“North bloody Dakota?”
I gasp for some air. Appalled at the unimaginable event that is unfolding at my feet.
On the other end of the line, Voigt is stammering with emotion. Glutted by the overwhelming conviction that reality is being marred by total incomprehensibility.
“But euh, really I think that, hmm, just know that euh… The mail Guzik send said Donnybrook. And I am in Donnybrook.”
He is holding the headset transmitter away from his mouth. From the ambient hubbub, I make out that he is a dinner, annex local shop. Mumbling to the man behind the counter.
“Sir… Sir, this is Donnybrook, isn’t it?”
“Yes sonny, been so since 1898, ever since those fellows at Goetz no longer cared for the name,” the man answers.
“I am in Donnybrook,… euh sir,” the twit comes back on the receiver. His voice now unable to mask the fear of repercussion. He has at least grasped one risk of being in business with us, I try to calm myself down.
And just hang up. Of all the birdbrain would-be race-drivers, all of them extensively screened, we managed to pick the one not even able to find the darn racetrack.
I continue gazing at the two northern hicks by the names of Montgomery and Stall.
“Which one of you two geniuses had the brilliant idea to call this bloody Donnybrooke when it is in fucking Brainerd?” I hiss.
They give me that look of pretended indignation that only tells me that an answer is not to be expected within any foreseeable future.
Montgomery, a pilot with Northwest with George for given name, is telling some vague stories about two local oafs called Donny Skogmo and Brooke Kinnard. The former, a spoiled retailer’s kid, lost his life when his Lola T70 speared into the Armco separating the Road America pits from the track. The latter, an account executive racing in his spare time, crashed an MG at that same Road America.
It was a racing world’s sacred cow that one could be an also-ran during his entire racing career, but a fatal accident sufficed to have an entire racetrack named in his memory… Instead of just calling it Brained International Raceway or something.
My line of thinking seems to irritate the airline pilot turned race entrepreneur and his buddy. Guzik steps in with his kike little words aiming at mediation.
“We can sent Shumway with the Conti. It’s only about 450 miles to Donnybrook, North Dakota. Voigt could be here by tomorrow at the latest.” And then adds: “What is a 450 miles trip on a Kerouac-scale, anyway?”
They can’t help themselves, can they, these kikes? Always adding a little sneering reference underlining their supreme cultivation and intelligence.
“Very true, my dear friend,” I slaver. “But I need to run through some figures with Shum. You take the Conti and go ahead.”
I roll my eyes in his direction without nodding my head one inch. Old Guz gets it and ambles off. Lead in his shoes. 900 miles lie ahead of him; half of them filled with Voigt’s blabber.
The desolation of the Northern planes can ruin a man’s sound mind, they say. I hope they are right. That would teach old Guzik well; him and his smart-ass Kerouac-references.
As if I would not know that Kerouac is that kraut poet responsible for those crude notes of a dirty old man.
I had known all along that it was a bad idea to leave Voigt alone in Marseilles while we went prospecting the progress made West of Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer after the Paul Ricard race.
His Zandvoort vixen had failed to make it for both the Hockenheim and Paul Ricard-races. And she certainly had not travelled to Wisconsin for the Elkhart Lake-race. But in Marseilles, she suddenly appeared out of left field. Voigt promptly took her on a trip to Arles, convinced that he would talk her into leaving Amsterdam behind and join him in New York City.
He obviously failed. To me, it was pretty clear that if not even New York sufficed to convince a girl to follow, any hot emotions she may ever have had, had cooled down to below sub zero level.
It was to be expected that our punk driver had another opinion however. He claimed it was only a matter of time. So he would travel to Donnybrooke through Amsterdam on his own. And ended up in Donnybrook, North Dakota, lost in the grammars of his own mother tongue. Could you be any dumber?
The worst was still to come. As Guzik wheeled Voigt in, he seemed fraught with ideas. His queen of Gouda was a goner. That much was clear. But instead of just dumping the twat, she had deemed it necessary to get it into Voigt’s head that he had the talent to make it as a writer.
So instead of driving the Porsche, Jon spend most of our time in Brainerd reading and scribbling down the most incoherent pieces of a plot that was still dawning in his mind.
And on the very rare occasions that he actually took the 917 out to the track, he was back in the pits after only a handful of laps. Complaining about the lack of grip the track surface offered. Very slippery out there, he claimed. As if they had intended on building an ice rink rather than a racetrack.
It did not stop Bos from clocking an impressive 1.27.3 lap in his factory entered McLaren M8F. Following Urick’s demise, the Belgian driver had been hired away from the American Racing Associates team to drive the second factory entered car. And Bos did not waste time to show off the capabilities of the car.
