Spin Club 1989-2010, is a video by Mark Brazeau on a DVD running 117 minutes. The video was filmed, edited and produced by Mark, who is the official photographer and videographer for the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) and the BNI. Mark videotapes the land speed racing meets at El Mirage dry lake, in the Mojave Desert of Southern California and the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah. Mark also videotapes racing reunions, banquets, Hall of Fame presentations and car club events. His videos can be found at :
www.landspeedracingvideo.com. A typical disc costs $25 and that includes free shipping by priority mail. “I show the spins, but if there is a serious accident or death I turn off my camera and I don’t make things worse by putting my camera in the faces of the injured,” Brazeau told me. “I do videotape the serious accidents and those I send to the SCTA and to investigators to review. We don’t have anything to hide and we have a safety-conscious organization, but I’m not out to make videos that profit on the suffering of those injured,” he finished.
Spin Club refers to the spinouts of cars and bikes at high speed and while they might make for a short episode on the nightly news, all land speed racers will tell you that there is nothing fabulous about a spin out. Spectators are usually friends, family, crew or club members belonging to the SCTA. The last thing that excites them or that they want to see is a potential accident that causes injury or death to a loved one or friend. The goal in land speed racing is to drive at speed, in a straight line with the hope that you will go faster than the current record and then come to a safe stop. Thrills and spills are never part of the agenda. Then why make a video about spin outs and crashes. The major reason is to learn from the experience of others and to hopefully avoid such spins and accidents. Another reason is simply because it is interesting to watch a car or bike go out of control. There are an infinite number of explanations why a vehicle going a hundred or more miles an hour goes into a spin. Everything looks normal and then the car or bike begins to weave ever so slightly in one direction and then back in the opposite direction. Sometimes the driver attempts to control the erratic vehicle by making a counter move, but that often leads to results that are worse. Yet many drivers simply tell us that they let the car go where it will and did not attempt to steer out of the spin.
I watched the scenes, for Brazeau doesn’t slow down the action, and they come fast and furious. The average spinout on the screen takes about thirty seconds or so; and you can expect more than a hundred of them. Some are quite spectacular where the spinning car does not stay stable on all four wheels, but careens over on its side, or end over end in a sickening scene of flying metal parts in all directions. This is not what the drivers or the officials hope to see. When a spin occurs the race official/announcer will yell out to the safety patrols, ambulance and fire truck, “We have a spinout, we have a spinout,” and where appropriate he will tell the safety crews to “roll.” They have an amazing safety record for vehicles that speed along as fast as they do. Many of the spins occur around the 200 miles per hour range and the centrifugal forces must be awesome to experience. But this is a serious sport and even the least problem can turn out to be really dangerous. The speeds can go from 100 mph all the way up to 300 mph at El Mirage on the dirt playa in the Mojave Desert. At the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah the speeds can reach nearly 500 mph for piston driven vehicles and almost 400 mph for motorcycles. It amazes me to see these cars and bikes spin so fast without losing their center of gravity and rolling over.
Land speed racing isn’t for everybody. It can be a slow and monotonous spectator sport and once the car is up to speed it is out of our visual range unless a camera has a zoom lens or we have binoculars or telescopic devices. If there is a spinout the safety crews will scour the track to make sure that no debris or car parts are left on the course. Such debris can be a major cause for tire damage or throw the vehicle out of alignment. Joining the Spin Club is a serio-humorous way of accepting one’s fate and not every driver laughs about it. A spinout or crash can put an expensive race car out of action for months, cost thousands of dollars in repairs and injure the driver. It is also dangerous for the spectators and officials. It seems that the spinning car is right on top of the pits where other drivers, spectators and cars are being prepared to be raced. In fact, that is only a photographic anomaly, as the SCTA allows a great deal of distance for the car to stop. But every once in a while a car comes perilously close to striking another object and the driver of a spinning car has absolutely no control over where the car will go. My brother’s Camaro went into a spin in this video with Mark Brazeau and Bob Webb running for their lives. The Camaro spun right between Mark’s van and the official tower and barely missed Webb at the time. If you like action and watching how efficiently a racing organization handles emergencies, you will want to add this video to your collection.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM