Track days - for gals - the key to a happy marriage

Track days - for gals - the key to a happy marriage

SOMETIMES a gal just has to cut loose, escape the mundanity of day-to-day life, and seek the kind of satisfaction that just isn’t usually (nor legally) available at home. One has to be open about it, and I do it with The Companion’s blessing, or it just doesn’t work. And I’m doing it tomorrow.

'Since it’s irresponsible, dangerous and illegal to explore our cars’ limits on public roads, the racetrack is the only place to do it.'

I’m talking about the racetrack. While these territories have traditionally been the domain of the men, that’s changing as more of us are expressing ourselves through the cars we choose to own and drive, and thank goodness for that.

Since it’s irresponsible and dangerous, not to mention illegal, to explore our cars’ limits on public roads, the racetrack is really the only place to do it. That’s why it is with more than a little frisson of excitement I’ve chosen the vehicle to take (on this occasion, the Audi RS3, just because it’s new), dusted off the helmet and cleaned the visor, packed the driving shoes and gloves and the wrist-to-ankle clothing, and will be heading to a track just outside the NSW town of Goulburn.

I know Wakefield Park well, having been there (and been off there) numerous times over the years. It’s a reasonably challenging little circuit, not much more than about two kilometres long, but designed with clear lines of sight around the bends and plenty of run-off areas for the weekend (or week-day) warriors like me. A well-run track day is a great opportunity to explore one’s limits, learn about the car’s limitations, and do so without endangering oneself or others.

It does get difficult to suppress the competitive urges, if I’m honest, and it’s impossible not to compare one’s own performance against others’. At a session one afternoon some years ago I was observing an acquaintance puddling around the track, moving particularly slowly. As she came down the main straight I overheard the timekeeper: “One twenty-seven, one twenty-eight, one twenty-nine…” and click! as she crossed the line. And I was genuinely gobsmacked.

'I went for it - I’ve never braked so late, nor turned in so aggressively, nor been on the throttle so early.'

I sometimes watch The Companion playing competitive sport on the weekend. It looks to all intents and purposes just like football, only much, much slower. Comically slower, at times. That’s how it is at our age, and I expected my performances on the racetrack to be no different.

But this acquaintance was painfully slow. Embarrassingly slow. And yet, my best lap time - the bravest I could possibly be - had been 1:17. And here she was, apparently just over 10 seconds a lap slower than me. This could not be!

Back in the car, I went for it. I’ve never braked so late, nor turned in so aggressively, nor been on the throttle so early. At the end of the six-lap session I was wrung out, and physically shaking from the exertion. My time: 1:15. I’d shaved a mere two seconds off my time, and I was still barely 10 seconds faster than the tortoise. This was devastating.

Clearly, it was time to reassess my prowess behind the wheel, and to jettison any delusions I may have harboured to being a handy pedaler. I was as fast as some of the men, and faster than a few, but still … only 10 seconds faster than the acquaintance who had initially asked if she could go out without a helmet in case it messed up her hair?

I can’t recall ever being more disappointed. I’ve had a few let-downs but this was, at the time, on another plane altogether. I approached one of the young driving instructors and asked him what I was doing wrong. I don’t know, he said. Jump into the car we’ll do some laps and I’ll give you some feedback. Five laps later we pulled in and he got out, shaking his head. Nothing wrong with the way you’re driving, he said. Good braking points, hitting your apexes, controlled throttle - all good. So why, I asked, am I barely any faster than … her? 

“What’s your best time?” he asked. And then started laughing. While indeed I had overheard the timekeeper, I’d misunderstood. The “one twenty-seven” I’d heard did not mean 1:27, it meant 127 seconds - two minutes and seven seconds. Far from being barely 10 seconds a lap faster then her, I was the better part of a full minute quicker.  My mood lifted immediately. That was more like it. Also her hair was a bird’s nest.

So I’m heading down to Wakefield Park tomorrow with optimism and excitement. It’ll be a day of pure escapism, hedonism. I’ll return home having got something out of my system - and we’ll all be better off for it.