As you’ll read in this month’s Racecar Profile, I recently had the great honor of being invited to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to test drive the mighty 1909 Blitzen Benz. This was an event that pegged a lot of firsts for me: My first trip to the Speedway; My first drive in a land speed record holder; and not insignificantly, a test drive in the oldest racecar I’ve ever driven. Having driven this 21.5-liter behemoth, I have to say that I now have an even greater and deeper appreciation for the daring men who pioneered our beloved sport. To say that they possessed “testicular fortitude” does not do them justice.
Unless you’ve driven an early pre-war or Brass Era car, you can’t really appreciate how totally vulnerable and exposed you feel when driving one. It’s a very strange and oftentimes unnerving feeling—if you’re used to more “modern” racecars—because first off, you feel like you’re sitting 10 feet up in the air! And compared to a vintage formula car, where your butt is at best 2 to 4 inches off the ground, you might as well be. In these early cars, you have to climb “up” to get in them.
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