Regular factory McLaren driver Sabre was a tad faster still. And took pole-position with a lap just below 1 minute 27.2 seconds. Making for a full McLaren front row.
Plaçais, in third, shared the second row with David Jaques who was once more behind the wheel of the McCaig McLaren. Grant Riddall secured fifth in the Shadow, followed by the two Motschenbacher McLarens of Whited and Jereb.
By the end of practice, Marcelo tinkered around with the camber and tire pressures on the Porsche. The result only allowed Voigt to clock meager 1.36.7 laps. Which was nevertheless sufficient to secure a top 20 starting position. Helped to a certain extent by there only being 21 starters.
As the green flag dropped, Sabre immediately jumped slightly ahead of Bos. It allowed the Brit to move to the left of the track, offering the fast line through turn 1. Bos tucked in behind and followed Sabre’s lead.
Behind them, things were slightly more sporty. Both Jaques and Riddall had an eye out for Plaçais third spot. And neither displayed much patience to get it. Jaques pulled alongside the Ferrari. While Riddall jolted his Shadow across the track from the inside to the far outside before coming abreast the Ferrari and the McLaren. They were storming towards T1 three-wide at close to 200 mph.
T1 at Donnybrooke is a very fast, slightly banked, right-hander. And the red-orange-black triad charging towards the turn thus somewhat looked like a nuclear detonation waiting to happen. The experienced Jaques had the wisdom to back of a bit, leaving the corner to Plaçais and Riddall.
Behind, the rest of the field behaved much more civilized and most drivers settled to negotiate T1 in a cautious single file.
Tempers cooled off quickly and T2, an almost equally fast second right-hander, was completed with less fervor.
As the pack braked for slow T3, it entered the narrow and twisty infield section of the track. Tony Dean went a bit wide in T3 and lost some places.
The cars wriggled through the twisty part of the track like a barfing string of pearls.
Mikula and Riddall tried to round medium fast T7 side-by-side. The narrow track did not allow for it and Riddall went lawn mowing. Without losing much of his pace though.
Sabre already had worked up a little advantage and set out on a quest to convert his pole into a win.
Voigt had a relatively slow start but nevertheless made a successful move on the Place Motor Supply Lola driven by rookie Mark Craggs. Then messed it up by spinning of in T9, rejoining dead last. Post race, he would declare that his nerves had him sitting uneasy in the car. Which obviously was something no one in the team had any sympathy for.
As lap 2 neared completion, Sabre had increased his lead. Bos seemed unable to keep up with his new teammate but had slightly inched away from Plaçais, still in third. Behind the Ferrari, Riddall in the Shadow and Jaques in the McCaig McLaren were looking for opportunities. Then followed the two Motschenbacher cars.
Further back the race took its first casualties. Tony Dean spun out of T9, hit the barrier and scattered the track with all sorts of odds and ends of his car. Brave youngster Alberto Iquino, driving his second race for Barrett Racing, collided with one of the littered pieces. His McLaren drifted into a spin and hit the fencing head-on. Both Dean’s and Iquino’s race were over.
Jundt started working his way up and passed Janik in turn 1 for 8th.
Jaques managed a better exit out of T10, a slow right turn leading back onto the main straight, and pulled alongside Riddall. Grant simply unleashed the power of his massive 8 liter Chevy and easily outpaced the McLaren with its pitiful 7.6 liter V8.
With 1/10th of the race ran, Sabre had a 4.3 seconds lead on his new teammate, Bos. Who in turn was running about 1.1 second in front of Plaçais in the Ferrari. Grant Riddall was a bit further back in the Shadow and was heading a small train of McLarens with David Jaques, Jason Whited, Raul Jereb, David Jundt, Brian Janik and Gabriel Sterr.
The race looked pretty much like a motorcade at this stage. Fast certainly, but a procession without much action still.
Jaques had a look at Riddall’s inside under braking for T3 but the move did not stick. The audience however started registering that Jaques was faster in the twisty section and probably also over a whole lap. But the power of the Shadow allowed Riddall to stay ahead by pulling away on the straights.
The best action was however still only the cones on the front straight being bowled into the air by a passing car.
Leader Sabre started lapping the last cars. Pretty soon Riddall and Jaques would also be up to lapping and many wondered whether that would help Jaques get past Riddall. Jaques also needed to monitor his mirrors as Whited at times came very close.
At the lower side of the top 10, Jundt had almost reeled in Jereb and Sterr had made it past Janik, grabbing 9th. Janik was however not giving up and tried to drive around the outside of Sterr in T3. Both the yellow AAC and the red Kemp McLaren ran abreast for the best part of the midfield section.
