Editor's Note: Cássio
Côrtes is a young Brazilian journalist who writes for
Multilingual (English, Portuguese, Spanish and French), Mr.
Cortes brings a fresh South American perspective to our
Champ Car's pace car program is one of its best assets Cassio Cortes
By now you may have had enough of hearing about
what a great track Road America, “USA’s Spa”, is. The entire
Champ Car field never tires of preaching Elkhart Lake’s
gospel, praising it as a genuine “driver’s track”.
As a neophyte to Wisconsin, it was my duty to see if this
historic road course indeed lives up to all its hype. So I
signed up for Champ Car’s “Fast Lap” program, consisting of,
well, a fast lap around RA’s tricky turns, riding shotgun in
one of the series’ pace cars.
At 9:35am, little more than four hours before the Champ Car
field would take the green flag, I climbed aboard a maroon
Ford Mustang SVT Cobra, steered, by all things, a woman.
Turns out the entire pace car team is comprised of lovely
ladies, who only stay lovely until their right foot hits the
My driver is Linda Pobst, who has been on the team for seven
years. But the Cobra’s V8 power is apparently not enough for
her – she’s an accomplished autocross, sports car and
Linda tells me that, since RA is such a long track, we’ll
only be doing half a lap. Before I begin cursing, I see our
shortened route will include the Carousel and the Kink, so
I keep the whining to myself.
How many times have you began small-talking a lady this way:
“So…This is the SVT Cobra… 390 horsepower, huh?”
But Ms. Pobst is all business: “Actually, we’re running a
little hotter than that. No street-legal exhaust”.
Elevation change and speed make Road America downright
We’re leaving the Road America Center, and the
V8’s roar becomes too loud for puerile conversations. Going
under the Toyota bridge and making a left on turn six, the
Cobra has the first chance to stretch its legs on the
appropriately named Hurry Downs. Turn eight and the Snap-On
bridge goes by in a flash, and we reach the famed Carousel.
The only kindergarten reference you’ll experience there
might be those times when you were bullied by being gyrated,
against your will, on the merry-go-round. As much as I keep
tilting my neck right, the lateral G’s insist on pushing it
left, and the damn corner never seems to end.
Eventually, it does – we’re not exactly moving slow, after
all. Then on for more adrenaline-pumping action: the Kink,
where the men set themselves apart from the boys, and only
the fearless dare to take it on full throttle.
Since Linda probably has no interest in defining herself as
either a man or a boy, I don’t know what to expect. Oh boy,
the woman lifts the gas but a hair, as the left side tires
flirt with the curb and the spookily close barriers.
Time for the Kettle Bottoms and Canada Corner (RA’s unique
turn names definitely give away its ancient origins, from a
time long before tracks like Montmelo in Spain sold naming
rights to corners), and then it’s game over for a ride that
was definitely not long enough.
I hop off the Cobra thinking that, although most race fans
love to boast about their "need for speed", the
often-overlooked fact is that the human body is incapable of
Think of taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State
Building. You sense your weight being pressed against the
floor when it begins to climb, and you feel "light" as the
elevator comes to a halt at the top – yet during the time in
between, you are unable to tell whether you're actually
climbing all those stories or simply stopped.
We perceive acceleration only, be it positive, negative
(deceleration) or lateral. Thus, running at a steady 220mph
would be as exciting as watching Regis & Kathy Lee alongside
Grandma if it weren't for all the attrition and blurred
sights that traveling at such speed ensues.
Nothing proves such basics of physics as a good session of
road racing, and that’s why this sport is the ultimate
thrill. And nothing, at least in the US, compares to Road
America when it comes to delivering large doses of this
Ultimate racing machines like Champ Cars belong in places
like this one, even if it does seem lost in the middle of
rural Wisconsin sometimes. Road racing aficionados must help
Champ Car and Road America to maintain their relationship,
in ’05 and beyond, and the best way to do so is showing up
on race day.
I surely intend to do my share, especially if they keep
throwing in free pace car rides to sweeten the deal.
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