Saturday, September 13, 2008

Joe Harding, Out Of The Ashes?

Mythology teaches us the Phoenix enjoys immortality, which had to be renewed with fire every 300 to 500 years. When the end of its life cycle drew near, the phoenix would gather aromatic herbs, woods, and spices from around the world with which to build its own funeral pyre or nest.

Sitting in the nest, and having turned to face the rays of the sun, beating its wings, it deliberately fans the flames for itself and is consumed in the fire. Once the old body was consumed, the phoenix would be reborn from a worm, its marrow, or an egg found among the ashes and would embark on another 500 years of life.

According to some legends, the renewed phoenix carried its old bones to the City of the Sun in Egypt where they were disposed of with special funeral rites. In this case I think it may have been Joe Harding who fanned the flames and was consumed by fire but he didn't carry his old bones to Egypt but instead had the doctors put some screws in them and went racing in San Diego.

During the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana Jon, Will and myself were blessed to have met so many unique people and better yet to have formed friendships that will surely last a lifetime. Blame it on the Spirit of La Carrera Panamericana but it's contagious and it just happens.

One of these unique personalities was none other than Englishman Joe Harding who drove the beautifully prepared Ford Falcon car number 380 in Historic C Class. Not only is Joe a true gentleman racer in every sense of the word but he's every bit of a fierce competitor as you can find. One evening during the awards dinner while Jon and I were standing on the top podium holding up the first place trophies for winning the most dangerous stage of Mil Cumbres, Joe leaned over with a huge smile on his face and said, "Enjoy it while you can but just remember... tomorrow is another day." Gotta love this guy.

While racing in the most recent Chihuahua Express Road Race, Joe suffered a honorific accident which not only destroyed his Falcon burning it completely to ashes but hospitalized him as well with a terribly broken ankle. Joe has had to undergo a lot of physical therapy after having a box full of screws and metal installed in his ankle a challenge he dealt with as if it were just another day.

Fortunately I have been able to stay in touch with Joe over the many months of recovery and true to the man we met on the Podium, Joe still haunts me with comments like, "Foot is healed enough to work a clutch. I will be racing on Saturday 27th and
Sunday 28th on Coronado Island, San Diego." Like they say, It's hard to keep a good Englishman down.

Clearly Joe never even considered for a second not racing and while he was not even fully recovered yet had already bought a beautiful race car. I wonder why? (Riiight)

Joe bought this beautiful little 1954 Kurtis 500S which he has already entered in the 2008 CORONADO SPEED FESTIVAL which is a sister event of the world famous Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Laguna Seca. The Coronado Speed Festival gathers together racing history's most unique and pedigreed machines at one of the most distinctive stages, Naval Base Coronado, the birthplace of Naval Aviation, on September 27-28, 2008.

These were NOT kit cars and was in fact built by Frank Kurtis himself. Kurtis was famous for his midget and Indy Racers. In total there were about 30 500S built between 1953 and 1955. They were typically used by serious privateers as well as factory teams for racing. Mickey Thompson, Briggs Cunningham,and Frank McGurk all drove a 500S and in 1954 Jack Ensley won the SCCA B/Modified National Championships. Bill Murphy won many times in California sports car races and Sam Hanks (1957 Indy 500 winner) at the 1955 Sebring race. Joe wrote, "My cars history is unknown prior to my ownership but has run with VARA and at Monterey and Coronado with me."

California's Best Racing Team would like to congratulate Joe Harding for being the fierce warrior that he is not to mention being a fine gentleman racer but also for showing us that what might be a major set back for some may as well just be the beginning for others just as it was for the Phoenix.

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