Jaques had a moment coming out of T9, the rear of his car partially stepping out. It was al Whited needed to pull ahead and it looked like the race was finally going to sprout some action.
Jaques immediately hooked onto the tow provided by the Motschenbacher car along the main straight. But then, approaching T1, the front of his car snapped to the outside in what looked like a freak occurrence of understeer. That allowed Whited to edge out.
The other Motschen-bacher car, driven by Raul Jereb, meanwhile retired with faulty sparks.
The monotony of lapping was setting in and both Bos and Riddall had small offs, almost simultaneously. It allowed Plaçais into second, with Bos down to 3rd, and Whited past Riddall for 4th.
It was time for Jaques to let the world in on a small display of his extensive talent. On the main straight, Riddall used the massive power of the Shadow to catch up with Whited. The speed carried by the Shadow pushed it on a somewhat wide line through T1. Allowing Whited a faster inside run towards T2. Jason was however forced onto the inside curbstone in T2, slowing him down.
The wobbling Motschenbacher McLaren forced Riddall into an avoidance course onto the grass on the outside. To add some more to the complexity of their situation, they were closing in fast on to be lapped Philippe Henrique, who was already on his brakes for T3.
And then, out of nowhere, Jaques shot by first Whited and then Riddall. As they exited T3, it was Jaques in 4th, Riddall in 5th and Whited back in 6th. Jaques had managed to be the right man at the right spot at the right time. The whole thing put a big smile on team-owner Roger McCaig’s face. Jaques stepped in for McCaig who is fighting cancer. And seeing a smile on the man’s face was a welcome sight. Even the likes of me should be able to admit that much. Even if it cost me some effort.
It took the trio Jaques-Riddall-Whited no time to catch Bos. Whited seemed to be in for a very privileged spectacle.
Riddall went wide in T1 and T2, and again in T4. It was almost as if he was inviting Whited to go past. But all Whited did was pull alongside without ever really finishing the business.
Behind them Jundt, who was in 7th following Jereb’s retirement, was now gently starting to microwave his cheese in one of those new RadaRange machines. He was closing in.
Riddall was now extracting every ounce from the Shadow in a bid to get back to Jaques. It all looked very spectacular. But was it really that fast, many wondered? As Whited now was on the Shadow’s gearbox and at several occasions looked like able to have a real go.
Bos succumbed to the pressure of having Jaques in his mirrors and spun out of T9. He avoided bumping into anything and his car seemed unscathed. Jaques, Riddall and Whited nevertheless all went passed. The early one-two of the factory McLaren-team had been reduced to Sabre in the lead and Bos in 6th.
Juha’s concerns were far from settled though. Another orange McLaren replaced Jaques’ McLaren in his mirrors: the Auto World McLaren driven by David Jundt. And that was in no way more reassuring than having Jaques behind.
Whited succeeded in overtaking Grant Riddall using an inside line through T1 and then looked like he would swiftly close the gap to Jaques. Whited would however only stay ahead of Riddall for about 6 turns, power-spinning out of T8.
The Motschenbacher McLaren ended up blocking the inside line. Riddall could not avoid it and there was contact between both cars. Grant did not suffer much of a drawback as he seemed to drive straight on, recapturing 4th.
It was not to be for the Shadow however. Grant went a bit wide exiting T1 and then went sideways in T2. It ended with the Shadow spinning off and losing massive amounts of time. By the time Riddall rejoined, both Whited and Bos had gone by and the Shadow now had a hot Jundt on its tail.
Voigt had meanwhile long dispensed with Chacon and had reeled in rookie Mark Craggs. Jon managed to hold on to the tow of the Lola all along the main straight but had to back of a bit in T1 and T2. On the run from T2 to T3, he went for the inside line, braked later and was past Craggs. It however needs mentioning that the rookie did really not insist on defending hard and was very courteous.
The Place Lola managed to stay in touch through the twisty section, even with Whited lapping the Lola and the Porsche. As they approached T10, the Lola was right on the Porsche’s rear-end and, in the pit, we all feared that on the long main straight, the Porsche would be a sitting duck.
The British driver however spun on the exit of T10, and Voigt, now in 16th, could go happy hunting for Henrique.
Grant had another spin in the Shadow and was now down to 9th. And his woes with the Shadow seemed to increase.
After 25 laps of racing, Sabre was enjoying a massive lead over second placed Plaçais. Jaques was in third, Whited in an excellent 4th and Bos was back up to 5th with Jundt in 6th not very far behind. Sterr, Janik, Riddall and Ryon completed the top 10.
