To the uninitiated aviation fuel smells the same the world over, but for a 12 year old boy, named Leendrick Lacle, there is nothing sweeter than the smell of Aruban av’-gas as it powers his 4 meter long dragster.
Pint size drag racer Leendrick loves putting pedal to the metal, tearing up the tarmac and defending the title of Junior Boss Racer.
Leendrick is the son of Rudi, the fisherman who owns the wharf we are moored on. He is 12, speaks four languages, is Dashkin’s hero and along with gutting fish after school he spends his weekends down at the Speedway.
He must be pretty good, ‘cos the wall of plaques and the filing cabinet full of trophies in his dads shipping container/ bed-sit, are pretty impressive.
‘For three years I asked my uncle for to buy me a dragster. He has much money and I asked and asked and then when I was 10 he said “okay” and brought me a dragster from America.”
While other, lesser children, would have been put off by three years of fruitless begging, Leendrick used his single minded, tenacious character to wage an all out assault on his uncle’s sense of family loyalty. “I knew I could do it, I only stopped when I got ‘The Breeze’”, laughs Leendrick.
Having never been to the drags before, (I know, a glaring hole in my boganism) I asked Leendrick how it all worked. Almost 40 minutes later, after much English/ Spanish/ Papiamento and, as a last resort, pretending to drive along the wharf, the finer points of drag racing had been explained to me.
As I understand it, two cars pit themselves against each other over one eighth of a mile. They warm up their tires, creating masses of black smoke, move into race ready position, watch a series of lights and then explode down the dead straight tarmac at 140 kms per hour. The whole process takes about 30 seconds.
But like many worthwhile things, it is all about the build up.
Three weeks out from the big race, bits of engines, starter motors, carburetors and batteries started turning up on the wharf. Rudi was elbow deep in grease and Leendrick had a faraway look in his eye. “I was thinking about my lights Angela, you know I have to be quick, for to get out fast” explained Leendrick.
Rudi and Leendrick’s love of racing is infectious. “You see my son, his trophies, he is good yeah”. With that kind of talk I decided I had to check out his next race.
Ross, Marnie, Rich, a very excited Dashkin and I arrived at the Aruban speedway on Saturday night. Located deep in a part of the island where tourists fear to tread (also just a few miles from a massive oil refinery) we followed glowing red lights and the sound of thundering exhausts. Pulling up to the gate, we were asked for a $50.00 entry fee! It was time for some quick talking, we had the video camera and without a moment’s hesitation Ross piped up with, “we are from NZ, we are filming a documentary for the Manawatu Evening Standard”. It worked, the gates open and in we went. FOC.
The smell of avegas and testosterone filled the floodlit night air. “So this is where Aruban teenagers obviously come to pash” I said to Marnie as we watched open mouthed as one young lady tied and untied her long tresses, while six horny young bucks sat jiggling their legs in anticipation.
Another drag race babe stopped us in our tracks. She emerged from the grandstand, wreathed in the thick black smoke of a tire burnout, a vision of spectacularly tacky beauty, tottering straight out of the 1980s and right into the 2000’s. Dressed in a white, fishnet corset with boob ruffles, her killer derriere was encased in sprayed-on faded diamond dusted jeans. Impractically high white stilettos elongated her phenomenal silhouette. The ‘look’ was topped with a jet black, waist length hair extension and fake eyelashes, a drag queen would be covetous of. Her decidedly average looking boyfriend stood next to her, puffing out his pigeon chest like the smuggest mofo in the Caribbean………. nay the world!
Leendrick had told me his team was big. “In my team we have maybe 45 people, some help me with the dragster, but others are, how do you call them? Justin Beiber has many of them…. You know Angela?
“You mean fans?” I said
Yes, yes fans, I have the fans” he replied.
This boy will go far I thought.
After walking around the speedway we finally found ‘Team Breeze’ dressed in matching t-shirts strutting around the dragster. Leendrick’s usual playful attitude had been replaced with a nervous restlessness.
“How are you feeling? ready to race?” I asked.
“I’m good” said Leendrick unconvincingly.
Rudi shook our hands, “Hi, this is the mother” he said pointing to his ex wife. (Rudi takes any opportunity to let us know he has five children by three different mothers)
“Hi, you have a very brave son, I would have a heart attack if Dash was about to drive at 140 km’s per hour” I laughed.
She smiled and nodded her head. I guess she didn’t have much say in this drag racing business.
The race was only 15 minutes away.
Rudi was giving Leendrick last minute notes on foot pedal pressure, light work and concentration. We took our seats. Ross and Rich, as the doco makers for the Evening Standard, made their way to the start line.
The two cars pulled into their starting positions, Dash cheered expectantly, I felt nervous, then the lights changed from red to amber to green and they were off.
Leendrick was second out of the start, the other car had a split second lead, but in the world of drag racing that split second means everything. Would he be able to claw back the advantage? Would he retain the title of Junior Boss Racer?
7.42 seconds later they crossed the finish line with Leendrick in second place.
Who was this all defeating opponent?
Back at the fan zone, we found out.
Sitting in her car, was an 11 year old spectacle wearing GIRL!
The name of her car?
Now that’s what I call a drag princess.