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Firing Up - Horsepower Hangover

April 2014

Feb 21, 2014
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As we speed our way into 2014, it's now easier than ever to make big horsepower for the dragstrip and racetrack, yet harness all that underhood anger in order to drive our Camaros on the street as well. That's great, right? Well, yes and no. It's fantastic for those with enough experience to handle it, but as we recently learned this past November, even the most seasoned race car driver can lose it on the street. Now, I'm not going to pretend to know exactly what happened that fateful day in Santa Clarita, California, but sources say that a professional race car driver was behind the wheel of a 600hp Porsche Carrera GT that burst into flames after hitting a light post and tree. Yes, investigators initially suspected that speed played a factor in the accident, and on January 3rd the coroner's office released their official report saying the car was traveling in excess of 100 mph.

Let's face the truth. If you own a Camaro, at one time or another you've taken a "small" risk to "see what she's got" on a long straight or tested the laws of physics by taking to task your car's killer new suspension on that curvy canyon road where there's rarely any traffic. You know you've done it. Yeah, I've done it, too.

On November 30, 2013 two families lost loved ones and race car and movie fans lost two heroes. Roger Rodas was a professional driver and hugely successful financial planner and philanthropist. He also founded a charity to help orphans and widows in his home country of El Salvador. Paul Walker, although more famous through his starring roles in The Fast and Furious movie franchise also had extensive on-track experience. He and Rodas created Reach Out Worldwide, a network of first responders who help in the wake of natural disasters. The point here is that these guys were no strangers to going fast in cars designed to do so. With that said, city streets, no matter how secluded or desolate, are not maintained to handle everything a 600hp car can dish out. A racetrack is cleaned of any debris that could cause a race car to go off course, a city street is not.

Now, if we are to take away anything positive from that day, it's the fact that it made us more aware that even the most "hottest shoe" can lose control of a high-horsepower car in an instant. And if it can happen to a guy like Roger Rodas, it can certainly happen to any one of us lesser-skilled "wannabe" race car drivers.

So, the next time you feel the need to hang it out around that corner—yes, that same one you've taken over a 100 times, or you want to see how quickly "she'll get to a 100" on that long, lonely straight, just remember anything can go wrong at any given time. Regardless of how many First place finishes you've had on Gran Turismo or Super Mario Kart, nothing takes the place of hours of seat time in a real car on a real racetrack.

Although I didn't know Paul Walker or Roger Rodas, I'm saddened by the fact that we not only lost two great car guys, but two really good people way to early. And in the wake of their horrible accident, I can only hope a few lives have been saved due to the fact that it made some hot rodder with more horsepower under the hood than talent in the seat think twice before hammering the gas pedal on a public road.

It got me to thinking twice.

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