Voigt’s hunt for Henrique only took him a handful of laps. Henrique had some spins and when he went off again in T8, Voigt caught him and took over 15th.
Henrique was however determined to get by again and braked too late for T9, hitting our car hard from behind. Voigt would later complain that the bump had seriously shaken the rear suspension, turning the Porsche into a very twitchy drive.
Henrique was not to give up however. He had a look into T10, but had a half spin onto the main straight. Voigt could edge away a bit. The crippled rear drivetrain was however slowing him down and Henrique was quick on our tail again. He went for a pass around the outside into T3. Voigt was trying to stick to the inside line just as the wounded rear of our car played up. Voigt corrected swiftly but it was not enough. There was contact between both Porsches, sending Henrique into a wild spin. It was not to be the last we would see from the Siffert entered Porsche.
Riddall ended up blowing his engine and retired the Shadow.
Riddall the Wiser had meanwhile been running behind Mikula for some laps and now had a good run on the Lola on the main straight. He came alongside and then went ahead very cleanly and was on an inside line for T1. Mikula had to steer in and touched the BRM. Both cars could continue but Mikula’s defence had some frowning in the box.
As Jaques came up to lap, Mikula tried to sneak through in Jaques wake into T4. But the move went sour and both Mikula and Ray Riddall ended up on the grass. Credit to whom credit is owned however. Mikula gave the position back to Riddall.
Only to have a go again in T6. Ending with Mikula spinning out. Riddall was out of reach.
Whited came storming into the pits, with the Motschenbacher crew shooting into a frenzy. Sending the McLaren back on track with many positions lost.
Lap 31. Mikula storms towards fast T1. As soon as he steers in, the rear of his car steps away. The car shoots of the track, onto the grass and into a tree. The crash destroys the Lola. Mikula is out of the race.
Henrique had meanwhile almost caught Voigt back, running about one car length behind our Porsche. He was never really close enough to attempt a pass. But my main fear was that cry-baby Voigt would succumb to the pressure. And crash our beloved Porsche into a wall or a tree.
Then some faster cars came up to lap the two Porsches. Among them Bos and Jundt. That put Henrique back a bit. But as soon as the faster cars dissolved into the distance of glorious victories, Henrique was straight back on our exhausts.
Out of T8, the Siffert Porsche was closing in. Everything made believe that, on the long straight, Henrique would blast by our Porka. But then, out of T9, he went samba dancing like only Brazilians can. He slammed his car into the inside wall under the bridge.
The number 20 Porsche suffered serious damage and entered the pit, where it was retired. Jonny boy headed for calmer waters in our Porsche.
Bruno Chacon went off in T2. And discovered that the tires supplied by March were of such good quality that some fir needles sufficed to puncture them. He crawled back to the pits for fresh rubber. And demanded Goodyear tires, refusing the unknown Mausolée-tire brand Mosley had delivered.
Sabre still held on to a comfortable lead, well ahead of Plaçais in second. Jaques was in third, with Plaçais merely some seconds ahead. Behind those three… the dessert.
Gerard Ryon had a moment out of T10. Sterr duly went by for 7th.
Ryon is an old fox however. Approaching T2, he tricked Sterr in believing that he would try to go around the outside. The German defended the inside line, but that made him loose momentum. And when Sterr was pushed to the outside exiting the turn, Ryon switched to the inside with much more speed. And simply sailed by into T3. It almost looked like Bolshoi-ballet on wheels.
Sterr was quick back to 7th however.
The ballet pumps seemed to abandon Ryon as he fiercely tried to hold on to Sterr. His car drifted onto the grass between T8 and T9. Sterr was edging away.
Whited had retired the last of the running Motschenbacher’s.
A yet again magnificent Jundt had reeled in Bos. Between T6 and T10, DJ was giving a small demonstration of how a McLaren should be handled. Swarming all around the factory McLaren’s impressive behind.
On the straight and through T1 and T2, Bos used the power and superior aerodynamics of his machine to run away from the Swiss driven McLaren.
In the twisty part, Jundt however closed in. Without ever being able to have a clean shot at third.
Jundt eventually had a spin out of T2, giving Bos some more breathing room.
Some say that the sting is in the tail. And Sabre was about to experience just that. Plaçais had found some additional speed with his Ferrari getting lighter as the fuel burned off. He had been lapping in the 1.28’s and now had leader Sabre within eyesight.
The French driver was releasing the shackles on the Ferrari. But Sabre still had the power and aero advantage and seemed able to control the Italian stallion. The Brit even got some help when he could easily lap Hackman on the front straight, while as Plaçais lost some time in T2 lapping Hackman.
