Greg Moore part two: A day in the life – five go mad in Florida
Dario Franchitti summed it up when I asked him about this one particular day. “Brilliant. Fun. A laugh. And a brilliant memory.”
I will admit straight up that this story is one from personal experience – and is about one of the most fun days I’ve had. I have been laughing while writing it, but it’s a nice insight to why Greg Moore was so popular. We had Mark Webber’s thoughts last week , but this is one of my memories.
So here is the scene: It’s February 1998. I, and my Autosport colleague Gordon Henderson, flew to Miami for CART Spring Training. But we went a few days early to have some time chilling out on the beach as guests of Dario in his apartment in Pompano Beach before the real stuff got going down in Homestead. Dario’s brother Marino, and now sportscar racer, was there, and the following night Greg Moore arrived too.
While the professionals were being just that, training and so on, Gordon and I were ‘working’ at the beach restaurant…
When it was time to take on the drive down to the track, we split duties. Gordon went with Greg in his rental Mitsubishi Eclipse, I went with Dario and Marino in his Honda Legend. It’s always a bit of a nightmare when you have two talented racing drivers running in convoy, because you know that at some point one will want to beat the other…
Greg, leading the way, spotted an amusement park with a go-kart track. A quick phone call later, and we were parked up and ready for action.
Gordon remembers it well: “It was a vast room full of games machines and slots. We spent an absolute fortune. We bought a stack of tokens and played every driving or riding machine and ‘shoot ’em up’ games known to mankind.”
But outside was the “NASCAR” go-kart track, and it was only a matter of time… Three racing drivers, two amateurs joining in, and carnage was never going to be far away. “I remember Greg and I hitting each other,” laughs Marino, “and we ended up in these 2ft barriers and we managed to clear them, and I don’t know how we did it. But we hit them so hard we ended up in an area where you shouldn’t. We were sitting in the middle of the grass where you shouldn’t be able to get to – and laughing our heads off – and guys there thought we’d bashed ourselves up.”
It’s safe to say the owners of the track had no idea who was ‘playing’ on their track that day – and we ‘played’ for a long time. Gordon Henderson: “I remember the utter hilarity of these things going at what felt like 5mph max! There were all these rules, ‘no bumping’ and so on as if it was all at death-defying speeds – but there were no helmets! There was sand blowing onto the track off the beach, and you’d get a face-full of sand when the wind blew. Then there was the realisation that you paid per lap. At the end of each lap you went into the parking bay. It wasn’t possible to do a second lap without going through start finish, paying, and starting again.”
I must point out here that three of the five guys that day are Scottish. Just for reference of course.
From there we continued on to Homestead. As I said, two racing drivers in convoy is not a good idea. Marino takes up the story: “They weren’t really racing, but were trying to get in front of each other away from the toll booths. Then it ended up who was going to get to the off-ramp first. Dario got ahead, and we thought ‘yeah!! We’ve done it.’ As we came off the freeway, we were there.”
Here’s the view from Gordon in the passenger seat of Greg’s car… “The exit on the freeway was a drop down, and I said to Greg, ‘that’s our turn’, and he said, ‘yeah yeah, we’ll take it at the last minute…’ We were now going at a hell of a pace ignoring the turn off, and we just made the turn off with big fat grins on our faces thinking Dario will never make that – and then he took it even later than us and got ahead!”
From my point of view in the back seat of Dario’s car, it was becoming insane, but as the exit became a single lane we were ahead, Dario was laughing at getting one over on Greg – game over… You’d think!
Marino: “We thought we’d done it. Next thing, Greg comes flying down the grass past us, sideways, facing us with Gordon in the passenger seat basically screaming for his mummy… I’ve never seen such terror on someone’s face! It was one of those moments where you had to go ‘that was fantastic’.”
“I just remember Greg being utterly relaxed and saying to me, ‘what’s the problem man?’ recalls Gordon. “I was holding the top of the windscreen with both hands, white knuckles – that’s why I took no photos! I was absolutely terrified.”
I too was amazed at how relaxed both drivers were, because as well as Gordon, I was white as a sheet, heart pounding trying to calm myself down.
It really was a Days of Thunder moment, a brilliant day and just one insight into a day in the life that I feel privileged to have been a part of.
Final word to Dario: “I’ve been over that Homestead exit ramp loads of times since, and it will always make me smile and laugh. It will also make me think ‘how on earth did Greg pull that move off?”
The winner that day? We decided it was a dead-heat… The next day, for them, it was race suits on and back to the serious business of preparing and testing for the 1998 CART ChampCar World Series, doing interviews and signing autographs, and media photo shoots. It was far from the five kids let loose and causing mayhem in go-karts, and on the road the day before!
Next week join us for recollections from the ‘Brat Pack’, Dario, Tony Kanaan and co, and the week after is Max Papis. All stuff to make you smile at the memory of Greg Moore.