Demo-Derby Driven


Driving home after a day at work can get to the best of us. With hectic schedules and multi-tasked minds, it’s hard to avoid road rage as we hustle around each other.
Maybe this is the reason for my pleasure with demolition derbies. They provide a physical outlet for road rage for both those who participate and those who watch. Demo derbies are “a fantastic way to take out your automotive frustrations in a (relatively) safe, controlled and amazingly fun forum,” says Tony Hartin of London, Ontario. “In what other sport do you get to clobber your opponents with a 3,500-pound weapon?”
For those unfamiliar with the sport: Eight to 12 specially prepared cars are sealed into a 50-by-100 foot gravel bull pen where they pummel each other until only one is left running, the winner.
Zeroing-in on what it takes to win a derby, Hartin looks first at what causes most drivers not to win. About one-third of all cars retire due to mechanical breakdown. Hartin feels that most of these could have been prevented with better preparation. Another 25 percent, he says, get stuck for one reason or another, and the remaining cars are legitimately eliminated by the other competitors.
There are pages of information available online about preparing a car for a demo derby.
“Assuming you get your car in reasonably good mechanical condition,” says Hartin, “you should be able to concentrate purely on strategy during the race.”
That’s what interests me, the psychology behind the action.
Hartin reveals these strategies on his Wweb site:
Always try to keep moving, even when not lining up your next victim or avoiding being someone else’s. If you get hit unexpectedly, this will help dissipate the energy of the impact because a spinning tire will allow the car to slide with the hit much easier than a non-moving tire. Also, by keeping the revs up, you reduce the chance of stalling your engine.
Avoid taking any big hits (naturally). There are two ways to do this. First, try to stay away from the corners of the ring where other cars can get a good run at you. This also reduces the likelihood of getting stuck against cement block barriers. Second, drive around the ring in a counter-clockwise fashion whenever possible. This way, the driver’s door is facing the inside of the ring; other drivers are not allowed to hit the driver’s door.
If a hit can’t be avoided, it’s best to take it broadside on the passenger’s side. A hit on the front could kill the engine; a hit on the wheels could blow a tire or break an axle, and the rear needs to be saved for offensive bashing.
When making a hit, you usually try to use your rear as much as possible to protect the drive-train in the front. Some front ends are stronger than their rears, so the idea is to protect the weakest part of your car, whatever that may be at any point during the heat.
If you get stuck, don’t floor it to power out; you may only dig in deeper. By gently rocking back and forth, if another car hits you, this may help free you.
Don’t avoid making any contact in the hope that your car will be the last one running. This sandbagging is seldom tolerated by derby officials, and is not fair to the other drivers. “Besides, why wouldn’t you want to make hits?” Hartin asks. The contact of the bash is the reason for entering a derby in the first place.
There is definite skill involved in the preparation and driving in a demolition derby. Like any form of competition, those who know more, try harder, have more talent, or are just plain lucky will rise to the top.
I noticed one other thing: the trophies are big and so are the smiles on the faces of
the winners.


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