Field of dreams

A thought-provoking experience on Wednesday when, for work purposes, I am required to attend a motorsports event. Without going into too much detail, it’s not a race, but a sponsors’ event, even though it does involve taking cars out on track. However, even though there’s no racing happening, everyone present has so much invested in the occasion that it’s almost painful.

There are the organisers who have spent months getting to this point and who are on tenterhooks to make sure everything goes off properly. People who have come halfway round the world to be here. There is the driver who is out of contract and is probably on one of his last appearances for his team. He has no idea yet what he’ll be doing next year. Another driver who would probably love to make the step up to working with these people on a full-time basis. And there are plenty of team personnel who are facing downsizing and winter layoffs. They are discussing things like whether or not to renew the leases on their apartments. The film crews and photographers are anxious to get their footage, pictures and interviews. There’s even a gang of bystanders who’ve got a sudden, unexpected insight into a race garage and can’t believe their luck.

The young drivers trying out the cars are the centre of everyone’s attention. They are given every ounce of help, advice, support and encouragement that the crew can muster to help them get the best on-track performance available. When the final one prepares to set out, with clouds rolling in across a previously clear blue sky and threatening to ruin the whole enterprise, everyone present gathers round in silence to watch the final preparations take place. It feels like a church service. Then the car is gone.

When it pulls back in, five laps later, everyone breaks into applause. It feels like a release of tension for the entire racing season.