Glossary Of Potentially Useful Midget Racing Terms Extending Only To The Letter ‘T’ (And Not In Alphabetical Order)

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POWRi Lucas Oils Australian Midget Super Series, Round  2; Archerfield Speedway; 9/11/2013

“Like bullfighters, great drivers understand the obvious danger in a deeper way than everyone around them. They know that it’s sometimes safer to be staring right at the bull – head-on, feeling its breath on your face – than to be anywhere else in the ring.”

Report by Nicholas Turner

torque; noun. The force responsible for the beguiling haste with which a Midget explodes out of the serene drift of a turn. [For the uninitiated, Midgets are pretty much a driver strapped to a motor that’s bigger than the driver is. These things accelerate so quickly off the turn that they look like they’ve been shot out of something. There’s so much force in play that the Midget seems to compress under acceleration. And so the mind is continually drawn into a split-second conviction that the back of the car – where all the power is coming from – is actually going to go through the front of the car. What’s ultimately so beautiful about the word ‘torque’, with its twisted, fading ‘wkwh’ sound, is that it seems to be the phonetic equivalent of exactly what these cars threaten to do tonight – a word that seems like it’s turning itself inside-out when one says it.] usage: “The skill of building a good Midget is to ensure that there’s just enough physical structure to survive its torque.”

tussle; noun. The manner in which Midgets negotiate supremacy. [Though the fields for the various events on today’s card include up to twenty Midgets, the drama of every race really comes down to two-car contests for position. One can imagine the oval track as being a sort of laid-flat ladder, wide enough for a maximum of two climbers on each rung. A race to the top. There are a couple methods for prevailing when climbers are neck-and-neck. The first is simple; climb faster than the other guy. This requires superior speed and/or nous and is epitomised in tonight’s racing by the jet black car #7, whose only consolation for the many, many opponents it leaves on subordinate rungs is the daylight it right away goes ahead and puts between them. The other method of prevailing is to go ‘elbows up’ and hog the rung so that there’s no space for anything else on it. With respect to the track, this means driving all the good lines, and generally blocking the car behind from passing. N.B. This term, ‘elbows up driving’, would have made a terrific entry in this glossary, had it started with a T.]  usage: “The Midgets spend all night tussling for position; Car #7 makes short work of all tussles.”

tacky; adjective. The preferred quality of the driving surface, to optimise traction with the Midgets’ wheels. [Over the evening’s 34 events across five different vehicular disciplines, the surface of the track becomes gradually more compacted and slippery. During interval, therefore, a tractor ploughs the surface, exposing clumps of loosened, sticky dirt. Tonight’s best drivers, in cars #7, #89, #69 and #78, make prime use of the tackiness of the course, sliding around the turns in one smooth motion, wheels over-spinning and ready to grab the straight. Incidentally, an appropriately tacky surface makes for the iconic ‘speedway’ phenomenon of wheel-spit. At either end of the oval track, machine-gun sprays of dirt pellets come fanning up from the underside of sliding, cornering Midgets. These pellets move at a serious clip and shower all levels of the track-end stands. The die-hard Midget fans within range are well aware or the risk and they even wear the red/brown wounds of battle with a certain level of pride. The savvy among them are wearing clear goggles. N.B. The southern-end canteen must exist by a very subtly argued health-and-safety case; it’s right in the firing line for wheel-spit and the glass display front of the dagwood-dog-stacked bain-marie is much riddled with mud.] usage: “A tacky track makes for a good night’s racing.”

traction; noun. The relationship between a Midget’s tires and the track, with respect to efficacy of revolution (tires) and displacement (track).  usage: “You can have all the ‘orsepower you want, but if you ain’t got traction, you ain’t got nuthin.”  Refer, ‘tacky.’

trackside shop; noun. The stall in which all manner of racing apparel and paraphernalia can be purchased. [During interval here at Archerfield, as the track’s surface is getting ploughed (refer, tacky), the woman behind the trackside shop’s counter may well let you try on a Team Budweiser NASCAR jacket if you show a little interest. She doesn’t put on the hard sell but you can tell somehow that she knows how to move units; there’s something both serene and wily about her. Anyone’s entitled to ask her how she came to be there in the trackside shop, and those that do will find that she’s owned and run it for going on four decades. And that she used to race many seasons ago. Back in the late fifties, at nineteen years of age, the local show put up a hundred pounds for the fastest girl in town. A car race. She’d never raced before but she reckoned she would win, so she asked some boys to build her something that could maybe do the job. She said that if she won the boys could keep the money and she’d get the trophy. They got their money. She joined the circuit and started racing around the country. She raced overseas now and then, even in America. She bought herself a caravan and turned it into a moving merch-tent/home/factory/raceHQ. When she wasn’t racing she was selling and when she wasn’t selling she was sewing things to sell. Eventually she stopped racing, and then she stopped sewing and now she just sells. Here.] usage: “The lady in the trackside shop uses one of those hook-ended broomsticks to hang Budweiser jackets back up on the wall once the racing gets going again and you can’t hear enough to talk anymore, though you’d very much like to.”

