that can only come from a finely-tuned piece of engineering being thrashed to within a hairs-width of its tolerances. With the faffing around and shambolic handling of the WRC this year, there’s even been uncertainty over getting a fix of dirt and gravel action.
Football fans get their beloved sport pretty much all year round thanks to friendlies, tournaments, internationals etc so don’t truly appreciate how bad it is for us. There is no F1, no MotoGP, no Touring Cars and no WRC this year (well, there is but it’s pot luck on the coverage) – yeah there’s NASCAR but you have to pay for that, and even American friends we know admit that watching it on TV can cause a strong desire to watch some paint dry. It’s a different matter being there, and I’ve always said I’d like to experience a NASCAR event for real to get that sense of atmosphere, excitement and thrill that people enjoy.
What is it about the thought of motor vehicles being pushed to their limits? It’s the sound, that rasping sound of internal combustion and the vibrations you get in your chest as a car (or bike) shoots past. It’s the smells, being at a racetrack and getting that whiff of oil, carbon, petrol. It’s the thrill of seeing people pushing finely engineered machines to their limits. It’s the technology and the engineering itself, the genius of design and science with the best engineering solutions that exist. It’s the whole package.
The petrol withdrawal symptoms are so bad that F1 testing (yes, TESTING) is marked on calendars, counted down to, and then followed on Twitter, Autosport, blogs and more with a level of enthusiasm that is almost embarrassing in its anorak-yness (hey, a new word!)
What’s truly sad about testing is that it doesn’t tell you anything. The times are often irellevant as each team is doing different test programmes. The cars that have just been launched will bear little resemblance to the cars that will turn up for the first race (due to the endless push for performance, and the perpetual air of paranoia) so you can’t even get a full picture of what the cars are going to look like. Yes, you get a rough idea as a cars appearance will rarely change drastically but the front wing will change, the rear wing will likely change, elements on the bodywork will change, the diffuser may well change and so on.
The biggest sadness of this all, is that I am one of these people. I’m counting down to the first race in Australia. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sky are going to bring to F1 coverage. I’m following all the tests. I check Autosport more times a day than I check any other site (except twitter, but I use an app for that and that’s primarily to get the latest motorsports news the instant it’s out there!)
Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Mr Hartley and… I am a petrolhead.