Phakisa. Apparently the name means hurry up, or overtake, or something. To the Locost crowd it seems to mean fixing race cars, talking rubbish, avoiding ants and having a jol. And braaing. Nou.
It’s near Welkom, which is a boring drive from Joburg. Properly boring, and I’m a Vrystater by birth. Viva Cheetahs.
Open practice was on friday, and so Andre was keen for the club to meet up for breakfast at 5am at a Wimpy somewhere. I told him to sod off, I’m on leave, and 5am is does not exist when you’re on leave. Oh, and I don’t have a racing car so I don’t need to get to open practice.
When I finally got there (around 11am, a civilised hour) Juan had already broken his front fenders and starter motor. Johan had changed the colour of his car (never be seen in the same dress twice) and Michael needed to undo some lightness that he had added (i.e. put duct tape over some holes).
There’s something very cool about a pit bay full of smelly cars, noisy engines and screaming rubber.
Hermann and I were pit crew, which means that Hermann helped with the technical stuff, and I adjusted mirrors and took photos. Clearly these guys had read this blog and didn’t trust me with even a screwdriver. Eventually Michael let me check his bonnet catches. He has real issues with loose bonnet catches – my guess is that as a kid he was mercilessly teased for an open fly and that’s manifesting as psychotic adult insecurities. Or he doesn’t want to die in a fireball as his bonnet blows up into his windscreen. But I think it’s the fly thing.
Gerdus was driving number 48, so it was very cool to see the yellow 007 hurtling round the track again.
Open practice ended on a scorcher of a day, so it was time to gaan braai. Or sit in a circle peering into laptops analysing lap times. Riveting if you’ve actually done a lap, less so if your primary achievement was being promoted to bonnet-catch-tester. I drank some beer.
Finally we could start the braai. Wood was burned, Juan’s family brought salad and rolls (amazing people), rubbish was talked, the wood burned.
Then we ran out of wood, before we ran out of meat. Problem. But being the Vrystater that I am, I had more wood. So we made more fire and flame-grilled our meat. Andre felt that good luck would shine his way if he made a burnt offering. He took a beautiful piece of steak and destroyed it on the fire. Dead. Like a charcoal briquette. He’s afrikaans, surely he knows how to cook meat properly? Even my Vrystater credentials couldn’t convince him that what he was doing was an offence to the memory of the cow that unwillingly provided the meat. I still don’t know how he actually swallowed that piece of cremation. Win for the carcinogens then.
With an early start for the race day a fairly early night was called. Some earlier than others, albeit ineffectually. The Gerdus family found out the hard way that tents a fortress do not make. Especially not against a Neil. Eventually in what can only be called noble self sacrifice Gerdus got up and had another drink. Revenge came the next day…
Saturday. Race day. Up at 7am, engines already screaming. Qualifying for the Lotus Challenge was just after 8am, so it was time for coffee and stretches. My bonnet fingers were going to be well limbered for action later.
Juan’s starter was still toasted, so he had to be push-started. Bonnet fingers don’t push-start cars, so I supervised. Two laps in and I’m practicing my pan-and-snap photo method. Where is the yellow 48? Over there, on the other side, stationary.
Metal fatigue sucks. The alternator mount point on the engine brackets had snapped off completely, shredding the fan belt and stopping the water pump. A few seconds later the engine overheated and the radiator vented its juices – mostly over Gerdus’ feet. He was fine (hooray for Nomex), but I was sure that was his racing over.
Not so – never underestimate the dedicated race-car builder (re-builder, re-re-builder). Engine supported, bracket out, a welding machine (and welder) found, fixed, driver’s briefing, reassemble. Oh, and at the same time Juan was off to a nearby Midas for a new starter motor.
By this stage Michael’s starter was beginning to behave badly, and he kept losing 4th. Maybe it would self heal…
Time for the first race. Andre found himself wondering why some pillick is parked in his grid position. It makes a real mess of things when someone’s in the wrong slot. Problem eventually solved South African style (park in someone elses slot) and the race starts. Broooom, they’re off, they vanish, they reappear, they vanish. Phakisa is apparently amazing to drive, with flowing fast corners and long straights. But it’s not the best to watch, with not too many viewing platforms. So I suggest building a car and checking out the track from the tarmac.
A few laps in and the green car (Johan) is trundling down the pit lane with a broken front fender. As he turns into his pit the fender shifts and cuts through his brake line. That sucks. His race is now surely over. Not so! Lots of people are willing to help out, and a new brake line is made up. Hermann springs in, his hydraulics expertise a real benefit in this situation. I check Johan’s bonnet catches. Quickly, expertly. They’re fine.
By this stage it’s pretty flippin hot. You’d think that my Vrystater blood would stand me in good stead. I’m dying, to be honest. Fortunately I find an ice-cold beer and another life is saved. There are some advantages to not racing.
Michael is still struggling with 4th. You can hear it as he heads down the straight, since he’s having to jump from 3rd to 5th. Maybe it’ll self heal.
Race two is upon us before we know what’s hit us. My bonnet catch check is quicker than ever, I’m almost ready to upgrade to push-starting – baby steps.
I manage by this time to find the big viewing tower from which I can take photos. I completely screw up two awesome photos of the starting grid line-up, by using the wrong light setting. Fortunately I spot the error before I ruin the really good shot. That one I ruin by simply missing it. Out the corner of my eye I see a yellow streak where there shouldn’t be a yellow streak. I just manage to see Gerdus, at full speed, going completely sideways in the dirt. By the time I click the shutter he’s straight again, although still on the dirt. He manages to catch the slide and get back under control. Hard-core.
Racing over, with Gerdus achieving highest top speed – way to go number 48 – and Johan hot on the heals of Andre. Michael’s 4th did not self-heal. But now it was time. Nou gaan ons braai.
No racing on Sunday means no holds barred on Saturday night. When the TLR guys let their hair down things can get pretty wild. Hell, there was talk of supercharging Toyota 4AGE’s, stiffer anti-roll bars and radical ideas on adjusting bump and rebound. Cray-Zee. At the Locost Formula campsite things were a little more civilised. Except when a chair got burnt. Or the hail storm hit Hermann’s tent. Or the marshmallow fight started (ja Koos, jy weet wie jy is). Or the angle-grinder came out. That’s not a euphemism.
A high point was when some crazy dude did doughnuts in his sedan (I assume it was his). Doughnuts in front-wheel drive cars are quite boring. Unless you make a front-wheel drive into a rear wheel drive – BY DOING THEM IN REVERSE. Much appreciation was shown when it turned out that HE was a SHE! Let’s face it, a guy doing doughnuts, even backwards, is a bit pleb. But chicks doing them is just plain hot.
Sunday was pack-up and go, quite sad. It was an awesome weekend, thanks to everyone for making it so much fun even for a non-driver.
Who won? In the Locost Formula rankings, Gerdus was 3rd, Michael 2nd and Andre 1st. Overall Andre came third in Class C. But it was a total win for the Locost Formula.