Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jimmy Vasser and Takuma Sato wail on the Corkscrew

                   You forget pain.  You think hey real racing car, this is gonna be fun. You forget banging your helmet against the roll cage and the origami squeeze of your tangled feet and knees to compress your body into the squirrel-sizel space allowed for a passenger in a race car.  The Lotus Evora GT 4 is a 400 horsepower hard core race car and Jimmy Vasser had never driven it before.  So by his lights he was just kinda pussyfooting around Laguna Seca, feeling it out.  Vasser has that winning, aw shucks, innocent good boy look, that gotta shake my head to get the hair outta my eyes look. That's off the track.  On  the track the '96 Champ Car champ is total ferocity. 

                   It's a steep uphill to the top of the Corkscrew. Nothing but blue sky through the windshield. The car lifts at the top of the hill and there’s that small quiet time like the end off the click click click of a roller coaster before plummet.

              This is the corner where Gonzalo Rodiguez, in the days of 900 hp CARTmissed a shift, speared a concrete barrier and died. Where Alex Zanardi, trailing Brian Herta for lap after lap, on the last lap, suddenly, unexpectedly, while Herta was looking downhill, jumped over the curbs, shortcut the curve and won the race.

                So it's a corner with a lot of history and all you can see is sky.  The plummit of the corkscrew is waiting, twisting, off camber, needful of delicacy and respect. Vasser mashes it. Full whack and for a little while there, while that part of you that wants to live is moaning no, no, no, you hear yourself saying "Go Go Go." Who knew Vasser had a Satanic grin? This is the way a tiger pussyfoots.  I've got one arm stuck out, pointing at the windshield holding my camera to get the godawful video which should be above but blogspot keeps rejecting.  Maybe for obscene speed. Here's a link to the video on Facebook: //!/profile.php?id=762498760 
It will give you some idea of that helmet and shin rattling plunge down the corkscrew at Laguna Seca with Jimmy Vasser.  

            Next ride is with former Formula One driver, Takuma Sato in the stock Lotus Evora.  And it's a gentler smoother ride until Vasser passes us coming out of turn four in the infield. 

            If there's one thing a race driver hates more than gravel in his sandwich it's being passed on the race track.  And OK, it's his boss, and the GT-4 is a whole different level of Evora, 400 horsepower to our 276, 400 lbs lighter, racing slicks.  Doesn't matter. Sato goes nuts.  We do a long broadslide through 5, all four wheels drifting like Fangio used to do, and Takuma never lifts so we come into 6 way too hot, get off into the dirt.  I think we are going to go all the way to the wall as I have seen so many race cars crump here.  But I am wrong and we do not crump the wall but skitter back onto the track.

          Taku never lifts, maybe even catching Vasser a little.  Oh fuck, we are way too hot coming into the top of corkscrew, and we are screwed, sideways.  Taku is on the pedal hard, and I am thinking this is how it ends.  A couple of screw ups in ascending order leading up to the big one.  

          And I am not wrong.  The big one is at the bottom of the hill and Sato just looses it.  Gone.  Over corrects, I think we are gonna back off the track, no we're going off nose first, hard to be sure with your helmet bounding off the roll cage, and I mildly wonder what we are going to hit.  Amazing, incredible, he hasn't lost it.  He's laughing as we bound across the dirt and get back on the track.  "Not enough power," he says.

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