I didn’t have words for how ridiculously stoked I was for yesterday. I was all geared up to rock it out in my Porsche (also, I may or may not have been really nervous to drive an unfamiliar car around a street course racetrack at high speeds). But mostly supercrazystoked!
So I rolled up on the Firebird International Raceway in my pimped out NAPA/FIR shirt (thanks, Neighbor!) only to have the chick who manages registration ask me if I’m the “Track Betty’. Um, not that I know of? I’m here to race, mofo. But thanks!
I check out other classes rolling through the class and getting ready to ride. The sound of the engines is absurdly exciting. And I do mean that in variety of ways. There’s only me and one other guy in our “class” at 12:00, so we pretty much own the track. They drive us through the course giving us tips on how to manage it at different points. I am oh-so-easily persuaded to switch out of the Porsche Boxster and into the race car. I mean, really, when am I going to get another chance to drive a race car. I can rent a Porsche whenever, right? Right! Sooooo, I opted for Lucky Number Seven.
Now I’m listening intently because I am petrified of wrecking this car at 120 mph. Interestingly enough, I’m particularly concerned about the car and not my actual well-being. That’s likely the voice of my teenage invincibility that I haven’t quite shaken despite not being a teenager… But I digress. They have cones set up around the course that are cues for when to brake and when to accelerate. It’s basically counter-intuitive to how one usually drives, er, at least how one would typically manage turns. The instructor tells us to basically brake absurdly hard at the first set of cones, gradually ease off the brake at the second set of cones, and then begin to accelerate at the last cone. As I understood it in theory, by braking hard and heating the tires, the contact points are wider on the tires so they grip better rolling through the turn as you accelerate. This is all well and good while in the back of a minivan, but once out on the track racing around all of 8 inches off the ground, it’s an entirely different story.
We come back to the starting line, they remove the steering wheel so you can get in, squish you down into the car and strap you in. There’s a quick run-through of the gears (obviously manual all the way here, kids). Note: the gear shifter is on your right side where a door panel would be. If there were a door. It’s basically just a little rod on cable against the panel and the gear distances are SUPERshort. I could barely tell when I was out of one gear (only 4 gears) and into the next. Throw on the earphones, shades, and your helmet and you’re good to go.
And with that, it was time get the party started. Not-so-gentlelady, start your engine…
OK I admit it took me a few seconds to get it to going (and I drive stick shift!) – you really have to floor the gas… But once I was rolling, we were good. We followed the pace minivan through a loop of the course and then it was all us. I gotta say, it was fantastic hauling ass around a winding course and cruising at whatever the hell speed I was going (seriously, I didn’t have time to look). It felt stupidfast. Getting the hang of braking before the turns and accelerating early was REALLY challenging. I could hear the guys in my ears coaching me on the course. There were a couple specific turns that I just couldn’t seem to master and then there were a couple of others that had my damn name all over them and were positively exhilarating to speed through.
I felt like I maybe getting the hang of it (minus a few cussing incidents when I KNEW I wasn’t doing it right) and felt like I was improving until the guy in front of me spun out on a turn (did about a 160) because of some gravel. Which then caused me to panic (dear sweet tiny infant baby Jesus) and spin out and run off course. Umm oops! Sorry!
After I removed my heart from my throat, placed it back into its chest cavity and resumed breathing, I started the car up again and got back on the course determined to make the course my bitch for a few more laps before my session was over.
Track Betty, my ass.