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October 5, 2009 - Autos
Author:

Robert Eckaus
The Ride Of Your Life at Laguna Seca



Combine the philanthropy and resources of Club Auto Sport with the participation of Hooked On Driving for a Community Appreciation weekend that is free to the public, and it's a great time for everyone. Add the opportunity to bid for a ride at speed in an actual NASCAR, driven by Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan or a Bugatti Veyron or Porsche Carrera GT around Laguna Seca and it truly becomes the Ride Of Your Life. The beneficiary of the bidding for the "Ride of your Life" at this event was the SPCA for Monterey County. This event was held September 12th and 13th, 2009.

Arriving on Sunday morning, if I hadn't known better from the level of organization and professionalism exhibited, I was attending a major professional racing event. Considering the variety of cars present and it was free to the public to attend, one could argue it was even better. In my case, I was a passenger in a car driven at speed and currently racing in the Historic Stock Car Racing Series.

Other groups that were racing or hot lapping included Porsches with many GT3 Cup Cars, the Formula Mazda Challenge and Formula 2000 series, 600cc and 1000cc Supersport Motorcycles, Intermediate and Advanced hot laps for street cars and Advanced for race-prepped cars. Street cars included Ferrari F430s, F430 Scuderias, and Nissan GT-Rs. The advanced class included a fully modified late 60's Camaro, a Speed GT eligible Corvette and I think I spotted a former GM Racing CTS-V. The variety was excellent.

The specific car I rode in was Alan Kulwicki's 1992 Ford Thunderbird, chassis #007 that won at the Ford City 500 in Bristol and the Champion Spark Plug 500 at Pocono, PA. Powered by a 358 cubic inch V8 originally producing 720hp+ and weighing 3400lbs, it was fast. Very fast. First we had to make sure I fit inside. I did, but it was tight. There is no door so you literally have to climb in through the window and sit down low in the little seat surrounded by roll cage tubing. If you tend to be a little claustrophobic, note how much easier it is to climb out to ease your mind. Then climb back in so you get some familiarity with it. The five point racing harness secures you to the point where you can't move your torso. This is a good thing considering the g-forces involved. Seeing how the quickly the racing harness releases also is comforting.

Once under way, it sounded glorious. The small-block screaming and thundering at the same time. The acceleration is fierce, the long straightaways don't seem that long in this car. And the elevation changes at this track meant it was like a great roller coaster ride with an unparalleled soundtrack. With the sticky racing slicks, the speed in the turns was very impressive despite what you hear or think you know about stock cars. Pushing you in the seat, forcing you to the side, the braking zones were the breather from the relentless forces the car created. It was really incredible no matter what kind of car you like. The Carrera GT and Bugatti surely would have been more elegant and comfortable, but this was intense and truly a race car experience. So how fast was it? About 135mph on the straightaway and low 1:40s for those that know the track. Keep in mind this was with long braking distances which eat up time. Who the heck was driving? Mike Cesario of Club Auto Sport. He and his wife Ellie were wonderful hosts for me in and out of the car. They make the cutest racing and pit-crew couple - true teamwork. The race was held later and another write-up on the weekend and the results of the race can be found here.

The Boys and Girls Club of America also had a large group of young kids who had a nice tour of the paddock area and we waved to them sitting in the grandstands between turns four and five. I'm not sure if they saw my thumb though - I was sitting pretty low in the car!

The garaged paddock area had some interesting groups besides Club Auto Sport. Trinity Racing Concepts was next door with several excellent racing simulators including one in 3D attached to a Lotus race car, called the Lotus 49 Simulator. There was a display of electric vehicles from the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Network. Next to that was a Nissan GT-R race car with Brian Lock Racing. I've always been critical of the GT-R due to it's weight, so I was very interested to see this, and it was impressive. Still heavy and not yet competitive in it's intended class, but fast by any means. Check out the in-car video of the track. You get the idea right away.

The next HSCRS event is October 24th and 25th at Infineon Raceway (Sears Point) in Sonoma, California and they are offering the Ride of your Life again! This time the bidding benefits the Boost Camp of Sonoma County. Don't miss it if you want a Ride of your Life.

Got a question about cars you would like answered? Performance, racing, modifying, shopping, makes, models, events, etc? Ask me here: AskRobAboutCars@gmail.com and I'll do my best to answer your question and publish it here on soakonline.com!




Keywords: Laguna, Seca, NASCAR, Ferrari, Nissan, 430, Scuderia, GT-R, Porsche, GT3, Cup, Car, Ford, Thunderbird, Bristol, Pocono
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