Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I spent several fascinated hours in Pit Row during the Edmonton Indy.

For those who don’t know, Pit Row is were the drivers get into their cars, where they interact with their crews and where they come for pit stops during the race.

Most of the time, I stayed in the background, watching and photographing the people. But I was also trying to imprint on my mind what it felt like to be that close to these fast machines, intense drivers and utterly dedicated pit crews.

Pit Row smells not unpleasantly of exhaust, oil and sweat. There are two speeds of activity. There’s an affable sloth-like purposeful motion: guys moving equipment around, laughing and chatter. And there’s hyper-drive getthecarbackontothetrackNOW perfectly orchestrated frenzy when the vehicle tears into the pits.

There are always the fans: pressed up against the fence, as close as they can get. They stake out their favourite driver’s pits and wait. They will stand there for hours in the hot sun, hoping for a glimpse of their heroes, often calling their name.

And there are cameras: hundreds of them. The fans carry them, of course. So do the reporters and media photographers. There are video cameras operating on huge booms and carried by puffing steady looking men following reporters around.

There’s the constant sound of machinery and power tools, the clanking of metal on metal, the drone of the track announcer and the sound of the fans. But it’s all purposeful. It’s all very much “on purpose” – tasks carried out by crews that have done them a hundred times before and consider competency, speed and excellence as the sacred trinity of their jobs.

These are all people who spend their lives in a fishbowl and have grown used to it.

I saw Helio Castroneves arrive on a scooter. He chatted with some fans, posed for pictures, got interviewed and flashed his smile.

But then he went off by himself to watch his competitors.

He looked very much alone to me…and content to stay that way. He was motionless, watching the other drivers, seeing things I wouldn’t even notice.

I wonder what drivers think about…how they prepare for the race. I wonder if they consider that they might get killed or set on fire. I wonder if they refuse to even let these thoughts into their mind.

I wonder what Helio Castroneves was thinking about as he sat by himself under my fishbowl.

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