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Hug a gearhead

Here is why every car event is a celebration

14/11/2013 09:57 | Comments: 

Contributing editor

8 years of working for IBM have chiselled Balázs’s English skills to a level inappropriately high for this magazine, but did much to blunt his interest towards office work and computers. Earlier a reader and seldom contributor, also a deeply affected car maniac, he left IBM and joined us for a longer term as a journalist, but he’s back again to making money – at another IT company. Luckily he kept on writing for us and hasn’t dropped his love for photography either.

Who cares about the make, the model, the style or the price if the passion is the same?

There’s something wrong with people...go figure. Or I’m the one who’s wrong...yet again. Wouldn’t be a first. But still. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about independant car meetings, and for some reason it only seldom finished on a positive note. There’s always someone with a grudge or a problem. Either with a certain make or model, or its fans, or a different style, a team or a certain individual. Call me naive, but I’m on the opinion that these events are, or at least should be big, gas-induced grouphugs of people sharing fundamentally the same passion.

That’s why I went to Tököl the other day, to this sleepy little town in Hungary, not so far from Budapest. Close to it is in an old airstrip where they held the last drag, drift and gymkhana event of the season. I went on Saturday, on the practice day, because that’s less about the stake and more about the sounds, the smells, the sensations. I admit, I tend to pour a bit of syrup on stuff like that but why the heck not?

The event at Tököl is supposed to be mainly about results. About who’s the best drifter. Who had the best quarter mile? With what did he achieve that time? And there’s no way then to avoid an annoying question: how much it cost him and from where did he have all that money? Seriously? Come on, why? Quite frankly, I don’t care about the results.

I’m more interested why these events truely are good. Well, for the same reason why our little Goodwood, the Velodrom Millenáris is so cool. Same goes for Cars & Coffee. In a time when motoring is evolving into something all true gearheads fear and hate, an event such as this is actually a celebration.

These are the days for which many have been preparing for months. Imagine a 20 year old guy in his cheap, worn Suzuki Swift. While studying at college, he’s also helping out his folks at the family’s 7-11, and he’s saving every last dime he earns. When he’s not working or studying, he’s in his dad’s garage tuning the dented Suzuki, and he’s heavily dreaming,  after which he secretly watches Fast and Furious for the N-th time.

He knows that, if found out, he’d be ridiculed by his fellow gearheads. He knows the movie’s physics were less realistic then in an average Bugs Bunny episode. Still, he’s longing for that sensation. And that is how the Tököl strip will be his Race Wars from the movie, and thus his Swift the center of his world. Because he defines himself through that car, and the exhaustion felt after those many months of saving up cash and  nights spent fixing and tuning in the garage simply disintegrates in those seventeen seconds that quarter mile gives him.

And that is how his life will be lived on the drag strip, and everything in between, as it was so elegantly put once, is just waiting. And he’ll be one with that piece of junk, for it will be his Ferrari, his Charger, his everything. That is why a weekend like that is a celebration for him.

Same goes for that crazy Englishman who drove the JCB GT Dragtor. While we were chatting, I couldn’t help but wonder if there’d be anything that could wipe off the smile from his face. Possibly only a mechanical failure of the Dragtor, nothing else. But the JCB worked perfectly. The driver, whose name I’m sorry but I cannot recall, was telling me with a mile-wide grin that he loves these weekends because they are not about work but having a party with the beast. Well, come to think of it, doing a wheelie with a 15-ton excavator pretty much sums up the word  ’party’.

I’m sure there was also at least one among the drifters, who just let his imagination off the leash, and instead of seeing the airstrip’s tarmac in that long left corner, he saw the hairpin bend of some hillside road in the outskirts of Tokyo. Then, while going sideways, he involuntarily smiled, wondering if he spilled the tofu in the trunk. By that time he was already with finding the right settings for raceday, but still had some time left for practice, he knew the corners, so he had a bit of time not to prepare for Sunday, but to simply enjoy the whole game, while he threw his unrecognizable E30 from left to right, still finding the time to wink at the little kid, standing behind the fence, watching with innocent awe.

That is why it was so great to be there, especially on Saturday. Because it’s impossible not to love a place where a teenager does gymkhana in a twelve-cylinder W140 Merc’. Where a drifter shows up in Lexus GS. Where Trabant and Kadett, Lada and XR4i are facing off on the drag strip. That’s why I love these parties, because here you can see the same passion in others that brought you here in the first place.

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