Alex Tagliani with
all of us that got a ride in Milwaukee that Saturday
Prior to the Champ Car race in Milwaukee, I had the
opportunity to go for a 2-seat Champ Car ride with Alex Tagliani. While I
have driven race cars myself on a few occasions, I never had the opportunity to
drive or be driven in a race car that was so 'bad ass' fast.
When I was asked if I wanted to go for a 2-seat
Champ Car ride in Milwaukee it didn't take more than 2 seconds for me two say yes.
That's like asking a kid in a candy store if he wants candy. Be
ready at 12:15 pm they said. I was ready well before that.
After getting suited up it was off to the pits to get buckled in.
For a guy of my size, that wasn't the easiest thing to do. On the first
attempt I simply would not fit in the small passenger compartment. On my
second attempt I pulled my knees in front of the dashboard and they were able to
shoehorn me in.
Sitting with my knees in front of the dashboard the entire ride
wasn't going to be the most pleasant situation I ever found myself in, but there
wasn't anyone who was going to talk me out of that car.
Talking about the
Since I was the last to go out, the engine and tires were already
warmed up. So when they signaled my pilot, Alex Tagliani, that the track was
green he immediately engaged first, brought the rev's up and popped the clutch.
We burned rubber for about 50 feet down pit road and off we went.
The first thing you notice are the high g's we were going to pull
through the corners. We were still on the pit exit lane, and with
tires already warmed, Alex was on it. As we accelerated down the
back straight I said, oh shit, my helmet is going to fly off. I
guess my head was sticking up too high into the airflow and the helmet
was probably a bit too big for my head because my helmet felt like two
goons were trying to pull it straight up off my head. Warning - if you get a
ride, make sure the helmet is snug and the chin strap is tight around your chin.
At Portland Bruno
Junqueira spins the rear wheels as he takes his father, Jose Alberto
Tavares Junqueira, for a ride on Father's Day
While I was prepared for the acceleration of a Champ Car, I didn't
realize how many g's it could pull or how good the brakes were. Because of
the extra weight of the 2-seat Champ Car, Alex had to apply a pretty healthy dose
of brake just before turn-in for turns 1 and 3. While we didn't scrub off
that much speed, you could really feel the braking power of these cars. My
head almost hit the dash board the first time Alex stabbed the brakes. I was
ready the next time.
Entering a corner Alex would stab the brakes, release,
turn-in and let the car take a set in the beginning of the corner (1 &
3) and then gradually apply power starting about the mid-point between 1
& 2 (and 3 & 4) reaching 100% throttle just before exit of the corner.
Except for the stab of the brakes before turns 1 & 3, Alex was smooth
and precise each lap, never once missing his marks, which is easier said
than done at those speeds.
The cornering power of these cars is just awesome. They are
pulling so many g's through the corner that although not painful, the pressure
begins to wear on you after several laps. Having a helmet trying to yank
your head off your neck the whole time doesn't help matters.
After a couple of laps I became acclimated with the punishment my
body was undergoing and I began to imagine doing this with cars racing all around
me. That must be a real eye opener.
Ryan Hunter-Reay prepares to give his father Nick a ride on Father's
I am told we were hitting 180 MPH on the short straights so we were
probably going faster than an IRL car can go around this flat 1-mile track.
I could not help but notice the track had no SAFER Barrier installed so I was glad
I had someone with Tagliani's ability behind the wheel.
I was told before the ride that no one has pushed the panic button
yet. I decided I wasn't going to push it unless we were headed for the wall.
I figured if we were going to slam into the wall and experience a 100 g's or so, a push might be
in order to signify I was saying "oh shit" while I was putting my head between my
legs to kiss my posterior goodbye. Whoever invented this silly oval race
thing anyway? The Europeans realized decades ago racing on ovals was
ridiculously dangerous and costly and abandoned them. Silly
all the drivers and their fathers who got 2-seat rides for Father's
I came away with a better appreciation of what it feels like to
oval race at these speeds, because most of my prior experience was on road courses
in an open wheel car, and in a slower Winston Cup car at Nazareth. The
danger and the almost constant g's definitely get your attention.
This 2-seat car is one of Champ Car's greatest assets.
They need another one or two more because the more people (media, fans
and dignitaries) they can give rides to, the more people will become
fans for life. It may appear to be an expensive form of
advertisement, but I suspect word-of-mouth promotion will occur from
anyone who gets a ride.
The only thing better than this ride, was if I was driving myself.
Now if I can only talk a team owner into lending me a car for an hour on a
road course........How about Road America guys?
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