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  • It was a beautiful morning in the english village of Castle Coombe. Buried deep in the heart of southern England, Castle Coombe is an old WW2 airfield, reclaimed as a race circuit in the 1950s.

    Today was to be my first ever motor race. I was 39 years old fulfilling a lifelong ambition and terrified. It was like my first day at school all over again, but worse. I had all the preconceived notions that come with adulthood. I'd already lost count of all the "what if" conversations I'd had with myself that morning.

    As the time of the first race approached, my usual relaxed nature around cars began to slip away. I became tense. Snapped at everyone around me. Became unable to hold a conversation of more than a few sentences. My brain began to overload on all the new data it was receiving. All the drivers began to be herded around like cattle. Drivers briefings were followed by technical inspections, and then weighings, then team talks. It all went by so fast.

    I'd practiced and practiced and practiced, but all of it seemed lost in those few hours that morning.

    As Layer after layer of alien like clothing we're piled on. The heat they generated, only added to the tension. Claustrophobia mounted as on went my balaclava, helmet and gloves. No sooner had I squirmed into the seat, than someones hands are all over me. Big strong hands, reaching into places that hands like that should never reach. Only to emerge with seat belts. Not one but six belts all clipped and tightened to the point where circulation adds to my discomfort. Why am I doing this again?

    The noise intensifies, engines roar into life all around me and cars begin to emerge from garages to my left and right. I'm transfixed. Then bang! A hand has reached through my open window and "tapped" me on my head. My trance broken in an instant, I'm told to start my engine and head out onto the grid.

    Moments later we emerge from the pit lane, and begin to form up in neat rows of fifteen sets of two. Spectators all around us. Announcements from loud speakers barely audible above the noise of our engines. A man stands in front of me waving a flag I've apparently never seen before. I've studied this stuff for months, I've passed the tests, and now my mind is blank. Is he waving it at me? He smiles and simply points to the space ahead of me and motions for me to fill the slot. I breath again.

    I remind myself over and over not to tense my hands, arms and neck. Then repeatedly find myself almost snapping the wheel in my vice like grip. I glance to my right. There in the car next to me is my best friend. We are both fulfilling a dream today. To race. He doesn't look back. His eyes are starring, unblinkingly down the track ahead. His arms holding the wheel as if his life depended on it. I realise that for the next 20 minutes we are about to become enemies. Then his stare is broken and he looks to his left. Our eyes meet and we share an experience which will never be repeated. Fear, exhilaration, ambition, competition, excitement all mixed into one. Shared for a mere moment. Then a noise signals us to prepare ourselves. Thirty engines around us begin to roar. Lights on the overhead gantry go red. Seconds pass. I have never experienced a moment of such intense focus as in those few seconds. Then the lights change to green……
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