Posts Tagged auto racing and driving

First Intended Car Back Flip Gets Flack

Here are two videos from different positions (the side and in the travel direction) of a car doing a successful, intentional back flip…and the driver surviving. What’s most interesting to me is one of the comments below it on youtube, where Barry doesn’t think the driver did much more than push his foot on the throttle. Other viewers were more impressed and gave Barry a lot of flack back. I think courage is worth a lot. I mean what does a parachutist do? Just pull a rip cord, right Barry?

Barry: What more did the guy do than press the accelerator? All thats needed is a little courage. No skill involved. Some engineer designed the ramps, and calculated what speed he needed to reach. Someone built and designed his car. He is encased in a metal cage, and all he did is press his right foot.

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Have A Swig Of Bourbon

My capoeira mestre told me he never touched a drop of alcohol, because it was poisonous for his body and would affect his mind as well. My chiropractor father said “you are what you eat,” and showed me pictures of alcoholics with large red noses with huge pores. However he also said that almost anything is ok “in moderation.” And he occasionally drank bourbon.

Last night at a wedding during a snowstorm, the roads were treacherous, and my car was skidding left and right. It was completely out of control as it slid down the hill to the bride’s house at the bottom of the driveway. I was pumping the brakes madly and hoping I wouldn’t crash into the cars parked in a small lot at the bottom. And for three hours I wondered how many guests would be unable to make it home by driving back up this steep incline on the long icy, snow-covered driveway that had not been plowed.

We watched a two-wheel-drive car fail on two attempts by the father of three and then a more expert driver who claimed to have experience doing these things. Five-plus strong men including the groom without a coat couldn’t push the car up the hill, and I worried someone might be run over and hurt as the drivers let it slide back down in reverse. Someone later used a four-wheel-drive truck to transport that family home. Maybe their car was retrievable today.

Soon it would be my turn, and as I waited to see whether I could make it home in my all-wheel mini-SUV, I saw party guests passing around a silver flask. “Want some bourbon?” I was asked? As someone who feels alcohol’s effects from very modest intake, I declined. But I was actually quite shocked that when we needed our senses to be as sharp as possible, people were offering to dull them out of friendship and with kind intentions. Did they think I would handle the car better if I was more relaxed? I also thought of my father’s love of that liquor, and then his advice about all food and drink intakes. A nice memory.

I feel prudish about drinking and driving, but I have skidded in snow many times. I took a special Skip Barber advanced driving course that taught me how to respond instantly and correctly to skids. I have even practiced in a snow-covered parking lot by turning rapidly and slamming on the brakes. There have been skids where this practice saved me from going off the road and crashing. Decades ago, I was in a two-car, winter collision on black ice that totaled both cars and would have sent us sliding in tandem over a 300-foot cliff had there not been a guard rail. I need to be really attentive. These accidents don’t always happen to “someone else.”

What is wrong with me that I am so conservative when others are so cavalier? Those wedding guests were drinking happily, indifferent to the possibility of danger and the need for super quick reflexes. Why don’t they agree that hard liquor and driving—especially in such hazardous conditions—just seem dumb? They probably think one swig can’t hurt, though three or 10 might be a problem. I remember a friend who would smoke grass, put on his car-racing gloves and drive 400 miles on the turnpike convinced that he was keener and more capable, having slowed down his sense of time. I didn’t travel with those dopey, doped drivers, whenever I could avoid it.

So I did make it up the hill with no problem. Then drove as slowly as 10 miles per hour down some steep hills of slush. One time I drove in the wrong lane, which had been plowed, to avoid falling off the road or just sliding out of control for half a mile or so. The biggest danger was getting back quickly into the correct lane, when cars approached from the other direction. It was tense, my passengers didn’t speak, and no one complained as I pumped the brakes and made it home safely. It was a drive that no one should have been out in and that took three times as long as normal. I hope the others at the party were just as fortunate.

HERE IS AN UPDATE IN FEBRUARY: I have learned that I need snow tires, and that the all weathers on the car are completely inadequate…

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Some Athletes Love Danger

Stirling Moss survives car crash—1962

Are you afraid of dangerous situations? I am. I stopped parachuting after just five jumps. I slow down on curves, when I am motorcycling, and wear a helmet. I only tried auto racing once for a three-day course, but was too nervous about the other drivers screwing up and causing an accident. And when I drive on the road, I am always a bit cautious over 100 mph, knowing that there could be a mechanical malfunction, or a deer could leap out and hurt us both. I could go on and on.

