And I can’t stop thinking about it. It was better than I thought it could be in every possible way. The G forces are obviously the prevailing feeling. Somewhere around 5 lateral G’s in corners and braking is downright crazy. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
It’s so raw.
You lower yourself down into what feels kind of a carbon fiber bobsled. The sides come up to your cheeks. Before they motor starts, there’s an odd calm. The helmet blocks the sound. The restraints block your movement. The driver’s seat blocks your vision. There’s not much to focus on except the feel of the carbon fiber through your race suit and the beating of your own heart. I actually felt my heart beating fast and spend 4-5 seconds slowing things down a bit.
A few seconds later, someone snaps down my visor and the engine fires up. In an instant, you feel everything coursing through you. You’re aware of the vehicle’s construction. It feels tight but large. Not even seconds later someone pushes the car forward from behind and then the gearbox engages with a smooth fury. Full throttle is pretty much instant and you gain speed faster than you could have ever fathomed. However, the experience of gaining speed is non-linear.
That’s the high of speed. You’re always chasing the next one. For my friend Dave, that was the most shocking part of the experience, but for me, I was impressed with the linearity of the power band and how smoothly it came on.
But as smooth as the speed came on, it came off with a force that is somewhat indescribable. My research suggests that its around 5 G’s of lateral force. That doesn’t do it justice. Suddenly, you become aware of the grip and of how much feel comes through the chassis. Each butt cheek feels the exact grit of the pavement on either side of the car. Your eyes and organs shift forward in your squishy body. Humans weren’t really made for this.
Circuit of the Americas first corner is strange. For a first time (and most likely only time) in an Indycar, it provides some unique perspective. The hard straight braking separates the corner from the brakes so you taste each ingredient on its own. Even though the first corner is somewhat slow, you feel it push you hard right and your body’s muscles fight back.
For the next 4-5 corners, things become a blur. The left and right motion of the track puts huge strain on your muscles and with limited ability to see (only about 30 degrees to the left and 30 to the right, with a 45 degree blind spot in the middle for the driver’s seat), your brain struggles to keep up. There’s a bit of panic as it adjusts. Then, strangely, that feeling melts away. What’s left is an enjoyment as your brain starts to feel the car again.
The grip on each side of the car comes through and as the drive hits the rumble strip you get a sense of just how incredible the suspension is and how the aerodynamics of the car keep it planted even when half the tires are skipping over the ground.
And just like that, it’s over. It felt like 35.5 seconds but it was indeed 2 minutes and 45 seconds. On the back straight, the limiter kicked in at 175mph.
I could never have asked for a better day and our vendor absolutely didn’t have to do it. Hanging out with them over this weekend and truly experiencing Indycar gave me an entirely new appreciation for the sport. TV doesn’t do it justice. Nothing does. And that’s what makes it hardest to really talk about. There are no points of reference. Normally, hitting 5 G’s means you’ve done something wrong. In this case, you’ve done something oh-so-right. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. This isn’t an experience most people will have. Frankly, I’m still kind of wondering what kind of cosmic button I had to push to get here.
Oh, and 30 minutes later, I met Mario Andretti at the Jalopnik meetup. Most importantly however, I met Stef and we took the blurriest selphie anyone has ever seen. It’s so bad, that Kinja flips it upside down in an attempt to make it right.