Tuesday, February 24, 2009

231 km/h? 'Ridiculous'

Scott Goodyear, one of Canada's -- and Toronto's -- greatest racing drivers, is on the phone from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
There's disbelief in his voice as he asks for clarification about the message I left on his phone.
"How fast?" asks Goodyear incredulously, who is now a racing analyst for ABC Sports and ESPN.
"Police clocked him at 231 km/h on the Don Valley Parkway," I respond.
"That's ridiculous," he says.
Goodyear notes at that speed -- 141 km/h over the limit -- the man Toronto Police accuse of speeding in a 475-horsepower, pearl-white, Mercedes Benz CLK 63 AMG (starting at $115,000) at 2 a.m. on a recent Wednesday, would cover the length of a football field in little more than a second. Yes, one second.
The guy must have had a death wish, figures Goodyear.
I called him because he's one of the few people in North America who have ever gone that fast, without being in a plane (or on an out-of-control toboggan).
Goodyear, a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, twice finished second in the Indy 500 -- once by 0.043 seconds.
He's gone 300 km/h on the streets of Toronto, but only for a brief moment on Lakeshore Blvd., during Toronto's Indy (now Grand Prix) car race.
Ironically, Goodyear, who grew up in Toronto, said he often dreamt of racing up and down the Don Valley, legally. It's one of the great driving roads in this part of the world, with all of its banked turns and straightaways. That is, when it's not a parking lot.
"It would be a great place to do a chase run," he says.
As a driver for Team Porsche in Europe, Goodyear said he took cars up to 241 km/h (150 mph) on the Autobhan, but there -- at that time -- people knew it was the speed in the passing lane.
Goodyear tries to go through all the reasons this is one of the stupidest driving moves he's ever heard of.
First, there would be almost no time to react. Period.
Second, in professional racing, unlike a joy ride, everyone is going about the same speed. Everyone is a professional. Everyone's paying 110% attention. No one has a Tim Hortons coffee in one hand and a cellphone in the other.
Racers also have helmets, fire-retardent suits, six-point harnesses and cars with cockpits specially built to absorb almost any crash.
Plus, races are run on pavement designed for those speeds and not at 2 a.m. in the dark.
Goodyear also notes in racing there is a safety crew no more than 10 seconds away, equipped with everything needed to help a driver in a crash. There's a hospital at the track and a helicopter on site if needed.
When Goodyear crashed at the Indy 500 in 2001, the race doctor knew he'd previously broken his back. Goodyear never raced again. But he lived to tell the story.
"There are so many opportunities for catastrophe," Goodyear says. "If he's on the road all by himself, he's got a lack of respect for himself."
If the driver, at the speed police allege he was going had crashed into anything, how long would it have been before help even arrived?
The cop who caught the alleged speedster (police have charged John Kowal) didn't even see the car coming, he heard it, said Sgt. Tim Burrows. Veteran traffic officer, Const. Mike Thompson, started accelerating to try and catch the speeder.
"He could hear the engine," Burrows added. "When the car went by it was like a rush of a tornado. It rocked the police car substantially."
Thompson is the same officer who caught the driver clocked at the highest speed in Toronto Police records -- 242 km/h in 2001, driving what Burrows believes was an American car tuned for racing.
Burrows said at 231 km/h, it would take more than three football fields to stop the car -- in perfect braking conditions.
"I'm trained. I drive nice cars," Goodyear says. "And I don't go that fast."
And that's all before I tell Goodyear police have also charged the driver with being impaired, with a blood alcohol level over 80 mgs.
"You have to be kidding," Goodyear says.

No comments:

Post a Comment