25/04/24: Sideways Group 5 – A Mug’s Game

A Mug’s Game.

A race night at Molesey. Turn up, chat, joke, race ninety laps in six fifteen-lap chunks, go home, all for a bargain-basement six quid. It’s as simple as that. Unless, of course, you’re the unheralded race controller, money collector and snack drawer replenisher who toils away in the background making sure everything runs smoothly week after week, which it usually does.

So, when thirteen drivers turned up this week, that’s exactly what they were expecting; another great evening’s racing which would just magically happen. And sure enough, that’s exactly what they got. Twelve of them even got a free bonus heat too.

A bonus heat? Er, yes.

Heat 1. Group 1, the faster of the two groups this week, went first in a relatively unremarkable affair, enlivened only by Alex losing a stack of time by crashing. Group 2 followed with another closely fought but otherwise unremarkable heat. So far, so normal.

The observant, however, would have noticed two things. 1, Neil was unusually preoccupied with his laptop, and 2, Mario was standing quietly by the sink looking a little left out, because that’s exactly what he had been, left out. Neil had forgotten to add him to the list of drivers.

Bugger, thought Neil quietly. Oh well, no problem, he’d announce that the two completed heats would be scrapped and the race started again from the beginning, and everyone would be happy.

Wrong! Some were far from happy. Bedtimes were messed with, people had to get up early, why did the heats already run have to be scrapped, why couldn’t Mario be added later, why this, why that, why the other? Poor Neil. Well, that’s the compassionate view, but this is racing, and since when has compassion ever been a factor in racing? The largely unseen, unheralded but vital work of the race controller was now centre stage, and the numpty in charge of it at the very centre of the centre. That’ll teach you, Neil. Volunteering is a mug’s game!

Still, pacified by a promise that the tea break would be scrapped to claw back some time, the racers lined up for a re-run.

And what a re-run it was. In group 1, Alex, Terry and David were almost inseparable until Terry destroyed his car in a crash and fell to 10th. Neil, Jim and Chris in group 2 swapped places in every heat, Chris falling from 4th to 10th to 11th before climbing back up to an eventual 9th, Jim going from 5th to 6th to 5th to 7th and looking on course for his best ever result until a couple of crashes in green lane dropped him to 8th, and Neil climbed from a low of 10th up to 6th before falling to 7th. From Ed in 4th to Joss in 11th, laptimes were covered by just 0.181.

This really had been slot car racing at its best, and by the end of the evening the mistake with race control was all but forgotten. Everyone takes the mickey, Neil, and it’s true that the race controller’s job is underestimated and often forgotten about, but we all appreciate what you do for us, week in, week out.