Page 1: Intro
What the hell and I doing here? Though my question was rhetorical -- I had asked no one but myself the question – my fear was real, and it demanded an answer. I looked up at Scott, my mechanic, and hoped that he would see my fear and agree: Yes, what are you doing here? You should get out now before the serious racing begins.
Not likely. Instead, Scott buckled me into the cockpit of a navy blue open-wheeled Reynard F2000, clapped on the steering wheel and pushed the starter button.
Here I go.
This was the real thing – an automotive demon with a long pointed nose and a huge wheel – and I had no business being in the cockpit. A vehicle this awesome would bring out the inner race car driver in most guys (and a few women) I have known. I'm the exception. I was to challenge my fears in a day-long program at Bridgestone Driving Academy, one hour east of Toronto in Mosport, Canada. We started off with a 40 minute prep session given by Bridgestone's chief instructor Ugo Provencher, a sexy French race car driver with a fun personality. He was basically everything I could have dreamed up in a driving teacher.
"I 'm here for the adrenaline," he exclaimed, as he went on to tell us that we would learn how to drive as fast as we were capable. I'm thinking, "Ugh."
Provencher then described how to shift gears -- the box is so small you only need to use three fingers and your wrist and how to power into corners. He pointed to a map of the one mile, 12 corner track explaining how we each get a run with a pace car.
Page 2: Speed
From there came a mention of spinning out and going off the track. I was beginning to feel insecure. But, onwards. There were clothes to try on and I am never one to turn down a new outfit, especially one that makes me look like a professional racer and costs over $3,000.
Designer duds these were not. Our industrial flame-retardant jumpers were your basic blues complete with gloves, socks, shoes, snood and a helmet. My costume was a bit big---could have used a good tuck-- but I was suited up and ready to go.
The day would consist of three 20 minute sessions on the track, which translates into one hour of straight adrenaline, with heart rate of 160-180 beats per minute. Now that's an aerobic workout!
Page 3: White knuckle
I take the first lap slowly, feeling out the curves of the course but by the third lap I am out of second gear pushing into third. I hear Provencher's words: remember to breathe --oxygen in the brain does marvels...
I take a breath. I downshift. I play with the clutch. The smell of gas, the big engine sounds are Intoxicating. They flag us aside for a rest and lunch. I am starving, getting tired, but I am feeling like a race car driver.
On my last session, I can ease into the cockpit without the assist and I start out quicker. It's those same 12 corners but they keep coming back at me faster. I take Provencher's advice: "Raise your eyes and look further down the course and you won't waffle with the steering wheel...then take the lowest possible angle on the corners."
It turns out that he is more than just a sexy Frenchman. Provencher is right -- and I am flying!!! I am the wind!!! Downshifting without clutching up, I am going 85 mph. (OK, so the other group was breaking 115 mph). Nevertheless, I feel injected! My head is heavy with gasoline fumes. This is the ultimate aerobic rush. They flag me off. The day is done. Amusement parks will never look the same.
Page 4: FAQs
What types of courses does Bridgestone offer? The Bridgestone Racing Academy offers a wide variety of programs, from one session to three sessions and an advanced Learn to Lap program.
How much does it cost? Courses start at $525 CDN for a half day, up to a racing series program for $16,475 CDN.
How old do you have to be to race?
Bridgestone Firestone offers 18 different programs for ages 16 and older.
For more information visit: race2000.com or call 905.983.1114