Archive for the ‘Drag Racing’ Category

Ted Cahall Hits 202MPH – Legally!

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I know it sounds unbelievable.  I truly doubt drivers illegally hit 200 mph that often.  So when it does happen at all – it is a rare and unusual event.
Ted Cahall poses next to a Ferrari 599 GTB
Why?  Well first off, there are very few cars that can actually hit 200 mph.  I don’t own one and I own a 505HP Z06 Corvette and a 604HP sedan.  Additionally, for the cars that can hit 200 mph, it is hard to find a stretch of road long enough and straight enough to attempt it.  Of course there are banked tracks such as the Daimler test track in Unterturkheim or Volkswagen Group’s Ehra-Lessien test track  – but those take far more skill than just driving in a straight line.

It takes over two miles for most of the modern stock exotic sports cars (Ferrari 599 GTB, Lamborghini LP560) to hit 200 mph.  Finding two miles of straight, smooth pavement not is use by the U.S. highway system is a difficult task.  That is where the pros at World Class Driving come into play.  They have two locations that make this possible.  One in Miami for folks in the eastern U.S. and one in the Mojave desert for the left coast.

I highly recommend this program put on by World Class Driving.  It is run by professional race drivers and the cars are meticulously maintained.  Drivers are given a choice of any of three vehicles that have all been proven to reach 200 mph: a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a Ferrari 599 GTB, and a Lamborghini LP560.

The day starts out with some driving skill drills to make sure each entrant is capable of handling the cars in corners and at speed.  For the early part of the day, we were also able to drive a Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, and a Maserati Granturismo.  Those exercises were really enjoyable as well with hard acceleration and hard braking in some of the world’s fastest and most exotic cars.  I must have done alright as they let me move onto the next segment of the training session.

In the next section, they test how well you will do out on the actual airstrip.  The main issue in the Miami course is that the airstrip is approximately 2 miles long.  Not quite long enough to hit 200 mph in a straight line and stop.  The driver is required to build speed on an auxiliary runway and then turn through two turns to head out onto the main runway at about 60 mph for the 200 mph attempt.  Even more interesting, after hitting maximum speed and entering the braking zone, the driver still does not have enough runway left to stop in a straight line – and must execute another turn back towards the auxiliary runway at about 50 mph!  It is a lot to master for any rookies out there that have not experienced high speed turns under acceleration or braking.  The Mojave runway is almost 3 miles long and does not have these issues.  So folks that want to just smash the gas and see what 200 mph feels like may want to try that.  Personally, I enjoyed the challenge that required some skill.

When we moved to the 200 mph attempts, we were told that we would be given four turns each.  Two test turns to get used to the start zones and braking zones and then two attempts to reach 200 mph.  It may sound simple, but most of the 16 participants did not hit 200 mph in any of the four attempts.  I took the Mercedes SLR and hit 197 mph on my first test run.  The SLR is an automatic (no paddle shifters that I saw) and was hard to keep in lower gears when coming out on to the airstrip.  After hitting 196 mph in the SLR on my second attempt and noticing that no one was doing well with the car, I decided to switch to the Lamborghini LP560.

I jumped into the LP560 and mentally prepared myself for the turn out onto the airstrip.  I knew this turn at 60 mph was critical to hitting 200 mph and made it the main focus of the launch.  I lined the turn up well, tapped my brakes to load up the front end to improve the steering and accelerated evenly out to the widest end of the airstrip.  It felt like an excellent launch.  Much better than the downshift that had happened in the SLR.  As I went up a few gears, I realized I was so focused on the turn onto the airstrip that I did not have my seatbelt buckled!  I did not let this distract me.  The car has airbags and I wasn’t planning on using them either…

As I raced through the braking zone and brought the car back to reasonable speeds, the instructor next to me exclaimed, “200 mph!”  I was the first participant to hit 200 mph and the only one to do it in the first three runs.

All of the sudden all of the drivers started using the Lamborghini LP560 as I had done and a few more hit 200 mph on their 4th and final try.  One of the drivers hit 201 mph!  While I was the first, I was no longer the fastest.  This was disappointing – but I did have my fourth and final attempt left.

This time as I prepared for the final run, I buckled my seatbelt.  I was ready and again had an excellent launch out of the turn onto the airstrip.  I took the LP560 through its gears and kept the gas pedal smashed to the floor as I roared through the braking zone.  The instructor yelled, “202 mph”, as I turned off of the main airstrip.

What an incredible day.  I was the first participant to hit 200 mph, I was the fastest participant at 202 mph and I was the only participant to hit 200 mph twice that day.

If speed fills your need.  Then World Class Driving is the way to do it.  The professionals there make sure you and all of the equipment are ready for the exercises – the rest is up to you.  If you just want to try driving the world’s greatest exotic cars without going 200 mph, World Class Driving also has some other touring programs that may even be more local to your hometown.  I took one of their tours in May of this year and really enjoyed it.

Ted Cahall

Why does (almost) everything fun require a helmet?