But then I read these recent complaints by Sir Stirling Moss, one of the most famous race car drivers ever:

Safety measures have robbed the sport of its thrill. “The biggest reason I raced was because it was dangerous. When you are 17, 18 years old, safety lessens the thrill. Danger makes people sort the men from the boys, and the new level of safety emasculates the sport. People say I advocate people being killed. It’s not advocating killing, but the freedom to drive with danger. There was tremendous mental enjoyment.”

Now, he says, the tracks are designed for safety, the road surfaces are better and cars, helmets and racing suits are devised to protect the drivers. Even the physical endurance needed has been lessened as races have been shortened for television audiences. “Racing is the safest sport there is,” he said.

Well I sure am a boy, rather than a man, according to his assessment.

montage of younger Stirling

Now here is an excerpt from Michael Cannell’s book, The Limit, about Moss’s last car crash, followed by some comments from people who saw this paragraph online: On April 24th, 1962, Stirling Moss entered a minor Formula 1 race known as the Glover Trophy at the Goodwood track in West Sussex. He danced at a country dancehall until 2 a.m. the night before, then rose, apparently unaffected, and prepares his pale green Lotus. On the eighth lap he pulled into the pits with a jammed gearbox. By the time mechanics fixed it he had dropped to 17th place. “What are you going to do?” a friend asked. “Have a bloody go,” Moss answered. In his determination to make up time he flew down straights at 180 m.p.h. and hurtled into corners at 75 m.p.h.–dangerously close to the limit.” He’s pushing it,” a mechanic said. On the 35th lap Moss neared a twisty right-then-left turn called St. Mary’s Corner at 110 m.p.h. when his car unaccountably veered off the road, streaked across 150 yards of lawn and smacked into an eight foot embankment. It took mechanics half an hour to saw through the crumpled aluminum and remove his limp and unconscious body. A nurse held his hand much of the time. Blood smeared his face and dripped onto his white coveralls. His right cheek was torn open and and his left eye socket was shattered. The crumpled steering wheel had broken two ribs. X-rays revealed severe bruising on the right side of his brain. He lay in a coma for a month, his left side partially paralyzed.

Commenter #1: I find it fascinating that although Moss’s career was ended by this crash, he never really took up the safety crusade that other drivers, most notably Jackie Stewart, spearheaded later in the decade. To this day, Moss seems to have nostalgia for a time in which drivers put their life on the line when they stepped into a car. He is truly a man from another era, and is such a hero of mine. He won 40% of the races he ever entered and is surely the greatest driver never to win the F1 Championship. His survival and recovery from this accident are a testament to his incredible physical constitution. Even today in his early 80s Moss survived and recovered from a recent 3-story fall in his home elevator shaft that would have killed or severely handicapped most people, let alone most 81-year-olds!

Cannell responds: In the course of my research I’ve run across countless quotes in which Moss argues that danger is what distinguished the sport. Of course he’s not necessarily advocating for danger and accidents, but it is clear that he believes that made the sport unique and set the drivers apart from other athletes.

Commenter #2: Read Ken Purdy’s “All But My Life,” written based on interviews with Moss during his recovery from the Goodwood crash, for Moss’ views on safety. One of his quotes was something like: “If some bloke wants to buy a ticket to a motor race, and chooses to stand at a dangerous point on the trackside, and I’ve entered and am running in that race, get it all wrong near where the bloke is standing, and roll myself, my car, and the spectator all up in a ball, we ALL made choices to be where we were, and it’s not a matter for courts, or legislative bodies, or the FIA, or CSI. We all know the dangers inherent in what we’re doing, and by me driving, and the spectator buying his ticket and choosing to stand where he did, we presumably have acknowledged that motor racing is a very dangerous sport, and we’ve weighed the risks, and taken them.”

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Early Life Of An Extreme Outdoorsman And Speed Junky (Part 1 Of 3)

idyllic cruising in the great outdoors

Met a new friend out West who described his life of total immersion in the outdoors and his love of fast cars and motorcycles. His stories were so astonishing and descriptive that I urged him to write them down. Who could have guessed that his prose would be extraordinary too. I told him he reminded me of Hunter Thompson’s gonzo style or other journalists I imagine writing about speed on speed…or some other hallucinogenic. You are in for a real treat! (I hope he doesn’t mind that I relocated the first paragraph from deep within the story to give you a perspective of what is going on)

For whatever reasons, not the least of which was my father having a triple bypass at 35, I always figured on needing to pack as much experience into one presumably short life as a person could. So I’ve had the pedal down as far back as I can remember. The joke is on me of course, I never developed heart disease, but I did break a few bones, lose a shitload of skin and probably deserve to be dead 30 times over doing various things. Also got a late start building a career, so I’ll probably be working until I am in fact dead—but I design/test outdoor gear. How bad can that be?

