Strange people start cults. A science fiction writer who "discovered" that tomatoes feel pain created The Church of Scientology. A Dutch man convicted of mail fraud convinced millions that their ancestors had sex with astronauts. A talking salamander founded the Mormons. And a racetrack owner who decided to let complete amateurs onto his concrete playground created the Trakult.
Ask a Scientologist why they follow a doctrine created by man who ended his years on his own cruise ship staffed entirely by teenage girls in matching halter-tops and hot pants. You'll get a perfectly plausible explanation involving negative engrams (shouldn't it be "enmails" by now?), followed by a damn fine lawsuit. Ask a Member of the Trakult why a professional race circuit is a better place to drive fast than a public road, and you'll get an equally belligerent and self-righteous reply: safety. Trakultists argue that racetracks are the best—nay the ONLY place— for their speed-afflicted brethren to indulge their love of lateral G's.
It seems to make sense. Racetracks have no Zebra crossings, side streets, school zones, bouncing balls, ice cream trucks, or postal vans. Thanks to the Track's purity of purpose, the only people facing serious injury or death from "inappropriate speed" are the Trakultists themselves (which bolsters their James Dean Dan Dare Stirling Moss Heavy Metal self-image). And if a driver's going to crash, where better than a closed roadway with barriers, gravel traps, tow-trucks, paramedics and adoring admirers?
The Trakult's argument is little more than a bizarre attempt to make the socially unacceptable acceptable. You see? We're not bonnet-bouncing baby killers! Here, on this concrete ribbon, we prove that safe driving and balls-out, edge-of-the-envelope, adrenalin-crazed, why-the-Hell-doesn't-that-dickhead-move-over speed are completely compatible. As if. In fact, the Trakult has a secret agenda that's about as compatabile with personal safety as land mines. It's called "The Line".
As I'm sure you know (apostles are everywhere), the "racing line" is the ideal route around a race circuit for drivers seeking to complete a lap in the shortest possible time. Trakultists worship "The Line". They study it on special maps in spiral bound notebooks. They discuss it with fellow devotees, in minute detail, at trackside cafes, Internet chat rooms and country pubs. They pay professional instructors to help them perfect it. They venerate all who master it. Then they do it. Endlessly. Around and around they go, faster and faster, wearing a groove into both the racetrack and their subconscious. This creates two dangerous ideas:
1. I'm an excellent driver who knows his car's limits. A few laps with a professional driver might dispel this dangerous arrogance— if the Trakultists weren't too busy endorphin surfing. Even when a Trakultist surrenders his pride and joy to someone happy to sacrifice structural integrity on the altar of ten one-hundredths of a second, the Trakultist rationalises the discrepancy between Him and Me. He's a High Priest. But I'm still one of the Chosen. I can still drive like a real man. Safely.
2. The racing line is A Good Thing. Trakultists believe their ability to find The Line makes them inherently superior drivers to the joy-riding rabble.
Dangerous nonsense. First of all, every open track day I've ever attended ended with crumpled and/or burnt metal. I've seen two Ferraris catch on fire, three Porsches stuff it into guardrails, and an assortment of Beemers greatly enrich their local body shop. Put the survivors back on public roads, suffering from the delusion that they can drive their high performance cars at 9/10ths, and something insurance related is bound to happen. To wit: I watched a tracked-out Nissan Skyline become one with an oak tree not two miles from Brands Hatch. It wasn't pretty. Nor unpredictable.
Equally important, the racing line is an inherently dangerous idea. The Line is designed for speed, not visibility. The apex of a turn is hardly the best place to position a car when trying to avoid that pesky little thing called on-coming traffic. What happens if you blow it? Understeer or oversteer, it don't make much never-mind. You stand an excellent chance of sliding into something hard that wasn't designed to de-accelerate high-speed objects.
Sure, Trakultists know they shouldn't follow The Line on Her Majesty's Publicke Roads, but they've been brainwashed. Following The Line becomes instinctive. When they want to show off, or the red mist descends, that's where they go.
Like all religious movements, the Trakult is fine in principle, demented in practice. Their ideal of "safe hooliganism" masks the real effect of extended track driving on amateur behaviour. Yes, a small amount of supervised track time is a unique opportunity for a "normal" driver to see what happens when they drive too fast. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Trakultists would do well to remember an old adage: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
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