Stage 3 flies by without incident. The car seems to be running perfectly, no strange noises. Just the smell of abused brakes to let me know how hard I’m working them.
As we head towards Service, Jen thanks me again. It’s something she has repeated a few times over the weekend. I find it hard to vocalize a proper response.
At service, I fuel the car while Jen calls Marker’s parents to give them an update… I can only imagine their worry. The wheels come off, and all the bolts are checked. I chat with the crew while I wait for our minute. Time is dragging again. Finally we are back in the car.
They re-seed the start order at Service. We are now running in front of the RX7, just behind the Sierra. Stage 4 is a reverse of 3, yet the outcome is the same.
As we pull up to stage 5, I become aware that my arms are getting tired. As I watch the Sierra leave start control, I wonder what it might be like to race with that much power driving the rear wheels. Then it’s our time. I power down the stage. It’s not until near 12 miles in that something unexpected happens; in my peripheral vision, I catch a flash of red. Taillights! My heart is pounding again. The Sierra is within sight.
I feel my foot pushing harder on the throttle. A handful of corners later, my mistake catches me. Jen calls a corner a few tenths ahead. Her voice is lost in my hunt for the Ford. As I crest a hill high in 4th gear, my heart sinks. The braking point is long gone. I get after them anyway, but it’s a lost cause – we’re off the course.
Luckily there is a trail heading off the stage, I take it. Before the car is even stopped, I’m in reverse. The seconds it takes to get back on stage feel like minutes. Jen apologizes profusely; I reassure her that it was my mistake. As we pull up to finish control, the Sierra is pulling away. So close.
I pull back for stage 6, my off fresh in my mind. I take it easy. After we finish Jen yells out, “We did it!” I remind her, “It’s not over till we hand in the time card at FTC.” We have one transit left.
As we cruise along the highway, she asks me if it’s really 1 in the morning? I reply with an affirmative. She sits quietly for a while, then turns and tells me that this is the first time she has gone 24 hours without crying since…. she trails off.
The words are so quiet that a few seconds pass before I make sense of them. She covers my hand with hers and thanks me again. I try to say that I should be thanking her, but the words come out a mess. She turns to look out her window. I’m glad she doesn’t notice the tears running down my face. I wish I could take some of her pain away.
Then I think, maybe I already have.
Living the Dream.
Rally in Peace
Matthew Marker, 1979-2011