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The Biker Boyz   photo by Lizett Bond

Horse & Car(t)

On September 8, 2003, I had the good fortune to attend the ALMS race at Laguna
Seca, courtesy of some industry friends. This was my second ALMS race, the first
being at Sears Point. Having been in the horse world for a good part of my life, it is
easy to draw comparisons between the two competitive events. The first similarity,
and one that I was completely unaware of, is that race cars have a "pedigree" and
show record, just like horses. When contemplating the purchase of a performance
horse one of the first questions is; where was the horse shown, what is his
record, how is he bred? A horse's show record and show earnings follow him
throughout his life. A stallion is assessed primarily on the performance of his "get"
or prodigy. Breeding is very important when looking at a horse for a certain event.
At one time horses were bred to be "all around", meaning they were meant to be
able to perform in several events. Now horse breeding is quite specialized, they
are bred to perform in a certain event. A cow horse is bred to work cattle, a western
pleasure horse is bred to be a pretty mover and so it goes. A race bred horse is, in
most cases, too "hot" to make a good pleasure horse. There are always
exceptions. All this is taken into account when looking at a specific horse. Race
cars seem to have the same type of attention paid to their record, and they are built
for certain race events. After listening to race people talking about chassis
numbers and races won it is easy to see that these cars have a pedigree and
show record of their own. Most horse people are remembered by the horse they
ride. The comment "I don't think I know him/her, what does their horse look like" is
heard so often it is sort of a running joke. Drivers are remembered for the cars
they drive and the successes in a particular car.

Brabs and Mags
As I sat in the bleachers at Sears Point my first impression was "what am I
watching?" Cars driving by fast, over and over"- it was hypnotic but not terribly
exciting. I'm sure a race person watching a horseshow might have the same
feelings. Laguna Seca was a different experience entirely. My favorite spot to watch
the racing at Laguna Seca was the corkscrew. It was explained to me that,
because of the drop off, the driver cannot see the track as they approach the tight
left hander. This is where the dawning came that this is why racing is so enjoyable
to watch; for the incredible driving skill, the talent and the aggression of the drivers
and the performance of the cars. On one of our many trips up to the corkscrew we
ran into David Brabham and Jan Magnussen. After spending a little time listening
and observing their mannerisms and personalities it was evident that highly
competitive individuals are pretty much the same in any event. They love what they
are doing, they are friendly and obsessed with the event they love.

King of the Hill
Now on to the "trainers". In the world of horse competition the trainer is the most
important key to success. Many people put their special horses in the hands of a
trainer. He or she knows the ins and outs of all aspects of the competitive event in
which they specialize. Most amateur competitors work with a trainer and with the
help of that person, hopefully, become a finely tuned team. A trainer's power of
observation - condition of the arena, the competition, the way horse and rider are
working and possible obstacles to a great "go", all fall under the helm of the
trainer. Their powers of observation are so keen, they miss nothing. During one of
the practice sessions we encountered Reinhold Joest atop of the hill overlooking
the infield of Laguna Seca. A solitary figure, sitting quietly in his golf cart, cell
phone in hand, headset on, watching the practice, soaking in every detail. One had
the feeling that he knew every foot of asphalt on that track, was observing every
weakness and strength of each driver out there. Much like a horse trainer, he
would be talking to his drivers and team about his observations.

The Professionals
On to the pits and the support personnel that make it all happen. People come
and go in any event. Those that have real talent and real drive are the hard core
stayers. They are long term, successful and enviable. Hard times do not drive this
type away; it only makes them more determined. My impression, as I walked
through the pits, was that everyone working in the pits is just as hard core. They
have to be, in order to reach that level of success. Fiona Miller, of the Ferrari team,
is a great example of the above. As she went about her tasks what was the most
striking is that, in the face of an extremely stressful event, she seemed calm and
was very friendly in a professional manner. She knows her job and she has
worked hard to be where she is today. In the horse world, the training barn also
has support personnel in most events. There are assistant trainers and grooms.
The difference between racing support and horse support is marked. A horse
cannot be hooked up to a computer and analyzed as it works. The rider and horse
work together as one and must be able to communicate, one thinking being to
another. The trainer and "support personnel" can watch and make suggestions,
but, ultimately it is chemistry, skill and talent, on the part of horse and rider, that
make an equestrian team work. A race car is a machine and everything appears to
be much more scientific. Tires, engine can all be analyzed by the computer and
suggestions made from there. Ultimately, though, it is the skill of the driver,
support team and "trainer" that make everything come together for a win.

Bottle of red, bottle of white
Finally, hospitality…….at a big show, such as a World Championship competition,
decorating of barn areas is a big deal. Couches are brought in and living areas
set up. Drapes with barn logos are installed and those associated with each
training barn partake of the comfort. The comparison, in my mind, was the
hospitality suites set up for each race team. Large motor homes and lavish meals
are served, sort of like traveling restaurants. I was lucky to be able to eat a couple
of meals at the Rafanelli motor home. What a feast, what wonderful cuisine and
the hospitality were the best. I was not treated as an outsider, which I was, but
rather as a guest in someone's home. The team from Tuscany went out of their
way to make sure I was well fed and at home. And I was! How many race teams
serve wine from their own family vineyards?

Caught in a Crossfire
My weekend at Laguna Seca was more than expected; I learned a whole lot,
gained a pound or two and had a great time! I had no idea that the experience
would be put to benefit a few weeks later.

I have always felt comfortable driving trucks, most likely because of the miles I
have driven hauling horses. Friends have commented that I am a better driver
when pulling a trailer than without. The Chrysler Speed Festival is an event for
vintage and historic cars held at the U.S. Naval Air Station on Coronado Island on
the San Diego Bay. The temporary circuit on the airfield is reminiscent of the race
tracks erected in the 1950’s and 60’s. By good fortune I had a few laps as a
passenger in the Chrysler Crossfire that was the on track pace car. What I was not
prepared for was the opportunity to drive the car at speed with an instructor. It was
a thrilling experience, although I was more at ease driving home in my truck.

Lizett Bond-Jerome

I heard you have a prancing horse
We have both kinds of music, Sir, Country AND Western
Mags explains, Fiona doubts
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Joest, A winner at Le Mans and Laguna Seca
sportscarpros Across the Border

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Rafanelli... 1st in having class
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