Race of the Fire Trucks

Jul 16, 2011

RAY: It seems that there was an intense but friendly rivalry between the volunteer fire departments of two nearby towns, Jeffersonville and East Norriton. Pride was at stake as their rivalry climaxed each year in the Fireman's Competition at the county fair. So closely matched were the two fire brigades in skill and experience that the preliminary hook and ladder events were virtually a tie, leading up to the final showcase event of the race of fire trucks. There's going to be a race.

20 laps were raced counterclockwise around the quarter mile dirt track at the fairgrounds. Both brigades drove identical pumpers, scrupulously maintained and adjusted to peak performance. The rules required that they be set to factory configuration, fully loaded and equipped, and the crews identical in total weight to the nearest ounce.

The Jeffersonville team had come away disappointed for four years in a row, having lost the final event by the closest of margins each time. They appealed to Gus to provide them with some small competitive advantage. Gus took a look at the high-wheeled pumpers and the dirt track and mused while he knocked the ashes from his pipe. He then stepped forward, and without tools, without violating the rules, and without even opening the hood of this fire truck, he makes a quick adjustment that enables Jeffersonville to take home the trophy that year. What did he do?
RAY: Here's the answer. Because they are racing counterclockwise around a track, Gus let out a little air from the left-hand tires of the Jeffersonville truck so that they would pull in that direction and make it easier to negotiate the turns.

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