[V8] Re: Fw: SPOILER: F-1 results. Complaints, anyone?

JShadzi at aol.com JShadzi at aol.com
Mon May 13 20:52:09 EDT 2002

Scott, I totally agree, anyone who would question any time of auto racing probably has never been on a crowded track with very aggressive drivers attempting to pass you at the slightest opportunity.


In a message dated Mon, 13 May 2002  7:41:54 PM Eastern Daylight Time, "Fisher, Scott" <Scott_Fisher at intuit.com> writes:

>Michael Riebs writes:
>> Can someone explain to me please, how there can possibly be
>> an enormous amount of skill involved in simply keeping your
>> foot in it all day, and going around in a circle? (OK, "oval"!).
>I'll try -- and not as a fan; the only oval-track race I ever watch on TV is
>the Indianapolis 500.  But I've crewed for my friend Jeff Zurschmeide, who
>drives a cheap stock-class enduro Camaro in oval-track racing when he's not
>racing with the SCCA or acting as steward at National events (which he did
>all this past weekend).  Jeff and I went through road-racing driver's school
>11 years ago, he's put in his time in production category sports car racing
>on tracks with right and left turns.  He also races the Camaro for a very
>different reason than he races vintage (what he's done for the past four or
>five years).
>First, have you ever driven in competition?  And no, I don't mean trying to
>outdrag the SUV next to you when the light changes, or trying to shut
>somebody down on the freeway before their lane goes away.  I mean on a
>racetrack, with a course worker waving a green flag at you, trying to stay
>ahead somebody who is flat-out doing everything possible to make sure YOU
>stay behind HIM or HER while simultaneously trying not to slide off into the
>concrete barriers at the edge of the track.  If you haven't... then I humbly
>suggest that you don't really have a sense of what it takes to do that.  You
>can guess, and you can imagine, and you can extrapolate, but you don't know
>what it really takes, in your soul and in the pit of your stomach, to do
>this.  So there's a starting point.  It'll go a lot easier if you accept
>that you genuinely don't know -- no more than I know what it takes to go
>into Tamburello at 175 mph or turn 1 at the Brickyard at 240.
>Speed changes everything -- if you're talking about an Indy car, the air
>buffeting your head is literally staggering.  I know from experience that
>driving an open cockpit car at 100-110 mph for an hour or so makes you feel
>like you've been used as a punching bag by a welterweight boxer; the wind
>whips your head back and forth, little gusts tapping you FAST and HARD
>dozens of times a minute.  When you're in traffic, it's worse; the
>disruption caused by the car in front of you punching a hole in the air is
>something you really have to feel to believe.  Now, based on this experience
>and the knowledge that wind resistance (and the energy it imparts when it
>hits you) increases with the cube of the velocity, I can try to imagine what
>it feels like.  But I have no idea what it's like just trying to keep your
>eyes focused on the pavement at 240 mph, much less put the wheels at exactly
>the right place to keep from smacking the wall at the exit.
>Now let's talk about the other guys and gals on track with you.  Ever see
>what happens to an open-wheel car when the tires touch the car next to you?
>Again, I have no idea what this feels like for a CART or IRL driver; my only
>experience with touching wheels with another driver is from racing karts.  I
>had been holding off a much younger and (ahem) lighter driver who was really
>quick in the straights, but who didn't have the lines that I did in the
>twisties.  I'd kept him behind me for a few laps by driving as defensively
>as possible, making the kart as wide as I could but knowing that, with his
>power-to-weight advantage, he was bound to catch me in the long straightway
>of the track we were driving on.  Suddenly, in the middle of a left-right S
>turn, I felt an impact from my right rear and I was instantly snapped around
>backwards, just in time to see the other guy's kart coming down, upside
>down, right on his helmet, and I thought, Oh my God, I've just killed a kid.
>I hadn't; red flags flew everywhere, my own hand went up to warn the other
>drivers coming through the esses behind us, and as the course workers ran
>out as fast as possible, I saw the other guy scramble out from under his
>kart and turn it right-side up and gesture for a push.  They required a
>medical inspection, though I wouldn't have been surprised if it had included
>a psych evaluation as well.
>Of course, that little heart-stopper doesn't begin to describe what I've
>watched from the pits while Jeff is out trying to keep the Camaro more or
>less in one piece for three hundred laps at South Sound speedway.  Do you
>know what I'm talking about if I say "the line"?  Well, the line is almost
>meaningless in a crowded short-track oval race.  You can start your
>turn-down at the outside and shoot for the apex, except there are probably
>three other cars there, two of them trying to pass you on the inside because
>you left them three lanes of clear track, and the other one probably heading
>up towards the wall backwards from trying not to be passed by the rest of
>you.  So your sense of "the line" suddenly becomes a matter of not hitting
>the cars that are now squirreling around trying not to hit each OTHER.  It's
>not a matter of reaction time -- if you have to react, it's probably too
>And then there's Jeff's favorite: coming off the corner, heading down the
>straight at 75-80 mph in the middle of a pack of cars, passing some and
>trying to stay ahead of the fast guys, and suddenly it's a brown-out because
>someone in front of you went off in the dirt and kicked up a cloud of dust
>in which you can't see three feet in any direction.  If you slow down too
>much, the cars behind you will collect you and smash you up into the wall;
>if you don't slow down enough, you'll get to the end of the straight and
>punch into the wall on your own.  Unless the car that went off is now
>sideways in front of you, and you won't know it till you hit it.
>So having sat in the seat of road-race cars and stood in the pits of an
>oval-track racer, I'd have to say that the enormous amount of skill is
>devoted to keeping the car on the pavement and going the right direction, in
>the face of 20 or 30 other people trying to do it faster than you, and at a
>speed at which you have really no basis of comparison, no matter how fast
>you think you've taken your Audi on the freeway.  Oh, sure, on TV it looks
>like they're just taxi drivers.  Try it sometime.  Jeff rents his Camaro out
>to people who want to get a feel for it.  If you're ever in the Portland,
>Oregon area, drop me a line, we'll arrange a ride for you.  It's... intense.
>Even at the comparatively low speeds that this spec-class racing series
>achieves.  But that'll give you a little bit of respect for what it takes to
>do this.  I've stood in the infield at the Indy 500 and been struck
>nerveless by the sheer size of the place. I can't imagine what it takes to
>go around it at 240 mph for three hours.
>In short -- I'm not going to say you have to LIKE watching oval track racing
>on television.  Hell, *I* don't particularly LIKE watching oval track racing
>on television.  But I believe you can have no real grounds for questioning
>the talent or skill of the drivers out there doing things you cannot begin
>to get a taste of unless you've done it, or something enough like it, for
>yourself.  And if you'd done it yourself, even at a lower speed or in a
>less-expensive series, you'd know what it takes, and you wouldn't ask.
>--Scott Fisher
>  Tualatin, Oregon

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