The cup of Schwarzwald tea stands silently in front of the young man. Dark circles of residue form on the bottom of the cup’s white china. And betray the first nip still to be taken. The cold tea is a dark pool, reflecting the screaming desolation of the race track.
A desolation that almost makes one forget all the agitated cosiness of yet another race weekend passed; with a track bustling with activity and sound.
There is a widespread conception among European folk that Americans only build oval tracks. But those with such conviction, should just spend a race weekend at Bryar. It would easily persuade them of the opposite.
Throughout the race weekend an atmosphere, simply unknown anywhere else, hovered over the track. During daytime, fans wandered freely about. Could even talk to the drivers. At night, European tracks tend to be desserts of loneliness. Everyone retrieves to hotels and leaves the garages and trucks and cars behind. While as in America, all over the track site, campfire scenes spring to life and sprinkle twists of pleasantness. The lights in the many campers light up. And people sit in the spooky shapes of flames rising from smouldering wooden logs. The tantalising smell of steaks and spareribs barbecued just before, still heavy in the air.
All around the lake on Bryar’s infield, people had been telling stories. And singing songs to the tune of a lonesome guitar. It almost felt like one of those summer evenings at Camp Crystal Lake. Bare the Fridays, maybe … The Bryar track lay in the background. Just a silent reminiscence of the fierce racing that occurred during the day.
A track that is much like a succession of drag strips. With cars breaking hard, down to near standstill for corners. Each one virtually a hairpin. Out of the corners… a ferocious blast up through the gears. Till the next turn. And then braking again… And hard acceleration… Engines screaming on the top of their rev limits. Followed by sharp screeching as tires lock under braking. Lap after lap.
“But then there is this thing on the back straight,” young Voigt tells me. And hesitantly reaches for his tea.
“It’s like someone wanted to replicate the kink and hump of Mulsanne there. And ended up putting them in the same place. Making driving at speed at that spot … ”
“That why you pulled over?” The sneering mouth of his mechanic shoots him down.
Voigt’s glance at once shifts back to deep down into the ground that lies at his feet. His sad disappointment looming larger than ever before.
And truth be said, I feel sympathy for the boy.
During the entire practice sessions, he had been about 2 seconds off the pace set by the fastest men. It got even worse during qualifying. With Voigt’s BMW being over 3 seconds a lap slower than Goissen’s similar car. It did however not stop Voigt from securing a 7th spot on the grid. A serious improvement over his Lime Rock-achievement.
And, to top it of, he had looked confident for the race. It had taken them some time, but together with Marcelo, his mechanic, they had found a stable set-up for the car. That is what he told me just after the qualifying session ended. And before being harshly silenced by his mechanic.
It was the kind of confidence lacking in the camp of the pony car teams. The big American brutes had once more looked ready to devour the delicate European ballerinas. But the nimble Beemers, Fords and Alfa’s had again just swirled out of their reach. And had proved too agile for the thundering powerhouses.
Messengers with urgent requests for advice were sent to Detroit and Dearborn over night. To no avail.
When the starting flag dropped, Goissen sped off. A whole horde of frolicking fairies from Bavaria and Cologne on his tale. Even the Alfa’s seemed to have a hard time keeping up with their German sisters. And pretty soon, a train of Munich poppies and two Escorts disappeared in the distance. Leaving a solid gap between them and the rest of the field.
Other European cars had made a less than perfect start. Finding it difficult to get up to speed on the slippery and narrow Bryar track. They got caught in a stampede of rugged Mopar bulls. And once caught in the pack of rumbling V8’s, didn’t quiet manage to escape. Although, the exact reasons remain something of a mystery. Was it a lack of sufficient agility on behalf of the European machines? Or was the daunting savageness of the American cars just to overwhelming?
Fact was that the Chevies, Fords and other Plymouths seemed to struggle with one single concern: avoid ending up in Bryar’s lake. Which, for cars with the general handling of a big boat, was quiet astonishing.
During the opening laps, Voigt went several extra miles to keep up with Chapman and Norburn. He even clocked lap times faster than his best qualify lap. But then he gave in, and settled into a lonely rhythm running 6th.
Pretty soon, the spectacle of the nimble little cars lapping the big macho boats started. And it al seemed like Lime Rock all over.
With about one third of the race driven, the first mishaps occurred. Sixou put his Escort in the doldrums. And was reported having a swim in Bryar’s lake to forget all about this racing business.
Canton went overly optimistic on the braking performance of his Mustang. He slid off and then blew the engine. More messengers were sent to Dearborn.
Ruys de Perez’ Camaro had a greater appetite for fuel than his engineers had anticipated. He was left admiring the whole field rushing by as his car coasted to a standstill by the side of the road. The direct line with Detroit went red hot.
Norburn spun his white BMW and found himself way down the pack. They didn’t seem to care in Munich. Goissen, Chapman and Voigt were saving the honours. Only the Escort of Le Pihive disturbing their private party at the front.
Voigt had moved up to 3rd. Then fallen back to 5th after his pitstop. A pitstop that had gone perfectly well. He was now flying around the track with an almost undamaged car. Finding back the rhythm of his early laps. Gently reeling in Bert Everett in the fastest Alfa. And was almost certain to get a second 4th place finish. Until, with less than 30 laps to go, his car stopped at the far end of the track. Marcello, his Spanish mechanic, was reported fiercely yelling at his driver: “Hijo de …”
The electronic system of the infallible German machine turned out to have kicked the bucket. Voigt’s disappointment was colossal. Yet, no soothing words from his mechanic were to be expected.
Even more disappointment for Beretta. With barely 7 laps to go, his engine bought the farm. Race over.
It left Goissen to do what he had failed to do at Lime Rock. Bring the goodies home and take the win. Le Pihive dully followed him home second. Allowing him to get a firm grip on the championship standings. Standings where second, third and fourth spot are separated by a mere three points. Holding the promise of a tightly fought championship in the offing.
Suanya was again fastest of the over 2.5 litre cars. Barely two races into the season, he already has the championship in a stranglehold. With a 13 point lead over Parker, and Nichter some 11 points further down.
Next race is at Mid-Ohio. There, the long back straight might be just what the muscle cars need. And allow them to shake off their painful memories of Lime Rock and Bryar.