Posted August 6, 2019
Most people think I am pretty tough cookie. I grew up with two older brothers – 6 and 8 years older than I am – and that taught me how to fight for myself. I am not afraid to butt heads with upper management if I find it necessary, or virtually (not literally!) kick someone in the nuts when needed (which has left me with friends and foes both in land speed racing and at my current employer). However, the reality is that I have extremely thin skin and that I am quite emotional. The last weeks have been a roller-coaster in the Green Envy project. Here are a few thoughts from inside the cockpit.
Running a racing program is an addiction. It is a way of life and consumes all my time and money. Actually, a real drug addiction probably would have been cheaper, but the high wouldn’t be as sustainable. As with all addictions, you cannot resist the temptation. There is always another record to be broken, always another high to aim for. Then suddenly find yourself neck-deep into a project, and you wonder why on earth you signed up for this. And you do it over, and over, and over again.
I am incredibly competitive and I don’t like to lose. But most of all, I am terrified of making people upset and to waste their time. Winning cannot come at any cost. Seeing the Green Envy steel frame today was quite overwhelming. Last week it was just a pile of lukewarm, freshly laser-cut steel pieces. Then a miracle happened and photo of the frame appeared in my inbox. It was no miracle, of course, miracles don’t exist. It was Peter and Quintin at Axis Industrial west of Auckland working their butts off to assemble this massive 3D puzzle. If this had just been a paid job, it would have been cool. But it isn’t. Peter and Quintin are donating the time and work to the project, and possibly neglecting paying jobs to make this a success. I am not sure how to handle such generosity.
And that kind of brings me to the core of the roller-coaster. It isn’t the huge taunting engineering task of building the world’s fastest motorcycle that freaks me out. It’s all the kind and generous people helping me! How can I possibly every pay them back? I am signing cards, printing scale models, and putting their names and logos on the bike, but there is still the guilt – what if this project makes them upset? Wastes their time? Make them lose paying business? What if the project comes out to be a failure? What if I can’t make it become reality? The irony is that I would have more than happily helped on a project like this without getting a penny in return, but somehow I can’t see how someone else would feel the same way. I know they do (or I hope they do), but it just doesn’t feel that way.
Another emotional discussion was the exact welding approach. It is a huge job, and both time and money is of the essence. I started the project with the intent of welding it myself. If I do the job myself, and it all falls into pieces, it is both my problem and my fault. End of story. But if somebody else welds it, and it falls to pieces, it is a whole different situation. Even if there is no liability in racing (although I had to sign a 6-page liability waiver the other week just to buy two Mickey Thompson racing tires), people are understandable nervous about fabricating a vehicle for 400 mph (650 km/h), even if it is built like a tank.
Quintin, who is assigned the job, is noticeable nervous about it. Despite being a certified welder and previously fabricating trucks zooming down the motorway hauling 40 tons of cargo, this is a different. I don’t know if I made it any easier by showing him some recent spectacular 300 and 400+ mph crashes of vehicles built to similar specs where the driver walked away without a scratch. I will show him the KillaJoule this weekend, and show him my own mediocre welding to convince his that whatever he does, it will be much better than I could ever hope to accomplish.
Where do I want to get with this? Well, I guess I just wanted to show you a glimpse from the inside of the Green Envy project. It is not just cool videos and awesome progress. It is an emotional roller-coaster, not just for me, but for everybody involved. I didn’t mention my husband Bill at all, but he is sitting next to me on the same roller-coaster. The only reason that our marriage has survived for 10 years and counting, is that we are equally deep into the addiction. 🙂
So once again – thank you all supporters and sponsors, without you this project would never have become reality! I can never pay you back, but I hope you find the satisfaction of being part of a mission to demonstrate green tech and get kids into engineering makes it worth it! Thank you all! Now back to business, the frame is just the start. Now everything else also has to be designed and fabricated. 😀
Cover photo by Paul Blundell and James Goldsmith (not the be reproduced without permission). All other photos courtesy of the Green Envy Racing Team.