Motorsports Heaven

Born to Drive
(with regards to Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild”)

Getch your motor runnin’
Head out on the speedway
Hooked into adrenaline
For curves that come our way

Yeah darlin’ gonna make it happen
Drive the car in a wild embrace
Firewall the gas at once and
explode into space

I like drivin’ lightning
Racing with the wind
And the feeling that I’m under

Yeah darlin’ gonna make it happen
Drive the car in a wild embrace
Firewall the gas at once and
explode into space

I’m in tune, racing’s child
We were born, born to drive wild
I can drive so fast
I never want to die

Born to drive
Born to drive

Saturday morning, July 12. Up at 5:00am and 100 miles to the track. Deserted roads, Highway 12 twisting and turning as the sun burns the dew off the green. Arrive at Michigan International Speedway and I swear I can smell the gas, oil, rubber and brake dust that will fill the air later that day. Pull into the garage and set out the tools.

Walk around the pits and savor the moment. The obligatory driver’s meeting, with Nick’s same speech: Safety and fun and drive ’er home Sunday.

I’m in one piece. New brakes and a car fresh from the mechanic. Will it hold up its end of the bargain? Will I? Check the lug nuts, check the oil, wash the windshield for the 5th time. The car’s ready. Is the driver?

Group B takes to pit road. Tom Kain, my excellent instructor, walks up and introduces himself. “I want to be smooth,” I tell him. Accelerating down pit road, just like Mario and Little Al and Rick Mears and Bobby Rahal and…

Calmly into turn 1, then onto the course. Takin’ it easy as I relearn the track and get myself into a groove. Corrections from Tom and I can see the difference. “Take this spot through 4.” I finally get it and yeah, it feels good. Accelerating, braking, heel and toe, stab the gas, on the brakes, back on the gas, through the corner, then hard on the gas, as hard as 200 hp can push us.

We survive session 1. Tom is complementary and I’m off to the classroom.

Session 2 arrives, a repeat of session 1, except I’m less nervous. The car is performing smoothly and the brakes are doing everything I ask. Speed starts to pick up and I sense a good weekend coming on.

Session 3 arrives, and Tom sends me off on my own! Don’t get too excited, be cool and feel my way with the car. Gradually going deeper into the corners, gradually faster through the turns, gradually faster down the straights. Smooth, smooth, smooth. Trying to be smooth. A really good lap and the smile won’t stay off my face. “Yes, yes, yes.” It felt right. Each curve, the right apex, the right exit point, the right braking, the right accelerating. What a rush! I swear the car is floating above the road and I’m on the most sensureal virtual reality game ever devised. Except it’s not virtual reality and I’m really driving fast laps, it’s smooth and I can feel it in the seat of my pants and the harmony of it all is better than a symphony.

Session 3 ends and I’m tired. It’s a lot of work driving fast, and I’ve earned my sleep for that night.

Sunday dawns, a carbon copy of Saturday. I’m on time to the driver’s meeting and keenly paying attention to the possibilities of fazing out from dehydration and exhaustion. I make sure I’ve got water and Gatorade and salt. Go over the car again, retighten and check and everything is ready.

Session 1 and Tom rides with me for the first lap. I’m still driving sane, so Tom lets me run on my own. Session 1 picks up where I left off on Saturday. The car is running fine and I’m touching 120, 123 on the main straight before I hit the brakes going into turn 1. Tom’s shown me a new line into 1, and I’m starting to hit it. I discover if I come in just a tad fast, I can slide the back end around and be pointing into 2, going just as fast as the “high” line that smashes your front suspension.

I concentrate on repetition and smooth. Each lap, trying to hit the apex, hit the exit, brakes, acceleration, same, same, same. I’m getting consistent and the untimed laps are getting quicker and quicker and I’m smiling more and more.

Session 2 and I’m getting good. The middle of the 30 minute period I nail a great one and I’m in a rush. A couple of easier laps to cool the engine and the driver, then go for some good ones again. The car is going where I point it, I’ve got a nice drift through 4, when I transition to 5 I’m not rocking the car from side to side – starting to glide. This feels good.

Last session on Sunday. Make sure I’m hydrated and nourished, then I’m off. I’m going fast and I’m going smooth and I’m in love. The car is singing sweet music, the engine as she revs, the sounds as I mash the brakes, the slight squeal of the tires as I take the corners. Smooth transitions, smooth curves, smooth drifts, man, it feels like I always wanted it to and never thought I could. I am driving this car and making use of its capabilities. Man and machine are One, and I am that man. I am hooked on the adrenaline rush of racing and there is only one known cure.

The last few laps, and I’ve got to ease off. I’ve reached my physical endurance and it’s time to enjoy some fun laps a little under my new limit. Savor the sights, savor the smells, savor the straightaway where the big boys drive and dream that it could be me.

The checkered flag tells me I’m done and I slow the car down for the cool-off lap and I’m in heaven. The car came through and delivered everything she had, and I learned from her. Smiling like a complete idiot, only no one can see because of the helmet covering my face. Or maybe they can…

Motorsport heaven, and I just had a chance to walk through the gates and visit for a while.

That’s driver’s school for me, BMW Car Club of America Motor City Chapter, Michigan International Speedway, 1997.


©1997, 2012 Curt Larson


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