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Strapped to a rocket on the Indianapolis track


I enjoy sitting in front of a television set or at a race track watching those odd shaped, Formula One or Indy cars zooming around the track in such exotic locations as Monte Carlo, Dubai, Singapore or Watkins Glenn. These cars are made by such famous manufacturers as Mercedes or Ferrari and all have one thing in common. They are built to go fast, really fast. Ever wonder what it would feel like to drive one of these cars? I have and drove one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last summer.

I arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a beautiful sunny day feeling very nervous and excited. The entrance I chose was through a long, dimly lit tunnel made for two lanes of traffic going under the track from the main street into the parking area. I parked my car in a parking lot that could hold thousands of cars but was now nearly empty. Signs directed me to the pit area and a registration desk manned by employees of the Indy Racing Experience Company. I registered at their desk, signed many forms and agreed that if anything bad happened during the next several hours, it would be my fault.
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I joined a group of ten other men who would also drive. We moved to a locker room, stripped to our shorts and donned fire proof suits, socks and shoes and moved to a classroom for an hour-long safety lesson. We were told how to start the car, stop the car, what to do in case of fire or a flat tire and how to use the Dead Man’s Pedal. To summarize: “Drive the car, enjoy the ride, but bring yourself and the car back to the pit area in one piece”.

Our group moved from the classroom to the pit area. Names were called out in groups of two. When my name was called, I received a fireproof stocking for my head, thick bulky gloves for my hands and was directed toward my car. The car was silver, low to the ground, covered with several very large white decals advertising automotive products and had black fourteen inch wide tires. The machine seemed to speak to me daring me to tame it if I could. A professional driver once said:”When I get into the car, I am getting into the jaws of a lion.” I felt the same.
Track day at Indianapolis
Four men were assigned to each car. Before my drive started, two checked the mechanical aspects of the car especially the tires. The third man helped me into the car and the fourth watched my every move. You might wonder why someone needs help. Remember, the car is built for speed first and not for driver comfort. Getting into the seat was quite an ordeal. First one of the crew members pushed a large grey button in the middle of the steering wheel allowing it to come off the steering column. I then squeezed into the small space created and tried to get comfortable in my seat. The man watching all of this walked over looked carefully at me as asked if I still wanted to drive. I said “yes”. The crew member attached six seat belts. Two belts connected across my waist, two connected over my shoulders and two came up between my legs. All were pulled very tight. Once again, my watcher walked over and asked if I still wanted to drive. I shook my head up and down (my mouth was so dry, I could not talk). The crew member asked if I could reach the control pedals with my feet. The seats on these cars rest a few inches above the pavement and the control pedals are about six inches higher than your waist. I moved my feet around found the pedals and nodded that all was well. Finally, the watcher came once again, handed me my helmet, told me to put it on and said that he was going to start the engine. He looked right into my eyes and said: “When I start the engine, I will move back and you will have to drive. Do you still want to do this?” I shook my head yes. He started the engine. The machine came alive. I felt the motor vibrate my entire body, and could hear the loud roar of the engine. I waved at my watcher, he waved back. By this time, my gloved hands were moist, had sweat running down my face and I was having trouble breathing. But I was ready.

My car was one of three on the track. One of the other cars was the lead car driven by a professional driver and the other car was driven by another amateur like me. The lead car started. I released the clutch and followed him onto the track. Our instructions were to press the accelerator half way down as we entered the track, push it to the floor while on the track, to stay close behind the lead car and not to pass him. I tried to remember all of these and other things from our safety class as we approached the first turn. Could I make the turn with my gas pedal pushed to the floor? At the last second, I eased up ever so slightly and made the turn without crashing into the wall. I did not ease up on the next or any other turn. My car was built for speed. It hates sitting in a pit lane. The car was happy now. I decided to let it go and hang on as best I could.
Track day at Indianapolis
I relaxed a little. Slowly, I gained confidence in myself and my machine. I kept the accelerator pushed to the floor even on the turns. I was pushed far back into my seat on the straight a ways and my right shoulder was pushed sharply into the outside edge of my seat with each turn. I read that your organs actually move around inside your body during one of these rides. I reach a speed of about 160 miles (257 Km) per hour and go around the track for three laps, two and one half miles per lap or a total of 7.5miles(12Km). The time goes by in a flash. My lead car returns to the pit. I follow, stop where I started and am warmly greeted by the pit crew. One of them helps me with my helmet, unbuckles my seat belts, removes the steering wheel and motions for me to get out. I can’t do it! My legs are jello and I have no strength in my arms. I realize that I forgot to breathe during my ride and my muscles are useless. A crew member helps me out. I am a bit wobbly but I feel great. I did it! I drove my car, followed the lead car as instructed and returned safely. Wow! I can do this!
Track day at Indianapolis
Now for part two. I got into the back seat of a specifically designed two seat car similar to the one I drove. This car had two very different additions. It had a much bigger engine and a multi-speed transmission. The car was driven by a professional driver and I was going for a ride. Within seconds of our start, my driver was going faster that I went in my whole trip. He went into every turn at full throttle. The car vibrated and pushed me this way and that. At each turn, it felt like a giant hand was crushing me against the side of the seat. The noise was deafening. The light poles on the side of the track went by faster than I could count them and it seemed like the walls at the edge of the track were only inches away. In other words, the ride was wonderful! We reached a top speed of about 180 miles (289 Km) per hour. The track record is 220 miles (354 Km) per hour.

David Beres in fireproof suitAfter my second ride, I stayed in the pit area soaking up the atmosphere. I savored the roar of the engines as they went by me, the feel of the ground shaking, and the smell of the exhaust and the voices of the pit crew as they prepared cars. I looked up into the bleachers from Pit #1 and just smiled. I’m at Indy!!

Do you want to have experiences like the ones I described? If so, visit http://www.indyracingexperience.com for full details. The company has posted their 2015 racing schedule and you will find many interesting venues.

Need further convincing? Visit this you tube video and go for a ride!

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