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After Sonoma
Rank Driver Points

1. Pagenaud, Simon 532
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31. Tagliani, Alex 22
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34. Wilson, Stefan (R) 12
35. Lazier, Buddy 659

Chevy 1814
Honda 1710
IndyCar 2-Seater is a wild ride

by Scott Morris
Thursday, April 22, 2010


Scott Morris after his IndyCar 2-seater ride.
The driving suits are very slimming.
Having been to most of the IndyCar events so far this year covering for AR1, I was offered the opportunity to experience the IndyCar 2-Seater ride here at Long Beach. If I could have picked one track to go for a ride, this one would be it. I have been watching Long Beach since I was just a "wee lad" (as Dario Franchitti or Jackie Stewart might say), almost as long as I have been watching the Indy 500, and loved watching Little Al claim this turf as his own. It is a marquee race on the open wheel calendar every year, no matter who races here.

Now that we have one series, we can see that this event is growing once again, and I was really excited to be able to experience the mystique of one of the original street course events in the world, and certainly the signature street course race in America.

One of the IndyCar two-seat cars
Mark Cipolloni/
They have several drivers for the 2-seater program. Among them is Davey Hamilton, who only shows the slightest hint of his serious leg injuries from a few years back. In fact, I was told that this was part of his rehab process, turning laps in these cars, with VIP passengers that should also be fitted with diapers. Arie Luyendyk Jr. also drives, and so does Stephan Gregoire.

Let's face it, 99 out of 100 people that ride in these cars will never come anywhere close to experiencing anything like this in their lives. Especially on a course where the concrete walls are flying by so close you could reach out and touch them. I was just making sure they get the driving suits cleaned after each run.

When I got word that my ride had been approved, I waited a few hours until the allotted time, and headed over to the trailer where they operate and maintain the cars.

After signing about 10 pages of waivers, and making sure I had my Last Will and Testament finalized and skipping lunch just to be safe, I was fitted for a driving suit. They asked me what my size was, and since they didn't have "fat guy" I found something that fit well enough. The suits are smartly branded with National Guard, HP and IZOD color and logos, to match the cars. Apparently they group the sizes of the suits with the sizes of the car seats too, which I thought was pretty clever way of organizing it all.

After donning the entire ensemble of driving gear, suit, boots, gloves, balaclava and helmet, they help you into the car. It is a tight fit, and I had to raise my arms above my head to squeeze in. Once down inside, since you are sitting behind the driver tandem-style, your knees stay bent and raised in front of you, rather than down inside a foot box. The crew helps you put on your belts because there is no way you can reach them, just like we see them do for the IndyCar drivers. They snug them down so tight you can hardly exhale, which is reassuring to know you aren't going anywhere.

There is a handle attached to the seat in front for you to hang-on, and there are two red buttons. One is for the fire extinguisher, and the other has a label on it that I thought had an "O.S." label. You can imagine what O.S. stands for. As Bill Cosby said "First you say it, then you do it..." But on closer inspection, the button said "E.S." which they told me stands for emergency shut-down. It's basically a panic button. Yeah...we're not pushing that one.

Once the track was clear, they fire up the cars and head out onto the track. There is a special break in the pit wall so that they can give you the most complete lap experience into turn one, so they don't use the normal pit exit or entrance. Also, the cars are too long and cannot turn tight enough to navigate the hairpin, so they duck into the pit shortcut and then back out onto the main straight.

I was in the first set of cars, so we got an extra lap so they could warm up the tires and brakes. Lucky me.

Arie was my driver, and he tossed the car back and forth just like we see on TV. I could feel the bumpy street surface on my hind side, almost as if I were riding on just a piece of plywood in a steel wagon. I can't imagine running a whole race like that. It certainly is a physical experience. Even more so when they really turn it on and run the car. You can feel it kick you in the head when he steps on it coming onto the main straight, and then the other way when he brakes for turn one, which is really bumpy in the braking zone. Then he weaves through the fountain turn and turns 4 and 5. The next short straight still yields a lot of speed before jumping on the brakes again for the right hander. The downshifts were silky smooth, and you couldn’t really feel them, but could hear the engine note.

One more right hander and we blasted down the back straight, over 150 mph on a city street. You can see the speed limit and other street signs whiz by in a blur. It seemed to me like Arie was a bit conservative braking for turn 9, which is understandable of course. He got on the binders at marker 5, and I would guess the top IndyCar guys are braking at the 3 marker, but carrying considerably more speed. There are some bumps on this entry too. You can tell this is not supposed to be a race track.

That concluded my experience of a lifetime. If you ever get a chance, it's something every fan should do.

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