Keeping It On The Track
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“Out on the street you don’t know what kind of surface you’ve got. You’ve got asphalt which is really slick. You’ve got concrete which is polished concrete. You’ve got new concrete, the coefficient comes into effect.  On a drag strip [and a road course], it’s a prepared surface.”

 

Keeping It On The Track

by Ziva Allen

 

Streetracing1360x539So we set out to publish this magazine and out of the gate, during our earliest conversations about content, we surprised ourselves over the wealth of ideas for articles we were bouncing off of each other.  I remember one night most significantly.  The ideas were flying like spitfire.  It came easy.  So easy that we didn’t even have to brainstorm.  And it was fun.  I’ll never forget how it went down.  We were practically finishing each other’s sentences.  “I know!  We can feature a different track each month!”  “We can cover a different track car each month.”  “And we can feature a different track day driver each month!”  “What about this age of technology?  There are new advances we could be writing about all the time!”  The ideas were endless.  The concept of creating this magazine and getting to channel our writing bug was exciting and we were excited about it.  But time is fluid and so emotions go with it.  Plucked right from that high, I looked down at my phone and saw a tragic news alert.  My 12 year old daughter’s favorite movie star had died in a shocking one car collision with a light pole.  And I had to go into her bedroom to break the news to her.  Our fun brainstorming session about everything track-day had just come to a sudden halt.  Things got real serious that night.  Real fast. 

 

The days following Paul Walker’s death were quite sullen in our house.  Paul walker and his friend Roger Rodas lost their lives, their families lost them, and their fans lost one of their favorite movie stars.  And I was angry.  I was angry as I watched my daughter cry over the loss of one of her favorite movie stars.  I was angry as I overheard her talking and weeping with her girlfriends every night on the phone.  But who was I angry at?  At first, I thought I was angry at Hollywood (and I am angry at Hollywood).  But I can’t let myself off the hook either.  As a parent, I know we can’t parent with our heads in the sand.  And I don’t.  The Fast and Furious franchise had been her favorite movie series and I’m partly to blame for that because I never forbid her to see those movies?  But I also know she would have seen them anyway because I don’t parent with my head in the sand.  In fact, I gave her the money for the movie ticket.  And I gave her the money to go see Need For Speed too.  In case you’re not familiar with that movie’s premise, here’s the movie’s tag line verbatim:  “Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind.  His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.”  As the race begins on the streets.  Not on a track.  This is beyond cool and my daughter cannot wait to get her driver’s license!

We didn’t only lose Paul Walker and Roger Rodas in the last several months.  If you haven’t yet seen Rush, I’m sure you will.  But when you do, remember that we’ve lost two of them as well.  They died within weeks of each other’s deaths.  One of those tragedies occurred on a track so at least they both hadn’t made the reckless decision to endanger others.  And, as illegal street races gone bad so often are, the other was a one car accident, so we may never find out if street racing was to blame or simply high dangerous speeds. 

In addition to condoning high octane Hollywood street racing adventures, we further support street racing for our youth by providing them with street racing games such as Midnight Club:  Los Angeles; Blur; and Need For Speed.  There is an obvious argument to be made that children can become desensitized watching crash after crash where the driver simply extricates himself from a car having experienced multiple rollovers.  In real life, you're most likely dead.

But it was time to get back to the business of creating this monthly magazine and being a firm believer in “it takes a village” to raise a child, IStreetracing3400x300 realized that we are going to have a platform and we should do the right thing and use it constructively.  In conjunction with all of the fun articles we write, we can offer a public service.  And thus began my long hard look at illegal street racing and racing high performance cars at high speeds on the roads.

