I live in Atlanta, which means I spend most of my time snarled in traffic. No chance for a speeding ticket. In fact, the most reckless thing I do in my car is sip a hot latte in stop-and-go traffic on Peachtree Street. So when espnW asked if I'd like to attend the Ford Octane Academy in Romeo, Mich.-- where extreme sports fans go head to head against world-class drivers Ken Block, Brian Deegan, Tanner Foust and Vaughn Gittin Jr. -- I jumped at the chance to drive at tremendous speeds with little regard for my life.
During my one-day academy experience, I learned about "drifting," a technique in which the driver intentionally loses traction in the rear wheels of the car and spins out while maintaining control of the vehicle. The pros also introduced me to rally car racing, which is similar to arcade games in which you drive around a gravel track, dodging obstacles. And, lastly, I got schooled on how to go off-roading downhill, backward, in a pickup truck while using only the rear navigation camera. All of this helped me realize that racing takes serious athleticism, and a lot of attitude and nerve. Just ask Brian Deegan, who has 12 medals from the X Games.
I was feeling capable of annihilating every challenge the day presented. That is, until I got behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang with drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. He instructed me to "floor it" to about 80 mph, let go of the wheel and watch the world go topsy-turvy as we did 360-degree spins on the track. I was tentative during my first attempt. I just kept remembering the injury waiver I signed and wondering who would tell my family I was in a speed-induced coma if things went wrong. However, after a couple of girlie blood-curdling screams, an adrenaline junkie was born.
The rest of the day I was the first person in my group to volunteer for every activity. I kicked butt in the rally car competition with the best time, and then with the most accurate off-roading skills. And I'm damn proud.
For one day, speed limits, road rules and, most important, brakes didn't exist. Returning to Peachtree Street as a Ford Octane Academy graduate was tough. But I like to think that even as I sip my latte, suppressing my bumper-to-bumper road rage, I have a little more street cred.