OK, a quick bio: I’ve always been bipolar or multi-polar regarding outdoor sports, grew up at the beach but was sneaking onto the Irvine Ranch (before it was developed) behind our house with my .22 to hunt rabbits and quail (yes, quail, you just have to make a head shot, and I don’t mean when they are flying) and started fly fishing in the mountains around LA whenever my mom could drive me or with the Boy Scouts, then Explorer Scouts. Luckily the Explorer group I joined was the mountaineering group in Anaheim, which gave me my first glimpse of the High Sierra’s, and I got as interested in Golden Trout as I did in peak bagging.

As soon as I got my driver’s license, it was good bye to the scouts, and I was off every winter weekend to cross country ski tour/snowcamp in the San Gorgonio or San Jacinto Wilderness areas, often alone, which would drive my mom crazy, then backpack with a fly rod in the summer. Surf, ski, climb, hunt, fish, and of course getting around when younger I got everywhere on a bike, which became a nicer and nicer bike which became another, lifelong passion including a little bit of road racing in high school. I quit that because I kept getting clobbered by motorists who in those days weren’t used to seeing humans on road racing bikes out in traffic. Last crash involved being hit from behind by a car and flung through traffic across three fast lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was like playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber and surviving without a scratch. The rear wheel and rear triangle of my bike absorbed most of the impact and I came to a stop on the center divider balancing on my crank set, still clipped in, cars whizzing by in both directions. I did not get religion, I just left the bike laying in the highway and hitched home. No more road bikes for me.

Then one summer I came through Ketchum on a fly fishing trip and saw my first mountain bike—one of Tom Ritchey’s first hand-made bikes at the Elephant’s Perch, and my life was wrecked. I was living in Laguna at the time and the steep coastal hills were crawling with jeep roads, single track and game trails.

In a fitting way I was wrapping up my involvement with motorhead activities. My first car was a red Alfa Romeo Duetto softail Spider which I rescued from ruin and re-built myself. My second car was a raging-fast Lotus Elan which followed the same pattern, find a junker and bring it back to life one turn of the wrench at a time. I’d had a go-kart my Dad built for me when I was about 7, motorcycles, etc. so high performance driving was written into the software by the time I was a teen, and I could really drive. At one point I actually thought about it as a career, maybe an F1 pilot like Dan Gurney, but as I started hanging out at various tracks I realized I couldn’t stand the people who were involved with the sport. They were like golfers on crack.

With some irony I had long been co-evolving into a leftist tree hugging wilderness freak motorhead. I joined David Brower’s F.O.E. (Friends of the Earth) when I was 16, was reading Abbey, getting pangs about joining Dave Foreman’s Earth First gang but didn’t like the idea of prison. Note that both cars I mentioned were small, light, fast, fuel-efficient machines. But showing up to a Sierra Club meeting with my Lotus (even though it got 30 mpg) didn’t go too well. Which I found really disappointing. The leftist tree huggers turned out to be like accountants on crack.

In those years I tried everything that fit my personal ethos of small footprint, treading lightly, loving wild places, and having a fucking great time getting to those places. Think of hand-made (by me), aero cross-country ski racks and skis tucked behind the tiny roof line of a Lotus Elan howling through the desert North of LA at 2 A.M., on the way to Mammoth Tamarack lodge with the headlights off, navigating by the full moon at 120 mph with the Doors playing Riders on the Storm backed up by the sound of a nasty, tweaked-out twin cam motor pushing a low, smooth glass slipper through the void. Fuck the Sierra Club. (Continue to Part 2/3 in post below)

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Here Is How I’d Really Like To Drive

Don’t care for the repetitiveness of race tracks. Love the country rides, but always watching out for deer, people and police. So if I ever had a fantasy, this is it. I have been in a 550 HP Viper driven round a small track by a professional. Terrifyingly exciting.

These are a series of racing cars in different cities and sponsored by Ford and a shoe company. This fifth one is in San Francisco.

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Six Ferraris

A friend directed me to this exciting commercial of six Ferraris on different continents. How did they close those streets? Turn up the volume.

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