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

While cleaning up the garage the other day, it occurred to me that I have a number of different helmets for different leisure activities.  I have a couple of motorcycle helmets for when I go on rides on my Harley Davidson.  I also have a different helmet for racing my cars. A helmet is required for both road racing with the SCCA as well as when I hit the drag strip.  While considering these helmets, I realized I also have a helmet up in St. Germain, WI where I ride my snowmobiles.  It seems like having fun equates to wearing a helmet…

I realize other friends get real exercise and often wear helmets on their bicycles.  I have a bike – but I do not own a helmet for it.  I probably should, but I ride it once every third year so it is not a good investment…  There are football helmets, and baseball batter’s helmets, etc, etc.

The head is a pretty important part of the body.  I think I will continue to protect it.  Being bald, I also wear a lot of hats in the summer to keep it from burning.  Not quite a helmet – but still a protective device for us bald guys.

Ted Cahall

Ted Cahall Breaks the 200MPH Barrier – soon…

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

In addition to preparing for the 2009 SCCA season, I also plan to take part in a couple of events put on by World Class Driving.   It is all part of maintaining that “work / race” balance I referred to earlier.

The event that first caught my eye was through and ad in United Airline’s Hemispheres magazine.  The title of the ad was, “Break the 200MPH Barrier!”.  Their web site calls it, “World Class Driving XTREME“. It is held in Miami this year in April and December.  I am registered for the April session.

Most people in their lives would never even want to do such a crazy thing as break the 200MPH barrier.   For the remaining few that actually do think it sounds exhilarating, the possibility of a) owning a car that can do it, b) finding a place where you will not kill yourself, and c) remaining within the laws – is pretty small (if not zero).

The fastest car that I own is a 2006 Corvette Z06 which is “only” rated at 190+ MPH top speed.  So that eliminates me pretty quickly from this club.  Furthermore only a few highly skilled race drivers have the talent to take a capable car over 200MPH on a banked oval (go try it sometime if you think you are Mario Andretti).   So, this relegates the average (or slightly above average) schmoe like me to trying this in a straight line.  Even really fast production cars barely get above 130 MPH in a 1/4 mile dragstrip.  So where can us “weekend warriors” have a chance of hitting 200MPH  even if we could rent the proper beast?

Voila!  Abandoned airstrips across the US should work nicely if you can get access.  The one World Class Driving uses down in Miami is 11,000 feet (over 2 miles) long – plenty of room to make it to 200MPH and back down safely.  Let all of the legal issues be part of World Class Driving’s responsibilities.  That is a much better idea than sneaking a Lamborghini from a dealer “test drive” onto some abandoned airstrip!  Although I must say I was very pleased that Lamborghini of Washington let me test drive one of their Gallardos – but that is a story for a different time.

According to their web site, for the XTREME program, we will be testing some of the following cars:

  • Ferrari 430 Scuderia
  • Lamborghini Gallardo LP560
  • Ferrari 599 GTB
  • Mercedes McLaren SLR
  • Lamborghini Super Leggera / Lamborghini Murcielago
  • It will be the first time for me in any of these cars – although the Super Leggera is just an improved model of the Gallardo that I mentioned above.

    The other event I will be joining World Class Driving for will be their “normal” track event.  These are held in several states around the country all year long.  I plan on being over in Richmond, VA for the morning session in late May 2009.  That series of events uses normal race tracks and features the following cars:

  • Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
  • Audi R8
  • Ferrari F430
  • Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
  • Ferrari Scuderia
  • Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4
  • Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
  • Maserati GranTurismo
  • Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
  • Porsche 911 GT3 RS
  • The training specifies that you will get to try five of these cars throughout the day.  Many of these cars are nice additions to the autos I will get to test in April down in Miami.

    If anyone gets inspired to register for one of their events, please use my Ambassador Reference code: fa63280f.  I think I get some bonus points or something if you do.

    Here is a video of some of the cars making their 200MPH runs.

    Ted Cahall

    Maintaining that “work / race” balance

    Saturday, February 28th, 2009

    Some years have been easier to get out to the racetrack than others.  As I prepare for the 2009 season with the SCCA, I began to realize this year might be a bit challenging.  When I moved to AOL back in January of 2007, I had the best intentions of moving from Novice to Regional member in the SCCA.  Somewhere between January and the end of the year my job took over…   AOL asked me to add the Technologies division to my then current responsibilities and it was December before I knew it.   So there were no trips to the racetrack for me in 2007.

    While I did make it out to the racetrack at Summit Point twice, an AMG driving event in the Poconos, and the dragstrip once in 2008, I can see 2009 may begin to parallel 2007.   This year started out with a bit of a bang as the head of the Products business unit moved on to be the digital head of Univision.  Much of his responsibilities moved over to me.   This week the head of our International division decided to leave the company and I was tapped to add the EU and Asia Search business to my US Search responsibilities.   Additionally the EU publishing tech groups and 1,500 person Indian development center in Bangalore will now report to me.   I started 2007 with a great trip to Bangalore and it now makes sense that I plan a trip there again in 2009 to spend some more time with the staff.

    So it is time to break out the race schedules and coordinate the 19 hour flights to and from Bangalore along with some quality time with the folks there.   Hopefully I can stop by and see the Search staff in Ireland as well on the way there.  38 hours of flights in one week – before you get any work done on the ground…   That requires “work / race” balance.

    Ted Cahall