After pulling back into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway paddock, removing my HANS device and unbuckling the six-point safety harness, I remember climbing out of the two-seater IndyCar to find my hands still shaking with adrenaline while being extremely relieved that I didn't pee myself. The two-lap ride-along flew by like a lightning bolt, despite the IMS road course being 14-turns and 2.439-miles long, however, every second out on the historic asphalt was pure ecstasy.
Mario spent the first lap warming up the tires, testing the limits of the brakes and acceleration. When the second lap came, everything started to feel more like "hot lap". I had the clearest point-of-view of the legend following the perfect racing line as he showed me exactly how he won several battles on this same exact circuit years ago.
How fast did it feel? Well, the two-seater is a bit of an oddball as it features a turbocharged V6 rated at about 500hp, not as powerful as the current competing IndyCar in the series, which can be tuned up to 700hp. It's proportions and weight are also a bit different with the addition of a second seat and passenger. With that said, it's not capable of breaking any lap records, but it sure as hell was still blazing fast, especially with a four-time IndyCar national champion at the helm (not to mention Mario's also a Formula One world champion and winner of the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb!).
Some of the highlights that I thought were coolest about the ride-along included sitting eye-level with top of the slicks. The acceleration off the line and down the straightway was impressive and easily reached triple digit speeds in a hurry; in fact, there was a point on my second lap where I had to pull down my helmet using both hands as it was loosening up and out (phew!). The IndyCar felt most impressive at high speeds with plenty of g-forces in the turns. They say an IndyCar driver can feel up to five g's on their bodies while cornering and I can definitely appreciate that notion after my ride-along with Mario. It's impressive how much abuse these drivers can take lap after lap after lap. The icing on the cake was, of course, the sound. Sure, on TV and watching from the grandstands, these IndyCars sound nice, but sitting only a few inches in front of a screaming turbocharged 2.2-liter V6 Honda engine created a soundtrack I'll never forget.
My IndyCar experience isn't as exclusive as you might think, with seats available for sale around $500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as other stops on the IndyCar tour. You might not get Mario behind the wheel, but it'll still be a once in a lifetime bucket list thing to tell all your friends and family about. I sure did and I probably won't stop talking about this for years to come!