In my quest to learn about youth driving recklessly and illegally racing in the streets, I discovered something that very much surprised me.  I found that young kids engaging in street racing is only a small piece of the pie.  It’s one thing to write about young people dying in the streets due to the immature decisions made by the young, as I have written about for our last two issues.  It’s easy to write off these tragedies as some reckless decision made by some immature teens who think they are indispensable and will live on forever.  If we do that, we don’t have to take a long, serious look at ourselves.  And we don’t have to hold ourselves accountable.  But aren’t we?  Are children creating, producing and choosing film projects that glorify illegal street racing?  Are children paying to go see these movies and buy the games?  Are children the only ones dying in the streets?

I was shocked to be reading one news story after another about one tragedy after another focusing on adults dying in the streets, not just kids.  I have wracked my brain asking myself over and over, why would Walker and Rodas get into the car, and not any car, but a Porsche Carrera GT, supposedly with 9 year old tires on it, and believe that they were so indispensible, that human error was beneath them?  I’m confident that if they believed for one moment that they would die that day due to human error, they would have saved it for the track.  Did they buy into their fans’ misconceptions about their immortality (I can drive this car surrounded by light poles as fast as I want because surely I can just climb out the window after the car rolls over a few times)?  As Retired Lieutenant Tom Brown told me during my interview of him for our March Beat The Heat article, “Out on the street you don’t know what kind of surface you’ve got.  You’ve got asphalt which is really slick.  You’ve got concrete which is polished concrete.  You’ve got new concrete, the coefficient comes into effect.  On a drag strip [and a road course], it’s a prepared surface.”

I understand the bottom line is the buck.  And I get the clichè “if you don’t like what’s on T.V., change the channel.”  We can blame society for the increase in street related deaths due to higher and higher speeds and street racing.  But it is we who make up society.  I have come to the conclusion that we are, in fact, all accountable:  parents, Hollywood, car manufacturers, game manufacturers, our own decisions on the street.  Track driving is such a fun hobby.  And I’m glad that it appears to be becoming more and more popular and more accessible.  But that’s why it shocks me every time I hear about or read yet another news story covering yet another needless death of an HPDE participant who died on the streets even though there is access to tracks. 

Streetracing2440x312And what about the car manufacturers?  Aren’t they accountable too?  In this issue we interviewed Ryan Staub of Locton Motorsports about track insurance.  In that interview Staub touched on the fact that when he began participating in HPDE events it was in 2002.  He says that in 2002, a typical street legal racecar was considered fast if it had 250 horsepower.  But currently we’ve got street legal cars carrying 400 horsepower-plus and this has currently become the norm.  He also mentioned that manufacturers are using more and more exotic materials to minimize weight in sports cars.  Certainly we’re not building the 600 horsepower Mustang Shelby for some 16 year old and his buddies to meet on some dark, rural road at midnight to pull off their illegal drag race.  Certainly Mitsubishi didn’t create the Evo X (the Evo X that comes with launch control that the manufacturer avoids mentioning in their owner’s manual) for some 16 year old.  And what about that Ford Shelby?  They didn’t even keep their launch control a secret!  And don’t get me wrong!  I am not bashing the decision to install these features.  In fact, I own a car with launch control!  What I am putting on the table is this question:  why are these cars being manufactured for the streets?  On the one hand, the manufacturer tells us, “Oh no.  Don’t you dare drive this 600 horsepower monster on a track because if you do, we will not honor the warranty.”  So we, the consumer, are left between a rock and a hard place.  If we check out that cool launch control at a drag strip, we could void the warranty.  And if we try it out on the street, it’s illegal.  Why all this emphasis on high performance technology and speed, if we are going to encourage the cars’ use on the streets where you cannot drive the car at the speed it was intended to go?  And why are these cars, with higher and higher horsepower street legal?  The line between racecar and street legal has become blurred.  Until the car manufacturers are held accountable (and I believe they will be eventually), high performance cars should be bought only by those with the intention to drive it on the track.  And once you’ve purchased your high performance vehicle, consider yourself dispensable.  Consider yourself capable of human error.  If nothing else, set the right example for our kids.  Keep It On The Track!

 

 

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