I got up this morning, drove to Circuit of the Americas, took about ten hot laps around the track, and drove home. Bucket list item accomplished before 10 a.m.
Bucket list experiences are kind of surreal. I just like BEING at COTA. Then, last weekend, I got to ride in a pace car at the beginning of a race. The feeling of shooting up out of pit lane to the top of the infamous Turn 1, where you can see most of the undulating course, was almost overwhelming. As Vinnie Jones says in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it’s been emotional.
I thought this weekend would be a “bye week,” since I was at the races last weekend and will be at a Jaguar track event in Houston next weekend. Little did I know…
As I mentioned yesterday, a genie appeared in the form of Lisa Copeland, GM of Fiat of Austin. Lisa offered me the third “pace car” Fiat in the Formula Run event, a footrace held on the track at COTA. My job would be to commandeer a Fiat 500 Abarth and lead runners up the hill into Turn 1, then smoke their well-muscled posteriors for a hot lap around the track.
Speechless. Then, “yes, please.” Then, “did that really just happen?”
Cue this morning. I was wide awake at an unmentionable hour and out the door in a spunky red Abarth, headed for COTA as the sun rose. Every time I drive to COTA, I feel excitement, anticipation, and appreciation that there are such amazing motorsport events practically out my front door. And that the entire route to the track has an 80 mph speed limit.
This morning, I pulled up to COTA feeling even more excited than usual because, while all the poor suckers had to park and walk onto the facilities, I would get to drive my little pace car right past them, through the tunnel and into the paddock. Where all the cool kids hang out.
I can now tell you from personal experience that, if security tries to stop you from entering the paddock, you can just say, all innocent-like, “It’s okay; I’m the pace car.” This works. And I may have to turn it into a Twitter hashtag. #ItsOkImThePaceCar
Did I take a slight amount of pleasure in this? Umm…yes.
Since I’m a little track rat and know the main grandstand, paddock and pits backwards, forwards and sideways, I tootled on in to the paddock and pulled my Abarth right up to the gate at the pit lane exit. The gate the security person didn’t let me pass last weekend when I tried to take a photo of pit lane. But…#ItsOkImThePaceCar.
Lisa soon joined me in her hot pink, one-of-a-kind Abarth. (That car deserves, and will get, its own post. It truly is a 1 of 1 special “Copeland Edition.”)
Here we are in the paddock, ready to make like a bread truck and haul buns.
Then the race organizer told us to go out on the track. Oh, okay.
Omar, also from Fiat of Austin, soon appeared with the third Abarth. Aren’t we cute, in a badass kind of way?
Me, Omar, Lisa. Don’t mess. (And why am I always wearing the same shirt?)
I was already quite content to curl up in a blissful little ball of contentment. But THEN the race organizer said we could take some practice laps.
OH NO HE DIDN’T!
Yes. Yes, he did.
So we did.
[Another temporary loss of vocabulary.]
How would you feel if someone handed you the keys to a fun car and told you to go drive it around one of the best racetracks in the world?
Yeah. That’s just how it felt. Pretty much sublime.
The Abarth loves to corner and has pretty good power for a 1.4L engine. Also, it has a great, snarly exhaust note. I tried to keep it at 7 or 8, since I had never driven the track before and had just gotten the Abarth yesterday. She was great at that level, navigating the esses and turns of the very technical track with verve. The more laps we took, the more comfortable I felt both with my own abilities and with the Abarth’s.
She liked being a little track rat. Me, too.
At some point, I forgot about the runners. It was a little impertinent of them to make me stop my hot lappery to pace those damn runners. Who runs on a racetrack anyway?!
Suffice it to say, I will never forget my first drive of COTA. I say first, because I fully intend to be back out there soon. And often. Get on it, universe – you’ve been working magic lately.
Thank you so much to Lisa Copeland and Fiat of Austin for this opportunity. I didn’t kill anyone or wreck the Fiat, so I think we are off to a really good start!