Thursday, September 28, 2006

A ride in a Le Mans-winning Porsche!

"I am Jorg Bergmeister!!! Well, not entirely. OK, I'm not."

No, I'm not -- but that didn't stop me from getting a ride in the #31 Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR today! ALMS decided to invite "select members of the media" (that being me and two other lucky blokes) to each have a hot lap around Road Atlanta, riding with owner/driver Mike Petersen.

After nearly an hour-long wait (the time it took to get corner officials back to their spots after lunch), the three of us each got a turn in the bolted-in passenger seat as the car took to the course at speed. This was my first time doing a complete lap at Road Atlanta on the track itself (I've walked the entire 2.54-mile infield inside and out, but never driven the actual course), and it was quite a definite "hot lap" to boot. I've watched these cars run at this track for years, and have run the course in Infogrames' Le Mans 24 Hours game on the PS2 a few hundred times -- (note: LM24 is exceptionally cool in that it features Road Atlanta in both Short Course and Grand Prix formats, and the rendering is dead-on accurate) but this was my first run on the tarmac itself.


The car accelerates just like my '96 Neon, only a hell of a lot faster. It brakes like my Neon, only a hundred times quicker. It corners like... hell, who am I kidding - this thing's a pure racing car. Not just any racing car, but the Porsche that's been damn near unstoppable anywhere it's raced in the last 3-4 years.

I would've loved to have gotten behind the wheel and run the ass off of it myself, but somehow I doubt Mr. Petersen would've approved. Nevertheless, he's quite a damn good driver, and he hustled the car around the 2.54 miles quicker than I could have. Probably. ;)

Mylia almost got a ride in the car too, but it turned out they only had time for the first three of us. I had told her, when we were waiting to find out if she'd get a run, "if you pee your pants, I promise I won't laugh." Well, not much, anyway. I'm quite sure that all three of us were quite experienced when it comes to high speed driving - though I'll never make for a good passenger.

Honestly, though, I found it almost relaxing. I was in the car with the guy who owns it and drives it for a living, was wearing proper safety gear -- it wasn't my first time wearing a racing suit and helmet, but it was my first time wearing a HANS device. I've seriously got to get one of these things for Mylia [grins]. It was impossible for me to move my head very far forward or back, and side-to-side motion was set at just the right limit.

Of course, because it was my first time wearing the device, and I couldn't move my head the way I normally do, I managed to bonk my helmet against the upper roll bar above the door. That had to look even less graceful than it really was.

It felt great to get back into a race car, even if I was sitting on the wrong side of the thing. The Porsche is so balanced and just so "right" on the track, I could easily imagine driving one myself. Competetively. Plus, with their durability, there's no wonder why there's so damn many of them in racing.

The pics Mylia shot of me getting suited-up and ready to run are right here.

I don't have any video available yet (I don't have a proper cable to get it from the Sony camcorder onto my notebook - and apparently nobody else does at the moment), but for now the pics are at least some prima facie evidence of the thrill ride. Just... keep in mind that the suit isn't form fitting, and the camera adds like 50 lbs!

If anyone's got skill getting good video captures from an old Sony Hi8 Handycam, drop me a line?

Anyway, back to the racing for me. More later...

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