In nearly 50 years of motor racing, Dave Hodgkinson has never been scared for his life. He has however done a lot of screaming because of the exhilaration while behind the wheel.
“If you’re on a fast race track and go into the turn, you can see your front tires and rubber roll like that. And you’re screaming your lungs out. Lady Gaga sings that song ‘The Edge of Glory,’ that’s the song I would sing when I’m racing,” said the Breslau resident.
“I came off one track and my wife said ‘what’s the matter with your voice? It’s all croaky.’ I said I was screaming my freaking lungs out the last 25 laps. It’s just exciting.”
Born in England, Hodgkinson’s first time racing was in an Austin Mini at the Minden ice race track in 1974, which he maintains is much safer than it sounds.
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“[Someone] would plow a track on the lake and there would be snowbanks like four feet high. So if you got off the ice, you just went up the bank a bit and then came back down again. You wouldn’t be doing any more than 50 mile an hour out on the ice,” he explained.
Following that experience, Hodgkinson got into mini stock racing and eventually into outlaw modified racing, the latter of which has seen him pick up many wins in the last 35 years.
The format may not be well known among casual racing fans, with Hodgkinson pointing out the differences.
“Outlaw modifieds are basically a four-cylinder race car. No front fenders, with [open] racing tires. High performance, four-cylinder engine, a 1,700-pound minimum weight and as much horsepower as you can get out of a little motor,” he explained.
Modified racing events take place on smaller tracks than stock car races (around 500 to 800 metres) and the cars reach top speeds of around 130 km/h. A race is typically 25 to 30 laps.
“It is a different ballgame from the 500-lap races,” he said.
Racing is about more than driving as fast as possible, he enthuses. The steel bumpers on the modified cars allow for bumping to gain an advantage, for instance.
“And if you’re behind a guy and you’re faster, you give him a one bump. And that’s to get his attention that you’re there. And if he doesn’t move you give him a second bump to tell him ‘I’m coming, get out of the way.’ And if he still stays in your way, then the third boom, you spin him out,” he said.
“That’s the rules are racing: three bumps, you’re off.”
In his decades as a driver, Hodgkinson has only had one injury, a twisted wrist when his off-switch broke.
“My throttle stuck one time and I hit a wall and bent the car back. You’re supposed to let go of the wheel when you’re heading toward the wall. I still had a hold of the wheel and snapped my wrist” he said.
“People say to me you’re more likely to get in a bad accident towing to the racetrack because of oncoming traffic. Where on a racetrack, you’re all going the same way,” he added.
In 2010 Hodgkinson had his own modified car built from parts he purchased across North America.
“I bought the chassis from Long Island, and then I took it to McColl Racing in London and they finished it for the suspension control on the rear end. It’s got an Eslinger engine from California.”
At a price of $50,000, the car has served him well over the last 12 years.
“The guys in California that built my engine said you can rev that thing at 9000 RPM and you won’t destroy it. Guaranteed. And so far it’s been the same engine in my car for 12 years.”