A Trackside ‘Wilder Girl’ Story of Pushing Yourself To Grow
As I stare into his eyes, I’m surprised by my lack of fear. Everything has shifted out of my control, temporarily at least. Later I would learn with surprise and then remembrance that I was in fact laughing.
– – –
Its cold and I am cranky in the early morning light traveling down back roads when I’d rather be in bed, but I know that in a couple hours I’ll be glad I made the effort. About 15 miles out, I’ve started to smile and take over driving. It’s been a week since I’ve been behind the gear shift and don’t want go cold out the gate.
A guy wanders up to us and strikes up a conversation. I realize with surprise and pleasure that I’ve shifted from complete newbie to someone who can answer questions of protocol, timing, and location of useful things such as the restrooms, paddock and where to sign up for hot laps.
I pull around the Shelby Mustang, left alone in the lane of shame, it’s owner loosing track of the ebb and flow. I’m near the back of the pack as I pull onto the track. Not my favorite place. Things get sticky and messy at the back of the accordion. I was commenting (complaining) this morning about the lackluster speed of the pace car on my last outing, as if tempting the universe to give me what I asked for. Already, the first lap was fast. The field was muscle car heavy, creating fast straightaways and bunchy turns. As the cars ahead of me pulled away, I started to get nervous. No pace car to mimic. Much to my horror, I could hear little sounds of distress escaping me, feeling like I’m underprepared. I don’t have their acceleration as they pull away from me in the straight away, but I catch them again as we hit the curves. A slink of the accordion.
I begin to catch my rhythm, letting the car get loose and squealy. “Trust the car”, Nate reminds me. I remember what every car enthusiast has said about the Miata. It sticks and sticks, despite the roll of the body. The car behind me is staying close. Tailgating I would say. Pushing. A white bmw that can obviously accelerate faster; they’re nimble in the curves too.
I go in hotter and hotter into each turn. It’s terrifying and exciting. I remind myself that the sensation of fear and sensation of excitement are the same. That the difference is how the brain perceives the stimulus. I slide into turn 5 a little faster than I meant to. The slide feels endless. Adrenaline spikes as I notice the curb getting closer. I register that this is the fun of oversteering, as the back end takes on a momentum of its own. “We need to wrap faster”, my fear brain begins to shout. I turn a little harder, because I don’t trust it. And then it happens…. The car gets squirmy and wiggly with sudden weight and momentum shifts. Soon I’m correcting the other direction, but a hair too hard, as the back end takes the lead.
Thats when we lock eyes…. Me and the driver of the white bmw behind me, face to face. Then my eyes drift over the 5 other cars behind him in the pack as I continue the spiral. The fear doesn’t come until later. Not until after we come to a stop, ass end out, in the grass, with only the front tires on the track, as if we are bystanders on the sideline. I smile and wave at the concerned looks of the drivers who watched the show from behind me. “I’m fine”, I try to tell the. And I am. Though my hands are shaking and it’s hard to breathe. This was probably my biggest fear. Loosing control, flying off the track. My usual luck held out. And good track design. No trees, people or cars were harmed.
Growing up with horses I learned two valuable things. Practice falling safely and always get back on the horse. So, I watch for the opening and pull out. Albeit a bit more cautiously at first. For half a lap I’m still trying to work through the adrenaline and hesitation. “You got this” Nate says. I grin and laugh. “Woo wooooo!!” It feels good to let it out. The battle cry. This is the sound we used to get Finn puppy excited and pumped up. It’s the sound of the pack getting ready to roll out. I start to push again, letting the tires squeal. As I slide through Oak Tree, my favorite turn, I let out a deep breath and feel the joy of power, speed, agility and the comfort of pushing your boundaries, knowing it will help you grow.
– – – –
Next step, hot laps. Letting a professional show you how it feels to be in control of the out of control. Sliding, braking, skidding, using ALL of the track in your turns. Surprisingly I’ve never once been scared. I’ve simply been amazed and awed by what a car can do. “I started racing go carts when I was 8”, he says in reply when I asked my driver how long he’s been playing with cars. “I was 2 weeks old when I attended my first race. You could say I was born into it.”
– – –
“Hey! Hey!!!!”, I hear as I leave pit row. I turn with surprise to find two men approaching me. “You’re the girl that spun out ahead of me, right?” It’s the pushy driver of the white bmw. “Yeah! Sorry about that…” “You were doing so well out there,” he says. “I’ve been joking to our buddies that he pushed you off the road,” his friend pipes in. I mention that I dislike being in the back because I don’t have a pace car in view to help pick lines and reasonable speeds, and the slinky effect of the pack when you have very different cars and different skill levels. “Your lines were great,” he says…. “He’s been bragging about your driving,” the friend adds in. “You kept it under control, even as you started spinning. And you were laughing.”
p.s. Holiday Laps is a charity fundraiser, a fun day for all levels of drivers and ability. It is not intended for ‘serious’ use of the track, for racing or testing your car. It is completely your own choice, within safety limits, how fast or slow you choose to complete the course. I was using the opportunity to learn how to handle my car in turns but I certainly didn’t intend to spin out. The safety of others and myself are both primary considerations when enjoying Holiday Laps.