Once again motor sports seems to turn into a game for the better-off. This shouldn’t be necessarily so, as Martin Philippo shows with his report on the Junkyard-Race.
Since the early days car racing has been reserved to well-off gents and ladies. Those who could afford the luxury of a motorcar in the first place, leaving the rest of mankind to gaze in desire at the speeds they drove around the improvised road circuits. Later, when racing cars relocates to permanent tracks like Brooklands or Montlhery, we see the rise of the Gentleman Racer. Rich young gentlemen that do not hesitate to spend their heirloom on cigars, decent brandy and race cars. As before leaving the rest of the world behind in desire. No wonder this desire remains ample reason to search for ways that will bring motor racing closer to the common man. As early as the 1930’s the Formula 3 is developed, lightweight racing cars with a 500cc motorcycle engine. In the sixties we see the creation of the Formula Vee, using the humble VW engine. In the touring car class cars like the Fiat 600, Simca 1000 and NSU 1200TT become the rising stars. All reasonably cheap to acquire, prep and maintain.
One of the cheapest contemporary ways of racing cars we encounter when we visit the Junkyard-Race at Circuit Zandvoort. This race, inspired on the American 24 Hours of Lemons, is very much low entry for everybody. Participating cars should not have been more expensive than 500 euro’s and need to be produced prior to the year 2000. Some teams don’t really take these rules all that serious and well, no-one really cares. Racing licenses aren’t obligatory, but the usual safety measures remain intact. Roll cages, fire extinguishers and fire proof clothing are the standard. Besides all these obvious rules there is one fairly important addition, you need to have fun, lots of fun. That’s why almost all of the participating teams are clubs of friends that will spend weekend after weekend together. Drinking a few beers, preparing the car for the race. Interiors get stripped, roll cages fitted and the cars transformed into ludicrous monsters to live up to this years theme as set by the organisers. For 2018 this is ‘Legendary Race Cars’. During the actual race day there is een exceptionally friendly and cosy atmosphere around the track. Everybody is laughing and relaxed. This is what racing should always be about, living it rather than winning it.
Amongst the participants we even find a school team. Future mechanics, all carrying out their own tasks. As soon as the vehicle enters the pit lane for a change of driver, tyre pressure is checked, as is the brake temperature and the oil level. This is how a team learns to work together. And whenever something breaks these mechanics to be are set loose improvising. One of the lads proudly explains how he mended a ripped water hose with a Coca Cola can. Their teacher is lurking in the background, smiling. It’s not just them, the other teams are tinkering like mad as well. The race lasts for six hours, which is a strain on any old car. No wonder things break on the go. The tinkering is part of the fun of the Junkyard-Race. Spoilt cooling liquid is mopped up, engine oil topped up and of the car goes again. Until the next breakdown starts it all of again.
By the time everyone is home again, we imagine a last toast being made on friendship, the first ideas for next year sprouting. This is the best way of enjoying motor sports we can possibly imagine.