The view from the passenger seat
It all starts easily enough - barrier, cones, end of cones. You find yourself on a very wide arrow-straight road with a bridge in the middle distance. The driver straightens up the car after the cone chicane, breathes in and floors it. We're off! This is fun. This is what we came here to do. You reach the bridge. Beyond it the ground falls away, but continues straight. You can see some corners coming up. There's a compression just before the corners where the track stops falling away and begins to slope up again. No problem.
Then you notice that you're almost on top of the corners and that the driver hasn't started to brake yet. A snatched glance at the controls reveals that you're now travelling at 120mph. Still no braking. You press your legs hard into the footwell to brace yourself.
The seatbelt cuts into your chest as the brakes activate like an accident was imminent. You notice from your vantage point in the front passenger seat that you're headed for a panel of Armco barrier jutting out into the road. You wonder if you should mention it to the driver or would it break his concentration. Surely he must have seen it - it's painted orange after all. Just as you feel you really should say something, it flashes past the wing mirror as the entire outside world whirls left and then right about you. You look out to the side, but all you can make out is red and white kerbing flashing by.
The world settles down again briefly before the driver announces with the calmness of the truly insane "I'm just going to almost clip the corner of the stand here". You hurtle around the corner of a hard concrete stadium wall. The first thing that you see when you get around the blind corner is the preceding vehicle on track - last seen in the far distance, but now spun off and stationary but still upright. You wonder should you stop and call an ambulance, flag down traffic or something but your driver growls "He's OK, he's still moving" and you scream past.
You crest a small hill and are immediately confronted with a concealed left turn. You mash your foot against an imaginary brake pedal in terror but the driver has already started to turn in, despite an insane forward speed. You grab the stout armrest and start to perspire.
A note of sadism has crept into the driver's voice as he points out a sign and announces we're now 10% of the way around the circuit.
You don't remember much of the rest of the lap - your brain just overloaded with sensory information. Your eyes drank it all in, but your brain just couldn't process it all in real time. You remember some straight bits diving down between dark, enveloping tree-lines towards rushing, menacing, corners with no obvious exit. You remember coming suddenly upon serried galleries of spectators - cheering you on or wishing for a fiery accident? You remember the Karussell where the car seemed to half-slip into a hole, pounding noisily across big concrete slabs before being shot out the top at the end like a big fairground ride. You remember faster cars and bikes flashing past at impossible speeds; you remember coming across accidents; you remember just holding on and wishing it were over. You remember the thrill when the last corner opened out onto that long start/finish straight and being sorry it was over. You remember falling out of the car back in the car-park as your legs struggled to master their proper purpose again. You remember the euphoria. You remember the buzz. You remember never feeling so truly alive. You remember feeling glad to be alive. You remember wanting to do it again.
On to part 5: The view from the driver's seat
Back to Part 3: Endlich da!
Back to Part 2: Bruges
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