Speed. It's seductive, invigorating, and memorable. It's relative of course and acts like a narcotic. My first experience with triple digit numbers was in an old Alfa Romeo GTA in the late 1970's when I was stuffed in the backseat by my older sister and her boyfriend. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on but it was exhilarating. I could barely see out the window but things were moving fast ... real fast. After that run, I emerged from the car a little wobbly but that night ... and that sensation ... has stayed with me throughout my life.
I can only imagine how Bugatti test driver Andy Wallace felt during his record-setting 304.77 mph run in a specially prepped Chiron Longtail. Even though Wallace has been racing for over 30 years and he's won just about every major race from Sebring to Daytona and Le Mans, he nevertheless views it as something special.
In a recent interview with Quint, Wallace discusses the preparation, experience, and what he did immediately following that run. If you guessed drink a beer, you're right!
Wallace, in his mid-50's and weighing in at 147 lbs., isn't what you would call imposing and he certainly doesn't cut an image like F1's Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton. But he is fit and has decades of experience behind the wheel. He prepares diligently and keeps his body running optimally, like the cars he drives. And at 300+ mph you have to be sharp. Speed, according to Wallace, doesn't increase in a linear fashion but rather exponentially forcing the driver to focus on an extremely high level. Indeed, high speed runs take more of a toll on one's senses rather than the body even though your organs have a tendency to get, as he says, scrambled about.
With each passing mph from 150 to 180 and on to 220, 260, 280 and beyond, steering feedback changes with the wheel feeling atypical and imprecise, the gyroscopic effect of the tires wreck road feel, road markers become a blur, even checking the gauges becomes a chore. The mind sharpens, focus narrows, and the body attempts to keep up with necessary corrections sent from the brain as he reaches his target. 295 ... 296 ... 297 ... 298 ... 299 ... and on to 304.77 mph!
When he broke the barrier their was an immediate feeling of exhilaration and then, like the true professional he is, the recognition that he needed to slow down. The Ehra-Lessien test track in Lower Saxony, Germany is 12 miles in length and at 300 mph that's about a mile every 12 seconds! When he got back home he says he drove 10 mph BELOW the speed limit for the next week. As Wallace says, "[i]t was just a relief not to have to drive fast anymore!"
As for what he'll do for an encore, who knows! Check out his record setting run below. Buckle up.
(via Bloomberg Quint)