Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Be Humble

It is hot.

Not surprising since we are in Arizona in the middle of an asphalt desert.

We’re waiting for two water tankers to finish soaking the track.

I’m sitting in the driver seat of a brand new BMW 5 Series. In the passenger seat next to me is Pierre.

Pierre has a very calm, quiet demeanour. Too calm - almost to the point where it is annoying.

Periodically, tire manufacturers host promotional demonstrations to allow dealers to test their new products against the competition under extreme, yet safe, conditions. I had never been to anything like this before and am ecstatic about the opportunity to drive a car in anger on a racetrack.

According to Pierre, this job as a driving instructor is boring. He’s also a factory race driver for Honda. Later, I find out he was a three-time SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Champion. He would go on to win it again in 2006.

I had always dreamt of being a race car driver. Here is my chance. I desperately want to show him, and myself, that I have talent.

As the trucks finally finish, my confidence is soaring. With my sweaty hands gripping the wheel tightly, Pierre encourages me to go and I press my right foot down hard.

As I approach the first corner, a tight 90-degree left, I realize the track is much wetter than it was on my last run. I’m coming in way too fast.

My passenger quietly confirms this.

I brake and throw the car hard. I somehow make it through but have come out very ragged.

The second corner, a quick right, is fast approaching. I’m on top of it before I have gathered the car under me again.

I crash through the apex, murdering at least six cones.

It feels like all the air in the car has suddenly rushed out.

Very calmly, Pierre soothes me back under control. No matter. It’s over. I had my chance and I over-cooked it. My dreams of becoming a race car driver evaporated on the hot, Arizona asphalt.

I don’t know what I expected to happen, but that for sure was not it. It’s amazing how good we can be in our own mind, only to be humbled once we’re truly tested. This experience made me keenly aware of the limit of my ability. A lesson for which, in hindsight, I am thankful for.

I will never be a race car driver, but I still very much enjoy my time behind a steering wheel. However, the silent screams of the pylons I massacred haunt me and remind me of the perils of being overconfident.

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