Perils of the Pitlane

The pits at Le Mans or Spa are a cold, miserable place to be. They’re also somewhat less than safe, especially if you’re not actually part of anybody’s team. As the bloke from Dunlop you’d be dashing from one pit to the next to check tyre condition. A car sweeps in, the door opens and there are two adrenalin-fuelled drivers doing a complex dance. Meanwhile the pit crew is in with fuel nozzles, air guns, wet rags and other instruments of destruction. In the mayhem it’s easy to forget the bloke lying half under the tail poking holes in the tread with his temperature gauge.

And they forgot me with sufficient regularity for me to develop a survivor’s talent of hearing first gear being engaged and rolling clear, frequently bringing down a cursing crewman in the process. When you’ve been awake since dawn the previous day, the comedy value of this isn’t substantial.

On one such occasion I was lying on damp, freezing concrete, shining a torch to read the tread depth on the right front of a Porsche, while being liberally sprayed with petrol from the hurried refuelling going on above me. Suddenly I felt a pair of hands on my ankles and I was dragged at some speed from under, leaving behind patches of skin of which I’d become quite fond. Tired, stressed and angry, I jumped up to remonstrate with the prankster, who proved to be of an excited Gallic persuasion. As I began my tirade I became aware of heat on the back of my head and focused on what my opponent was shouting.

“It’s on bloody fire!”

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