I guarantee you this story turns out good, but for right now, picture me going through the most treacherous high speed turn in all of motorsports. It’s Turn 17 at Sebring International Raceway. I’m spinning around backwards, tire smoke is everywhere…
My life isn’t flashing before my eyes (I’m kind of busy figuring out how to avoid the wall), I’m not driving over my head and I’ve been through this corner a hundred times. So how did I get in this predicament?
Like most of you, I progressed my way up the ladder of motorsport racing. Every good racer will tell you to start out slow (jr. dragsters, go karts etc..) and learn those all important vehicle dynamics. When your race horse decides to buck, you need to know which way to lean, INSTANTLY. If you start off small and you’re just falling off a pony its a lot shorter drop to the ground.
If you decided your motorsports calling was to be an engine builder/tuner, its a lot cheaper to burn up a Briggs and Stratton then a Nitrous injected 632. So you need to learn what an engine sounds or feels like when its lean or rich. This experience gives you a feel for when something is not right and that feeling can save you money or your life.
Back to the story. So, as I reached for second gear and was trying to rotate the car mid spin away from the wall, I saw Patrick Dempsey (yes the guy from Greys Anatomy) smiling at me and giving me the laughing wave. I instantly remembered only moments before, in the pit lane, I had harassed him for flying off Turn 17 and now it was me.
Patrick Dempsey – An accomplished road racer, drives the SuperCuts Mustang in the Koni Challenge Series.
This was Dempsey’s fault. Or was it? Only moments earlier I was barreling down the 3000 foot long straightaway that leads to this scary damn corner and Dempsey was in his Panoz Esperante filling my rearview mirror. He had caught the draft off my car out of the previous corner and was tucked in tight behind me, waiting for a mistake. Here it comes. Now previously I had pushed this corner to its absolute limit and knew how late I could brake and downshift into it. But Dempsey was right behind me and I wanted to push it just a bit farther. That was it, it didn’t stick and around I went.
This is the lesson, its the same lesson we all keep learning over and over. “Don’t let others make you do things you normally wouldn’t do”. Why do we have to keep learning this lesson, at what point does it stick?
So as you progress in your motorsports career and your vehicle gets faster and your engine gets more powerful, be smart. Remember that lesson. Don’t drive or tune a car or engine faster or more powerful than you are capable. Both can leave you with Patrick Dempsey giving you that laughing wave as he goes by and your car fills with smoke.
Oh, yea, I told you this had a good ending, Later that day, in the race, I was in the lead and Dempsey was second and trying a pass in the same exact corner. Suddenly his car cut off on him and he rolled to a stop. I finished a full straightaway ahead of the rest of the field, taking the win. Sometimes, its better to be lucky than good.
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