If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video of the Jalopnik journalist hitting the wall with a 2016 mule Camaro. Enjoy and then check below for my commentary.
Clearly the guy felt bad and a little shaken up, but the reality is, he shouldn’t have driven the car. If you just look at the beginning frame of the video or notice the position of his arms just before he hit the wall, you can tell there the skill set just isn’t there.
I auto cross my cars – my C4 when I had it and my C6 now (not to mention my drag racing stint with my Mustang). I’ve attended my SCCA Solo courses and even attended some training with Bondurant at Phoenix International Raceway with Formula 1 cars. And what I’ve learned is that you must have more than just enthusiasm over a new car, especially a powerful one. You have to have some driving skills and you must have respect for the car’s abilities and know yours.
Here is a parallel event I was part of with my corvette club. We rented a part of the Bondurant facility to have an auto cross event. It included all generations of Corvettes as well as a few other non-Corvette vehicles. One of our members just purchased a brand new C6 and was very eager to run the course. Short version of the story is – he lost it on his second run, went through the chain-linked fence at a post and got the car hung up on the concrete footing. We had to dig him out and the Bondurant crew weren’t all that happy. Clearly he wasn’t ready for the abilities/power of his C6 even though he had the enthusiasm (and for pete’s sake keep the traction control on until you are used to the car).
Don’t get me wrong, accidents happen, just watch any F1, drag or NASCAR race and you’ll see professional skilled driver hit the wall. It happens.
Now back to the Jalopnik incident. If you watch the video you can tell the journalist seems pretty excited. However his driving skills seem a bit off in a number of ways. For instance, his sitting position is off, especially for track driving (maybe he’s just super tall or the mule car is not equipped with adjustable seats) for one. You can tell by his expression in a corner, prior to his last corner and the contact with the wall, that he was at he edge of his abilities with that particular car. As he goes into the now famous turn his arms cross – I didn’t realize a human could contort himself that much!!
I also found interesting was some of his commentary leading up to the crash with words like “rolly-poely”, “composed”, “nimble” especially in light of his comments that he was there to discuss the how it handles at the track. You must have the ability to test those things to give your readers a comparison and the proper (or more familiar) terminology helps e.g., replace “rolly-polly” with “body roll”. Wouldn’t GM want that too or at least his publisher?
There was a comment in his piece where he gave full disclosure, stating that GM wanted him to drive so badly, that they flew him out and paid for food and booze. Don’t know if that’s ‘special’ or standard fare. I also didn’t understand his comment – “GM asked me to leave the track” and they had to continued the video out in the street – seems a tough way to deal with someone, you really wanted there. Hopefully, GM doesn’t want their money back for the airfare or bill him for the damage to the mule.
Now I’m not a great blogger nor the greatest driver, but I do have car guy experience (including testing new models in a small auto cross scenario) and a fair grasp of the my native language. I’m not sure what all of his credentials are, he did say he had some track time, and I did look over some of his other entries and gained my own opinions.
It suffices to say that I much prefer a “car guy turned journalist” vs. “journalist turned car guy”, especially when to reading ‘car guy’ stuff and certainly for reviews like this one.
I do feel badly for him and GM and but I’m also sure it wasn’t the first time on media day that a writer dented one of the cars. He just had his published. And thank the auto gods that he wasn’t driving a Z28!!! I would have wept opening.