Ya, I saved all the PT stuff for it’s own post. (if you don’t like the man, trust me, just skip this entry)
It doesn’t take a mind reader to figure out that my race weekend revolves around Paul Tracy. I get all of my other work done before/between/after sessions, but if Paul is on track, I’m in his pit box. Period. I still take notes on the other drivers and on track incidents, but my allegiance is to my hometown boy. For that I make no apologies. Never have. Never will. This weekend it was even more important to me to be there for everything. This, for all we knew, was it, so I wanted to be there for every moment. And so I was. I was there when the car fired up for the first time on Friday morning and peeled out along pit row. And I was there on Sunday when it fell silent for the last time.
Seeing him in his nomex when I arrived in the paddock early on Friday morning, I breathed a sigh of relief. But damn my guy looked tired. You could just tell that he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and this situation he had found himself in post unification had aged him at least 15yrs. (the scruffy salt and pepper beard wasn’t helping either!)
Adding insult to injury, he was in the absolute last pit stall. (it was odd enough to find Forsythe at that end, but dang, this was just silly) Clearly he was odd man out on the Forsythe pecking order, their new golden boy Montagny getting the preferential treatment. (key crew, key pit order, key practice/track time) You could feel it. It was palpable. They were backing the French horse that weekend, and putting the Canadian horse out to pasture. Poor David fell somewhere in the middle. Even Paul’s crew was a mish-mash of people, some of whom he had never worked with. It felt to me like his presence was being treated as an afterthought. Hell, they sat him in his car (with no wheels) for 35mins of the first practice. Fuck off! Let the man out on track!
There was an eerie sense of loss and emptiness for the weekend. His support system seemed… sparse somehow. On Friday it was mainly Allen and myself, and a handful of passersby heading to towards the more populated part of the pitlane. Friday was not a good day. Paul was putting so much pressure on himself to do well that he made a critical mistake on the last lap. I’ve never seen him as gutted as he was that afternoon. Back at the motorhome after the first qualifying session, he looked at Nick and I and just said ‘I blew it’, with an expression that broke my heart. If I could have turned back time to that final lap to give him another shot I would have.
Saturday, however, Patty (wife) arrived, CJ (son) was allowed in, a few other former Forsythe folks gathered and TommyK showed up to support his pal! (still no Viv however, which made me sad) (trust me, hanging in the pits with Vivian Tracy (mom) is often more entertaining than the race itself)
Saturday was much better for our boy. There was an energy in the pits that had been missing. So many people willing him to just do well. He got out of the car feeling really good about the session and about the race. I felt privileged to be standing there, part of his inner sanctum. Funnily enough he and I rarely speak. I don’t like to get in his space on race weekend. But that day we exchanged some conversation. It was nice. (TommyK and I yakked for about an hour afterwards. I don’t think there are enough words to describe how awesome he is. Truly. It was one of those conversations that I will cherish but never share)
Sunday. Race day. I snapped picture after picture. I documented everything. Staying on the grid until the very last moment, then hopping the wall just before the engines fired up and he peeled out. Our boy couldn’t buy a fucking break that weekend. That tire was destroyed! I was actually surprised that his rear suspension was intact when he pulled into the pits. I thought for sure his day was done. It wasn’t done, but it certainly wasn’t going to be easy. The pit to replace the missing CV clip felt agonizingly long. A podium finish became an insurmountable mountain to climb, but he kept at it. Considering the start of his race, finishing 11th was pretty damn good.
As the clock ticked down to zero, and the checkers waved, everything went… numb. Paul pulled into the pits, started to get out of the car, then paused a moment, sitting with his back to us. I bit my lip to stop myself from crying and continued to take pictures. He quickly thanked his own crew then ran over to the Victory circle to congratulate Franck. Then he ran back over to the other Forsythe pit boxes and shook everyone’s hand and congratulated all of them. Pure class. That’s when my tears started to fall. The unfairness of the situation was almost too much to bear. I don’t care how “old” he is, or whether or not he is on the downside of his career, he deserved… deserves better. I wasn’t sad that this was potentially the end of his open wheel career, I was sad that it wasn’t his choice. He, at the very least, had earned that right. Ironically his wife ended up being the one to console me! LOL! (ya, I felt like a goof at that point) Her thoughts? She’s looking forward to having him at home of course! (in her shoes, I’m sure I’d feel the same way) I guess I’ve always felt like a protective older sister where Paul is concerned. Achingly proud, oft disappointed, sometimes embarrassed, defiantly protective.
Paul will be driving again at some point this year, this I know. Just what he’ll be driving remains to be seen at this juncture. There are many pokers in the fire. (heck he was in meetings immediately following the race) I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that whatever it is, it brings him much happiness and possibly another kick at the open-wheel can. You can also put money down that whatever he’s driving and wherever he races, I will be there in his pits, silently willing him to do well.