A few years ago, I gave Jared a birthday present that involved going out to a racetrack and doing laps in a V8 supercar. He would be accompanied by a professional driver and get to drive the first few laps himself, then the real race car driver would take over for the last few. He was super excited and I went along to watch and record his eventual demise (I assumed).
When we got there, we sat in a room with a bunch of other revheads. The drivers were introduced and one of them was only 17 or 18, a very pale, red headed guy, but he’d been driving since as early as he was able. I can’t drive at all so I was immediately intrigued, jealous and ashamed all at the same time. In typical Australian fashion, all the drivers gave each other shit and, of course, the young guy was teased for being young (tres original) but he gave as good as he got. In my head, I kind of wished Jared didn’t get him, that he got someone more experienced.
When they assigned each newbie to their driver, Jared got the young dude and off they went to what I assumed could only be their certain death. Jared + unlimited speed = to me, a recipe for disaster (let me allay your fears, he survives). But when they met and walked off – two young guys off to live the dream by playing race car drivers (except one of them actually was a race car driver) – I noticed something. This pale, red headed kid, a trait I would never normally have the slightest interest in, walked with a bit of a swagger. His gestures and speech were executed with a level of confidence that boys his age rarely exhibit. He knew what he was doing and he walked and talked with the surety of someone who knew their skills and was comfortable in their own skin.
I got a good spot on a balcony so I could watch Jared drive. I noticed his car number when he drove off and filmed when he went round, first slow and halting, then better and better as he got the hang of things. He was definitely one of the better amateur drivers on the course but, when the kid took over, it looked like someone’s overly cautious grandma had been at the wheel. Under the kid’s control, the car performed like a wild animal (a cheetah or something equally quick and graceful), blitzing the straights and taking the corners so smoothly and gracefully that it looked like car ballet. Even I was impressed and I’ve never been much of a car person.
But even more than that, I was instantly attracted to this lanky, gingery kid, much to my own surprise. I could totally understand the appeal of being a race track groupie. Because someone with the skill and cool-headedness to drive a car like that at high speed could certainly handle the lower speed curves of a woman’s body, right? Or that’s the logic, I suppose. But, more than that, it was the confidence. I only saw him for a few minutes in total but I could see this kid had found something he was good at and that made him believe in himself. It gave him purpose and stripped away the doubt and uncertainty that plagues most people his age.
So, as Jared floated off the track high on adrenaline from the awesome birthday present his awesome girlfriend bought him, the awesome girlfriend was busy entertaining fantasies about the barely legal race car driver back down with his car. What can I say? I thought I would be bored watching Jared do seemingly never ending loops around a track in a fast car but it ended up being an excellent gift for both of us. Hmmm… maybe I’ll write about that later. 😉