And as much as I’d enjoy using the adjective on myself, it would be not be accurate. For most people, fear is a fact of life, a necessary emotion that allows us to navigate dodgy situations.
Apparently a woman has been found who totally lacks fear. For her, fear is an intangible thing, an emotion with absolutely no meaning. Describing her fearlessness is like describing an empty glass. There’s simply nothing in there.
Psychologists found her predicament more of a problem than an asset. Rather than avoid dangerous situations, she would confront them, from poisonous snakes to street thugs. That she managed to stay among the living was something of a miracle.
I’ve driven with a few guys who could be classified as fearless. Or perhaps they were incredibly brave or positively insane. Maybe a mixture of all three.
Once again I find myself between turns 8 and 9 at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosemond, California. I’m driving Evosport’s new CLK63 Black Series, a car with all the poise and grace of a 911 Carrera. Sporting more than 600 hp, the Evosport Black Series is what happens when enthusiastic engineers get to run wild. No soul-sucking consumer groups, no timid management meddling, just a hella-quick car with a minimum of compromise. Behind the wheel of this fine car I am the opposite of fearless. I am fearful.
In truth, I don’t like starting out at a track day in a car like this. I’d prefer a mildly tuned GTI, maybe even a Miata. Helps gets the blood going, gets the reflexes reflexing. This was more like getting strapped into an F22 Raptor to make your first solo flight.
Mercifully, the track was empty so I got a chance to explore its powerband. A few squirts around the twisties wagged the tail like the world’s most excited dog. Despite the gigantic Pirelli rubber, it took a gentle foot to maintain traction.
A few laps later I began to push a bit harder, and rather than becoming more difficult to control, the car actually became easier to drive. Turn-in became sharper and more precise and the whole car seemed to settle down. By the fifth lap I was pushing even harder, just daring it to do something unpleasant. No such luck. Around my eighth lap a few other cars had joined the grid. Every single one waved me by like I was Hans Stuck or something.
This was the first time I really let loose on a track, just enjoying the sheer ecstasy of driving fast. I had no pictures to take, no stories to write, no deadlines to meet. Just drive. I finally understood what all the fuss was about. I could get used to this.
I’ve heard the term "red haze" before, that hypnotic focus drivers sometime get after especially hard runs. I have it big time. I am hitting turns 8 and 9 perfectly, starting at the inside and letting the car gradually slide to the corner’s edge. This is the same place I’ve witnessed dozens of cars fly off into the unforgiving desert. Our own project editor Pablo Mazlumian lost his new M3 in this very spot. I remember him walking back to the pits with parts tucked under his arm (front airdam, headlight, steering wheel).
I have a "moment" when the rear end steps out a bit much. The fear (or it could be adrenaline) flashes in the pit on my stomach and feels like I swallowed a 9v battery. It passes in mere seconds and I’m in the groove again.
Brad from Evosport waves me in, screaming about using up his tires and all. He also mentioned how well I was doing. I smile, make some self-deprecating joke, and try to walk to the pits. My legs seem to have minds of their own; they try and go different ways. My hands are rebelling too, treating my water bottle like it’s a paint shaker. If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was scared shitless.
All the fear I had pushed aside was coming back, big time. I started doing the math on what it would have cost if I had wrecked the Merc, what type of injuries I might have sustained, who would have taken my place as "Dad" to the kids.
Had I considered all that before my driving stint? Not really. The mind has a marvelous device that pushes fear aside, the amygdala. Apparently mine overheated. I sat the rest of the day just enjoying the desert sun.
Now that a few weeks have passed, I find myself looking forward to another track day. That whole "red haze" thing was addictive.
And I’m fairly certain my amygdala has cooled down by now.
I have a moment when the rear end steps out a bit much. the fear flashed in the pit of my stomach and felt like i had swallowed a 9v battery.