On the Race Track
“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”. Tommy, the professional race car driver seems indifferent to the warning on his side mirror as he takes corners at 160 m.p.h. trying to overtake his racing buddies while another is closing in on him.
“It’s fantasy fulfillment”, he says of the race training component of the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, an hour south of Cleveland in the scenic Appalachian foothills.
Perhaps. If your fantasy is to be hosed out of the front of an Acura Integra RSX in bloody pieces or at least come dangerously close to losing your lunch.
Decapitation, however is not normally a consideration as racing laws require a 3 point harness strapped between participants’ legs to prevent slipping to the floor and leaving heads on the dashboard, in the very real event of a collision with the other maniacs on the elevated course.
Back at the starting position, Tommy abruptly pulls in ahead of the other cars that have stopped to change passengers.
“Fantastic”, squeals a grandmother from Bowling Green , Ohio hopping out of the vehicle. “ I wanna go again. ” Tommy laughs and roars off, gleeful granny at his side.
The warm summer day had started peacefully enough with an early morning defensive driving session. First off was an emergency lane changing exercise that began with Tommy flooring the gas pedal sending the Acura hurtling down a three lane stretch of asphalt. Veering a hard left in response to the light change on the driver training course, he brakes sharply and announces:
“Now it’s your turn. Give it all you’ve got. Stick to the middle lane until you see one of the three lights turn green then get into that lane as quickly as possible and come to a complete stop. And don’t hit the pylons.”
Everyone fails on the first try, sending orange cones flying and coming to messy stops that straddle two lanes. After a couple of times though, most of the eight defensive driver trainees feel confident enough to try it out on a major highway-provided there are no other cars around.
Next, it’s hard braking on wet pavement – an exercise in proper use of Advanced Braking System or ABS that proves easier. According to Tony, lead instructor, almost no one uses their ABS correctly. And in terms of reaction times, teenagers usually score better than their parents.
Across the parking lot the skid control car mounted on a hydraulic wheel system is getting a lot of attention. In fluid motion, it swings effortlessly into a full circle, perfect for practicing total loss of control situations on extreme road conditions. Just looking at it makes one queasy, setting the stage for the afternoon race training session.