If you’ve ever wanted to speed without the risk of a hefty ticket, there’s plenty of companies out there willing to let you put the pedal to the metal on an authentic racetrack. However, it isn’t exactly cheap and, if you’re going to shell out the money to give it a shot, you should probably know what you’re getting into. Cue Colleen Nicholson, who took to the Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon for a little joyride.
“Are you okay?” driver Shawn Magee yelled. “Faster?”
The air was thick, and clouds hung over us at Wyant Group Raceway. My borrowed racing suit, full-face helmet and elaborate seatbelt harness combined in a “how bread must feel in a toaster” way, but it was decidedly comforting to be strapped in nice and tight as the wheels squealed and the car hugged turns.
I gave the thumbs up to kick it up a notch.
These first 10 laps were a demonstration. After the G-force had rendered my hearty brunch regrettable, I would get the opportunity to slide behind the wheel to drive another 10.
We glided through a set of corners with a sweeping arc from the widest point of the lane to the tightest apex of the curve, the car tilting and pulling in seemingly impossible degrees. I swivelled my head as much as the HANS device and harness would let me and studied our lane position like I was cramming for a test (I was). Uncomfortably-close-to-that-pylon to that-can’t-be-safe edge-of-the-pavement and repeat. It was an extreme version of the lines I’d follow when I drove my bike. Minus the speed. Minus the jaw clenching.
On our next lap however, the pattern changed. The car lurched and fish-tailed. Shawn corrected the steering two or three times to keep it in line. I stopped making notes about when to accelerate and started thinking about all the things I hadn’t done yet … in life.
The interior of these mini stocks are stripped to the essentials; there’s no stereo, no floor mats, no speedometers and certainly no holy-hell handles. Bereft of this universal sign for I’m-mentally-dialing-1-800-Hows-My-Driving” my fingers found the edge of the seat instead, and I held on. As proud as I am stubborn, I wasn’t going to tap his arm (the agreed-upon red flag for “I’m done. This is too fast”) but I didn’t need to –he slowed on the straightaway and called out over the engine “Wheels are too hot!” On the next lap, at reduced acceleration, the car’s back end still felt eerily disconnected. Again, Shawn corrected in the turn and, then, as he straightened out, he dropped our speed to a disappointing crawl.
We limped back to the centre of the track. Shawn waved the crew over and shouted out the window “Something’s wrong” as he twisted the key in the ignition. With renewed consciousness of the sauna-like heat generated by the I’m-a-giant-racing-rectangle jumpsuit, I yanked the release bar on the five-point harness and, with all the grace of someone who hasn’t watched a full episode of The Dukes of Hazard, pulled myself out through the car window and into the gasoline-perfumed air.
IF YOU GO
If you want to legally test your car’s abilities or get behind the removable wheel of a stock car, the member-run and volunteer-supported Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon sets aside a few days each season for the public to let their lead foot loose on their 3/8-mile paved oval.
Wyant Group Raceway, Saskatoon
• 10-lap ride-along ($40), 10-lap ride-along plus 10-lap drive ($80), Aug. 13, Sept. 10
• Street car test drive ($20), Sept. 15