ira ready to race—9/06

I want to be honest about racing and crashing. I’ve been on a race track in my own car and in the open cockpit car provided by the Skip Barber Racing School for its three-day course in Lime Rock, CT. I have friends who race, and some have many of their own cars that they compete in at different tracks in different states and countries.

Unfortunately I am a chicken when it comes to racing. I like cars, and I like going fast. But I learned at school that what I think is fast was almost the slowest in my class. Others are willing to up the danger ante with greater speed. And they drove like crazy people. No way I can stomach that risk. I have been in, seen and avoided too many accidents on the road and on the track. I love skidding around the turns, but I am just too nervous about the other drivers. On the track, I have watched newly restored cars crash into walls and need to be restored again. I have seen school cars miss turns and hit guardrails to my left. I have had a car on my right spin a 360 or 720 directly across my path…luckily the training taught me how to miss him on the right as he went to the left on the grass and into the wall. So I avoided smashing right into him.

looking ridiculous and probably nervous

In a normal street car, I have fallen out when a door opened on a turn (I held on to the door and had my butt dragged). I went downhill on a curvy street once, and the driver’s door opened up—he grabbed the steering wheel and pulled himself in as we turned hard to the right, over the grass, hit a house, totaled the car, knocked me out and broke my date’s nose. Those were the days when three of us could sit in the wider front seat. Another time when I was a passenger in the winter, we skidded on ice directly into the right front door of a car that had spun before us and stopped perpendicular to the road. Our two cars were totaled as we skidded towards a 300 foot drop…but were saved by the cables of a guard rail that didn’t fail.

So for me driving fast is limited to Connecticut country roads with turns and lots of shifting in cars that can barely make it to 60 mph in six or seven seconds. That’s it. A long long six seconds. As for top speeds, 110 is the fastest I have ever gone on a highway. I’m always nervous about a mechanical or tire failure. I also know some cops personally who’ve warned me about the severe penalties for going over 84 mph. I cannot even grasp the courage or stupidity of an acquaintance who spent extra money to boost his Audi RS6 from 500hp to maybe 540hp and then tell me how on a normal road one night, he risked killing himself or one of the many deer who meander here by going 150 mph at 2am. I WISH I HAD THAT COURAGE…OR LACK OF CAUTION. I am just too conservative.

So though I have owned cars that can do over 150 mph, I don’t see where to drive them at that speed. In Europe on the Autobahn, yes, where a business partner once took me in his Mercedes at 220 or 250 kmh (132-150mph). I’m not sure exactly how fast, because when he just about missed his turn and had to suddenly veer to the right, and we almost crashed and rolled, I wasn’t watching the speedometer any more…although he laughed a lot and told me I shouldn’t worry. But he seemed used to it. And I know from my own limited experience that you can be driving in a sport car at 90mph+ and not even realize you’re going that fast if the car and wheels are well balanced and in tune. It feels like 40. Maybe 140 feels the same. Nevertheless I play it safely and get my thrills by not braking on the turns that I sometimes take 20 or 30 mph faster than the signs tell me to go.

Guess there’s no benefit in owning those superfast Porsches. Unless I want to relocate my stomach again for 3.8 seconds…

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