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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Speed and the Eleven Plus

We went to watch drag racing today at the North Weald Aerodrome. Signing on to race looked relaxed and informal. Men and women parked their cars and then went to the signing on area to pay a small fee and register their names.

Each car was then driven or pushed to the scruitineers for a basic safety check. Cars were given a race number. The drivers then drove their cars into the race queue.

There was an extraordinary range of cars. Some were very obviously prepared for the race with huge fast engines. There were a number of women in family saloons – and one or two in really hot cars. I am not sure how many cars were actually involved in the drag racing – but certainly around one hundred and fifty.

The cars were not allocated any particular competitors to race against. This format allowed a Porsche to be up against a souped up VW or a family saloon against a sports car. The drag racing takes place over a quarter of a mile. There is a set of lights, when the green shows the competitors simply accelerate as fast a possible.

Some vehicles reached around 65 miles per hour in the quarter mile – while one or two sped up to over 120 miles per hour.

Two cars raced each other. The cars then went to the back of the queue. The drivers paired up with a different competitor and some twenty minutes later the drivers raced again.

There was certainly no opportunity for ten year old to be sitting quietly and be working through eleven plus papers. But what the eleven plus candidate may have learnt is that even ordinary people can strive for excellence.

The eleven plus child may have learnt that to do well in drag racing did not really mean beating your opponent – because some of the competitors were clearly mismatched.

What drag racing did bring out is the knowledge that you were racing against yourself. As a driver you were trying to better your previous time. If your drove your car over the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds, the next time you would try to beat 15.5 seconds. The driver would sit quietly in their cars at the start of the next attempt. They would work out when to change gear and how to get away as fast as possible – without making a mistake.

So if you do get the chance take your ten or eleven year old to watch at least an hour of drag racing. They will see men and women approaching a race against the clock. They will smell the sweet scent of tyres burning up the concrete. They hear the roar of engines. They will be able to share the laughter of the crowd.

What you must really hope, however, is that your child is stimulated and wants more. Mr Louis Hamilton, of F1 fame, has demonstrated to all of us what can be achieved by a single minded approach.

So when your child walks into the eleven plus room to start the battery of eleven plus tests, all you can do is hope that your child will accelerate away against any competition.

By the way if you wonder why some cars were pushed to the start then I hope it was to pay homage to global warming. It must be a bit hard to pat tribute to green when you are driving as fast as possible in a super charged car!

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