terminal damage; noun. Destruction of a Midget sufficient to render it unable to continue racing. [It goes without saying that if these drivers are going so fast that they look like something being fired out of a cannon (refer, ‘Torque’), they’re also in grave and imminent danger. And though there are obvious and evolving measures and technologies to protect them, the fact of them being right there next to death is unresolvable. It is, furthermore, an indispensible part of the sport’s beauty. To sympathise with one of these drivers at any one moment during a race (a good Midget driver will do 400m in less than 14 seconds), to transport one’s self into the car at that point and that speed and in that circumstance, is to acknowledge that one would soon be dead. And so for a spectator, the more danger the drivers seem to put themselves in (going faster, turning harder, overtaking more aggressively), the more immersive and thrilling the experience of sympathising from the stands. There are lots of ways to talk around this for the sake of protecting one’s sense of humanity, but the emotions of watching cannot be explained away. A large part of the enterprise of this type of racing is a kind of prostitution of these drivers’ souls.

But motor racing is not simply danger-equals-excitement. No sport is. Great driver’s dance with danger. We marvel as we watch them flirt. Like bullfighters, great drivers understand the obvious danger in a deeper way than everyone around them. They know that it’s sometimes safer to be staring right at the bull – head-on, feeling its breath on your face – than to be anywhere else in the ring. The driver of car #7 is one such wily bullfighter. He’s the fastest around the track all day, the hardest into and out of the turns. But he’s the categorical opposite of reckless. By contrast, the most spectacular and potentially terminal (here meaning humanly terminal, as in deadly) crash tonight involves a driver that is attempting to keep parity with #7, a driver who trades caution for a chance at glory. When you’re there in the hot seat, it must be all-too tempting to believe that the difference between you and the guy whose beating you is only bravery.] usage:“In the feature of the day, a Midget is thrown into a spectacular tumble that brings the race to a standstill. After the endless, swarming noise of the night, the silence around the course at this moment is especially pure, and eerie. We wait to hear of the driver’s fate. The car, incidentally, has sustained terminal damage.”

toy(s); noun. The philosophical status of a Midget insofar as it is designed for amusement, diversion, play etc. [That these Midgets are toys is inherent, not least because of the wild colours of the chassis and the fact that they look something like an off-road remote-controlled car would if you had to find space for a human in it. When Midget’s break (refer, ‘terminal damage’) and get stuck somewhere around the course, there’s a forklift-equipped tractor that casually plucks them off the ground and moves them out of the way; these are, indeed, little play things.  By coincidence or not, the saturating noise of the speedway is all-encompassing, and the oddly comforting double-pump rhythm as two fighting cars repeatedly swing bumper-to-bumper around the bend might well be argued to be womb-like. In any case, that one should feel some real, nostalgic warmth as the cars go round and round is easy to understand.

And as the Midgets cross the line in the final event of the evening, one realises that the toy car is also, surely, among the seminal figures in a human’s development of a concept of ‘sport’. Before one can think, one is pushing miniature models (and if not models then wooden blocks, whose wheels will soon be painted on) around the kitchen floor. And it is there, on the linoleum, that one perhaps first enacts ‘the race’; the even start, the virtue of speed, the as-yet-unexplained goodness of being in car #7, first across the line. It all begins as a way to see things change, to contrast that which can be moved against that which can’t. To animate. And an excuse to blow raspberries. Life will give it all context and meaning. usage: “The racing car is the toy that was never put away.”

Match Day Burger Score: 4.5

MDB Price: $7.00

MBD Service Atmosphere: 5.0

Results: 1st Nathan Smee, car #7; 2nd Matt Jackson, car #97; 3rd Troy Jenkins, car #78, 4th Adam Wallis, car #64; 5th Darren Vine, #19

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