Oddchester: Race training is pedal to the metal adrenaline
I’ve had the race car’s gas pedal mashed to the floor for a mile and a half — all the way down the mile-long straightaway and through turns one and two, which have been called the “fastest two corners of any racetrack in North America.”
It’s the first time, in my 25 laps on the three-mile long road course of Brainerd International Raceway, that I’ve kept it floored this long.
It feels fast. Maybe 110 fast. Maybe 120. I’ve caught the group of cars in front of me. Made it known that, oh yeah, I’m going to pass them. I mean, I could be a damn race car driver.
I’m using the phrase “gas pedal mashed to the floor” for god’s sake. Like I’m some North Carolina NASCAR guy.
Just as I’m imagining champagne in victory lane, I brake too late, turn too early, and downshift too late into the hairpin turn three.
The back end of the 110-horsepower, 1,400-pound Spec Racer spins around like I just hit a patch of black ice.
My adrenal gland instantly releases large quantities of adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones into my bloodstream. Heart and respiration rates increase. Pupils and arteries dilate.
I hear a high-pitched whining sound, which is probably coming from me.
I steer instinctively (raised in Michigan) into the skid and let my foot off the gas. But, really, I’m thinking about what one of the other drivers said during the morning meeting: “I don’t want to die out here.”
The BIR Performance School — based at Brainerd International Raceway—opens for the season this week. Which means you, too, can learn to be a race car driver.
You can get on-track lessons. You can rent their Spec Racers (from $350 for one session to $1,625 for the day). Or test drive your own sports car ($350 for the day) or family cruiser (that’s still $350).
Whatever you do, you get to do it fast.
I got to do it. And here’s how (the rest of) it went down.
The morning drivers’ meeting is all nervous laughter.
Most of the 100 attendees will be driving their own cars — everything from Ford Mustangs to Ferrari F-50s.
Eight of us will be renting Spec Racers, low-slung, one-seaters and one of the most popular entry-level racing cars.
During introductions, one guy admits he just wants to “get through the day without dying out there.” Nervous laughter.
Our instructor assures us that, in all his years, no student has ever been injured.
But he warns us that these are real situations with real cars going real fast. He tells the drivers to take coins out of ashtrays. So they don’t fly into you if your car rolls.
Our presentation focuses on common sense, safety, and “smoothness.”
“Smoothness is the goal,” he says. “Concentration plus technique plus preciseness plus consistency equals smoothness.” C+T+P+Cy=S.
We get fitted for racing suits and helmets. We get strapped into the Spec Racers and head out onto the course, behind the instructor’s pace car. When he thinks you’re ready to race, he waves you on.
You’re on your own, driving as fast as common sense — and your car — tells you.
“The steering wheel tells you when to straighten out from a turn,” the instructor told us. The weight transfer tells you when to accelerate. The engine sounds tell you when to shift.
Apparently, I don’t speak race car.
In the first six laps, I’m doing everything wrong. Driving too hard and too fast. Jabbing at the breaks, sawing the wheel. By the end of our first session, the smoothness starts to make sense.
By session three, I’m regularly passing other Spec Racers. I can keep up with the faster street cars through the turns.
Then I make my late-breaking, early-turning, late-downshifting mistake into that hairpin.
I let off the gas and steer into the skid and, just when I think I’m heading ass-end off the track, the rear end whips back around and straightens out as fast as it got loose.
The adrenaline is really flowing, and, for a second, I think maybe I should take it easy. Maybe let off the gas in turn two next time.
But that group of cars I had just caught is getting away from me. In my rearview mirror, I see another Spec Car coming up fast.
I mash the gas and go.
For info (or if my family decides to buy me my next 40 years’ worth of Father’s Day gifts), check out birperformance.com.