Race car drivers tend to have much better stories than the rest of us. We present the second part of assorted humorous recollections from James Weaver, who was a Dyson driver for twenty of his thirty years behind the wheel.
There was a TIGA rental car technique which I think was an Australian invention courtesy of Tim Schenken. When you had a manual, you were not allowed to use the clutch from the moment you picked the car up. So you had to back out of the rental car lot and go through the checkout gate, all without using the clutch. The first person who used the clutch had to buy dinner.
Another time I was at Miami. I was not driving, I was a mechanic back then, must have been ’86. Jonathan Palmer and I were picking up rental cars. And we were in an underground car park. And as we came off the ramp, he was behind me and I stopped since there was a policeman on a motorbike there. Jonathan thought I was messing around, so he came up behind me, dropped the clutch and starting pushing me forwards. Well the smoke was streaming off his car and the noise was echoing off the walls of the garage as I slowly crept pass this policeman. I looked at him and he looked at us as we came out and he just shook his head and did not stop us.
With rental cars, you normally pick them up at night and you are tired and jet lagged and you can’t actually tell what color it is or what kind of car it is and you just jump in it and go. So you would wake up in the morning at the hotel and say, ‘what does my car look like?’ So I use to always park in the same place every year whatever hotel I went to. I would park under a light pole or some other landmark, so I could remember approximately were it was. Andy Wallace use to give me a hard time about that until he got a bit older and started forgetting where he put his rental car!
I remember one time at Daytona, Rob Dyson asked me to give him a lift back to the hotel. And I said, ‘I can`t, my rental car is gone’. ‘What do you mean it is gone?’ ‘I don`t know, it is just not there.’ ‘Do you think it has been stolen?’ ‘It must have been.’ ‘Well, we will worry about it after the race.’ So we got a lift with the boys back to the hotel.
We were staying for a couple extra days to do some testing after the race. We were leaving the track one night and I said, ‘wait a minute, that looks like my rental car.’ And sure enough, it was and none of us had any recollection of parking it where it was and did not know how it got there. Since there were no other cars around, we were able to see it all by itself in the field. Always park next to a light pole or a telephone pole and you will not go wrong!
Once when Price and Rob were driving together, they were at West Palm Beach and they left after the race in a hurry, and three months latter Hertz rang up to inquire when they were returning the rental car – they completely forgot to return it.
Another time I bet Andy Wallace that he could not drive from Rob`s house to Rob`s parents` house with the hand brake on all the way. He of course took me up on the bet. They were quite a ways apart and every time he came to a stop, the rear wheels would lock up, which put massive flat spots on the rear tires and caused a major vibration going down the road. The next day we had to drive to Watkins Glen, which was a six and a half hour drive and Andy was not very pleased about being subjected to being bounced all about during the trip. Not one of my smarter bets!
Andy is an incredibly smooth driver in a road car. Just like he is in a race car. But he can`t read a map to save his life: he was absolutely dreadful. We went to Texas once – and as far as I could see, there were thousands of square miles and only two roads and he chose the wrong road. It was a triangle and we had a choice and we took the wrong side away from where we wanted to go. And he was worse when you were driving and he was navigating. You would go pass where you were meant to be going and he would say, ‘there it is,’ after you have gone past it. So he did most of the driving and I did the mapping when we were together.
John Paul Jr. use to be a fast driver on the road whereas Butch Leitzinger would drive like he was more interested in what was happening in his coffee cup. He was very relaxed on the road and did not drive very fast.
We were going to Atlanta one year and Andy Wallace had been testing in America and Ollie Gavin was scheduled to fly into Atlanta and I said to Ollie, ‘that will be great; Andy said he would pick us up at the airport.’ I than said, ‘there is only one problem, Andy is not in Atlanta right now, he is in Charlotte.’ So we flew to Washington from the UK and then got a connecting flight to Charlotte just so we would make Andy drive us three and a half hours to the track in Atlanta. As the trip unfolded, Ollie lost his luggage in Washington, the plane got delayed and I think we arrived in Atlanta at 3:00 in the morning and he was absolutely teed off by the time we arrived. That is the last time he let me organize any trips!
I remember one trip driving from Daytona to Miami with Perry McCarthy. He was driving a rental Volvo and he was a little the worse for wear from the night before. So I was driving and I turned his heated seat full on. And he was sweating profusely the whole trip what with his hangover and hot seat. I did end up apologizing to him for that one.
I remember the first time I got stopped for speeding in America. It was at Sebring and in the old days, there was nothing there so you would stay miles away. I was not going that fast, maybe about ninety. I came over the brow of a hill and there was the policeman. So he stops me and comes over to have a chat with me, and he asked me who I was and where I was going. He was quite polite. I told him my name and that I was racing at Sebring, and he goes, ‘I have never heard of you,’ and I said ‘well, this is the first time you have stopped me for speeding.’ He took that good naturedly and said that he had already given Klaus Ludwig and Hans Stuck tickets for speeding that morning. I asked if they were going faster than me, and he said ‘yes’. So all in all, he was not very impressed as he had never heard of me and I was not his fastest of the morning. They were both doing well over 100 mph when he stopped them, so if I wanted to be famous like them, I needed to speed up, both on and off the track!