Last year, my wife got me a most excellent Christmas present: a Formula racing experience. I would go to a race track in Millville, New Jersey, and get a chance to tear around in a baby Formula One car for a few laps – after getting some instruction in it, of course. The gift came on the heels of our entire family becoming a gang of armchair car enthusiasts after starting to watch the BBC motoring show Top Gear. Which, if you haven’t ever seen it, you really should. It’s basically three complete motorheads driving and testing all manner of incredible (and not-so-incredible) cars and looking like they are having a great time doing it. (Do yourself a favor, though; skip the American version of the show. It’s rubbish.)
On my big racing day, I was more than a little nervous. During our instruction, we were informed just how tricky the course was, especially turns One and Five, two notorious bends where more than a few cars had spun off the track. Before I drove, I got to ride shotgun with a professional driver in a Porsche Boxster for some test laps. This was some of the most insane fun I’ve had on four wheels as the driver hit every turn at maximum speed. With every hard turn and bank, the G-forces I felt reminded me that indeed, the human body really is mostly made up of water.
By the time it was my turn to go, I was nervous. These baby formulas were unlike normal cars, in a big way. You squeezed into a very tight cockpit with a manual four-speed stick jutting off the right side of the car. You held the steering wheel close and then moved your right hand off to shift, holding it like a praying mantis. The clutch was so tight I had to practically stand on it. The car itself weighed about as much as I did, so the slightest touch on the gas and you were off.