Lunatic. Criminal. Outlaw. Madman. I’ve been called all of these, but I take the greatest pride in never having been called stupid. I’m not a race car driver, nor have I ever claimed to be, but if my greatest vice were to kill me tomorrow - specifically, were I to perish like the fat man in “The Meaning of Life” - I’d still most likely be remembered for what I’ve done behind the wheel.
It’s been five years since I and my co-pilot drove from New York to Los Angeles in 31 hours and 4 minutes, and still, when asked why, I never give the same answer twice.
It wasn’t until Michael “Skiny” Power asked me to join the Gentleman’s Guide To Racing that I came to understand the truth.
It isn’t the driver’s seat that compels me, nor cars, nor speed.
It’s the adventure.
It’s the adventure that only becomes possible in a car, on a motorcycle, in a boat, on a plane, suspended from a parachute or dangling from a ledge from a single piton.
I, like the majority of people, will only ever know this feeling in a car, for the car is the most common and democratizing of inventions - a Byzantine sum of man’s accumulated knowledge in chemistry, physics, aerodynamics, metallurgy and manufacturing - that, even in it’s simplest iteration, frees the soul to pursue it’s literal and figurative dreams.
Who hasn’t felt the cathartic joy of a midnight drive, one’s favorite song wailing beside the roar of wind through open windows? Or reached out through an open sunroof and fought to keep one’s cupped hand straight against the force of nature? Or transcended some disappointment through the introspective clarity granted by speed under a night sky?
This joy is as universal as the best documented Jungian symbology.
And yet there remains a broadly misunderstood line dividing driving and racing.
Which brings us to The Gentleman’s Guide to Racing.
Putting one’s foot down for five seconds is easy. A minute a little harder. This, the race from light to light, is the first step beyond commuting. This is where most of us stop, for to drive is to start, stop, brake and turn...one at a time. To drive is the most primitive of physical sciences. To drive well is merely to repeat practiced sequences which, if done correctly, will lead to a long a healthy life.
Racing is art. To stop, start, brake and turn, or to combine two or more actions, and to do so under race conditions is many orders of magnitude more difficult. One hundred years ago, the first race drivers’ agile footwork was referred to as “the dance”, a dance executed during hours when he was subjected to extreme heat, dust, vibration, G-forces, rocks and debris. Then and now, if a race driver is to reach and redefine the highest levels of the art, he must also intuit several dimensions of a reality impossible to simulate, comprising both the present and a future mere seconds away, and both the physical landscape of battle and the physics of machines controlled by humans simultaneously balancing the very same hope, desire, fear and purpose.
One hundred years has given us self-sealing fuel tanks, Halon fire suppression, carbon brakes, breakaway body panels, roll cages, Nomex suits and HANS devices.
But one thing hasn’t changed. Anything can happen. The greatest race driver dances the most dangerous dance, to which human nature ascribes - right or wrong - the surreal notion of a life lived a little more fully than those who’ve never known that feeling, however fleeting.
A Gentleman knows that feeling, and craves it again, yet knows there is more than the dance.
The GGTR begins with that dance, and follows not only the act of going on stage, but the pleasure of a life in the theater of racing, whether backstage or in the audience, alone or among like-minded others.
I won’t be driving this time, but I couldn’t be more thrilled about having been given a ticket, and the co-pilot's seat.