But then tragedy hit for the lead McLaren. Sabre spun out of T4. Plaçais was in the lead. Sabre was so anxious to get going again, that he overcooked it. And spun again in T5. Filling the air with smoke and the stench of burned rubber. Jaques also came by.
In the space of two turns, and with a mere 10 laps remaining, Sabre had gone from a certain win to a shaky last spot on the podium. And it was only about to get worse for Sabre.
At the end of the lap, he steered the McLaren into the pits. There was a fuel problem. The team was uncertain whether Sabre would be able to finish the race with what was left in the reservoir. A harsh choice imposed itself on the McLaren-men. Call Sabre in and have him loose third. Or have him stay out at the risk of ending up somewhere in the back of the track, without fuel. And loosing the entire race.
So Sabre came in.
Bos went by. As did Jundt. Sabre rejoined in fifth, just in front of Brian Janik.
Up front, Plaçais did no longer look back. He soldiered on in the lead, not one single of his brain cells even considering the thought of ending anywhere else than in the top spot. Things were pretty much the same aboard the McCaig Racing McLaren, where Jaques was storming towards second.
Behind the two leaders, Bos was back into third. The Belgian was saving some of the honor for the factory McLaren-team by clinging to the last podium spot. Bronze was however far from secured for the second McLaren driver as super Swiss Jundt was back on his tail.
There is, in reality, only one spot on the whole Donnybrooke track where overtaking is a safe bed. And that is the entry to T3. That T3 concludes the extremely fast section consisting of the front straight, the blindingly fast T1 and the only marginally slower T2.
And on the front straight, Bos used all the power of his 8.0 liter Chevy to pull away from Jundt. Then used the strong aerodynamics of the factory McLaren to pull even further away through T1 and T2. On some laps, Jundt could keep up on the front straight, using the tow provided by the big factory McLaren. But then got hampered by the dirty air in the wake of Bos’ car through T1 and T2. Losing some ground.
The end result was that DJ was never close enough to have a pass under braking for T3.
It did not stop him from being all over Bos’ back for the rest of the twisty midfield section though. Only to see the number 7 car pull away out of T10 on the fast section.
On the last lap, Jundt gave it one more shot and released every devil on Bos, even those stacked away in the darkest and deepest of Swiss vaults. He had a first look between T6 and T7. Bos was able to fend it off, but seemed slow through the T7-T8 complex. It was all a formidable Jundt needed to pull alongside on the run between T8 and T9.
Both cars rounded T9 side-by-side, Jundt on the inside. They even seemed to touch. But both drivers kept it straight.
On the run to the very last turn of the race, Jundt however had the inside line. And Bos, even if faster on the short straight, simply ran out of tarmac and failed to get ahead again.
So they braked, still abreast, for the very last turn of the race. Jundt had the advantage of the inside line and used it like only men of his ability can. Leaving Bos sufficient room to make the turn on the outside, but preventing the factory McLaren from thundering onto the main straight.
Bos nevertheless moved around the outside and started pulling ahead. But Jundt used the advantage of his inside line to stay in front and grab third.
After having occupied the two top spots for the majority of the race, the factory McLaren team lost the last podium spot in the very last turn.
In front of that battle, Plaçais had long taken a safe victory. It was a fine guerdon for a race driven with the regularity of a metronome. Jaques, who had deployed a similar regularity, took a well deserved second.
Jundt concluded the podium. Bos was fourth.
Behind, Sabre had hit more trouble after his pit stop, and had fallen back to sixth. Leaving Brian Janik into fifth. It was a fantastic result for the Detroiter in only his first race with the American Racing Associates McLaren.
Gabriel Sterr, Gerard Ryon, Ray Riddall and Adam Hackman completed the top 10.
In the provisional championship standings, some of the feared McLaren dominance is concretizing. Even if the lead is no longer held by a McLaren. That honor belongs to Ferrari and Yves Plaçais who leaves Donnybrooke with a 9 points advantage over the second placed man. It appears that Il Commendatore may well succeed in his bet of not going down the power road, but rather pairing a nimble better handling car with a gifted driver.
Behind the Ferrari follows an armada of McLarens with Sabre, Jaques, Jundt, Adamovich, Whited and Jereb.
With three races remaining, it however appears that the fight for the final top spoils will be between Sabre and Plaçais. McLaren versus Ferrari. Aussie brats versus Italian aristocracy.
Next round: Edmonton.
(*) Woman’s feet created by UnseenHarbinger (https://www.deviantart.com/unseenharbinger) – Used under fair use 17 USC Section 107.