By on October 21, 2021

 

2021 Tim Healey/TTAC

We are constantly making decisions as we all hurtle through this life toward a destination unknown.

Sometimes these decisions turn out to be the “correct” decision, however “correct” is defined within the relevant context. Sometimes it’s the opposite.

The problem is that while the outcome of our decisions is sometimes obvious – I know when I order that one more beer that I’m kicking a payment of minor pain down the road to tomorrow – sometimes, the outcome isn’t foreseeable. Especially when you’re making a decision that feels correct at the moment (and defensible in hindsight), and yet a nasty surprise is just seconds away from smacking you in the face.

In other words, sometimes you make a decision that seems correct, seems low risk, one that others would agree with – and it still all goes to hell.

I didn’t have time to ponder this when I was sitting in a once pristine Lexus IS 500 that I had managed to turn into a work of deranged art, thanks to what happens when a moving car meets a stationary wall. My musings came later. I was too busy figuring out what comes next after you bin a car. I’d never done it before, so I was in foreign territory.

I was also hurting. Not physically – other than what felt like some scratches on my legs, I seemed to be in the same general physical condition I was in just a few seconds earlier. Overweight and out of shape, sure, but with all bones in correct working order, and nary a drop of blood to be seen. But even if I was physically fine, I was already feeling the type of shame and embarrassment and anger (directed at myself) that most of us live our lives trying to avoid.

We’ll get to more of that in a bit. First, let me set the scene.

THE BACKGROUND

I’m a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and the group puts together two drive events each year, including one that involves some track driving at the famed Road America racetrack in Wisconsin. I was at one such event, delayed 17 months, give or take, by COVID. Which is how I came to be in the Lexus in the first place.

The event allows journalists to drive a bunch of cars on the local roads, and a select few on the track. You get one lap at a time, untimed, with cars spaced to avoid passing. Because Road America is a very fast track and because production vehicles, even performance cars, sometimes lack the type of tires and/or brakes needed for such an environment, our group takes steps to slow the speeds down a bit.

We also do this because most of us aren’t pro drivers, or even close. And past incidents have caused us to adjust, as well.

It’s a fun event that allows drivers to get speed while hopefully not getting over their heads. But I am living proof that sometimes even with proper precautions set, something can go wrong.

THE INCIDENT

I want to make a few things clear. While I have a decent amount of track-driving experience by now, and while I’ve also spent a lot of time getting instruction from pro drivers, I have no illusions of grandeur about my abilities. I’ve even said, publicly, on these digital pages, that I am probably mid-pack when it comes to my place in the pecking order of automotive journalists who track drive on a regular basis. I don’t pretend to be faster than I am.

I am also generally the sort to err on the side of caution. Some folks test the waters by braking as late as they can, while I sometimes brake too early, for example.

In other words, I consider myself competent but conservative, quick but not fast, aware of my flaws and my limits – and not willing to intentionally venture past said limits. Responsible instead of irresponsible. Not a braggart. In fact, in what now appears to be a jinx, I’d even said to a pro riding right-seat in a BMW M4 Competition that I’d rather be sitting at dinner lamenting about the speed I’d left on the table than how I’d gone too fast and cracked up a car.

I wasn’t thinking about any of this as I approached the famed Canada Corner (Turn 12) at Road America, though. What I was thinking about was my speed. I don’t typically look at the speedometer when on track – gotta keep the eyes up and looking ahead – but I’d driven a couple of cars earlier in the day that either had head-up displays or had a speedo that was at the bottom of my peripheral vision, meaning I could see the speed without risking looking away from the track. So I had a sense of about the speeds I was hitting while approaching the corner throughout the day.

I’d been entering the braking zone at 120 mph earlier in the day and getting them down to 40-45 for the corner without trouble. I noticed I was approaching 125 in the Lexus, thanks to its big ol’ honkin’ V8. I wondered if I could squeeze out a few MPH and hit 130. I was able to.

Now, again, I am the cautious sort. I wouldn’t have tried to gain speed shortly before a braking zone if I had, even for a second, any doubt about the safety of doing so. And I had previously hit 130 before the braking zone in other cars, though not on this day. So I felt like I was within both my limits and the cars’. But what would follow will show that either I was wrong and needed to slow down, or that I would’ve been fine if not for something I didn’t expect. Or both.

When I hit the brakes, they immediately went soft. Not completely, though, and the pedal didn’t go to the floor. There was some bite, but it wasn’t as immediate and stout as it had been earlier in the lap. Road America demands a lot of brakes, and they must’ve gotten too hot during the lap.

That led to me thinking “oh, shit! I am not going to slow down in time for turn-in and I am going off.”

Based on my admittedly fallible memory – everything from the moment I touched the brakes until I heard the sickening thunk that indicated I’d hit the wall is a blur – matched with the video evidence and a conversation with a friend/colleague that has more experience than I and who has done some track-driving instruction, I think I pieced together what happened.

What the video shows is that I hit the brakes on time, and that is followed by the car coming into the corner, eventually veering ever-so-slightly towards the center of the track, instead of the outside where it should’ve been, and then turning in early and clipping the last in a line of cones set out to make sure drivers didn’t turn in too early. Anyone who has driven Road America, or even just watched races there, knows that turning in to Canada Corner too early means you will likely shoot off into the wall.

Is it possible that I just goofed and turned in too early? Yes, but I’d been making that turn correctly all day to that point, and I’d managed that corner well enough in years past, even without cones as a guide. No, I think it was more complicated than that.

Here’s my guess: When I felt that the brakes were faded, I got flustered. Maybe even panicked a little. Instinctively turned the wheel to try to keep the car from plowing straight off. But I somehow scrubbed off enough speed to get the car to turn, and it turned in early, way offline. Thus catching the cone – something I don’t remember hearing or feeling in real-time – and sliding off track, over the smooth pavement to the corner’s left, eventually catching the wall at an angle.

To be VERY clear – I am not blaming the car. There was some paddock-area debate over whether it had the brakes to be out there, but even if it shouldn’t have been, the incident is, in my view, my fault. I should’ve probably been driving a little slower. Even if 130 was an acceptable speed, I should’ve lifted off the throttle a bit early instead of holding it until the beginning of the braking zone – this would’ve allowed the weight to transfer to the front, giving the front tires more grip.

Even if my speed wasn’t too fast, I should have enough experience, at this point, to better know how to control a car when the brakes go mushy. I should’ve just stood harder on the brakes and kept the wheel straight until I got a few feet deeper into the corner. Heck, even if I’d gone straight off, I might’ve managed to stop before hitting the wall. Instead, I reacted on instinct and turned the wheel, probably because, in terms of unthinking reaction, it seemed the best way to avoid the wall. Or going off at all. I was just reacting in the manner I thought was the best way to keep the car on track, even if it actually wasn’t.

But, again, turning too early in that corner all but guarantees you’ll be shaking hands with the tire barrier. Which, having driven the track on at least a dozen occasions, with countless laps, I should’ve remembered in the moment. Even if things were happening too fast for my brain to process.

The video also shows some things I can’t explain. The brake lights appear to turn off at one point between me leaving the track and hitting the wall, but it’s impossible to tell if my foot came off the pedal (if so, it was inadvertent, and in my memory, my foot was on the brake the whole time) or if the video’s lighting just tricked the eyes. There also were no tire marks, which tells me that even if I was on the brakes, maybe I wasn’t on them hard enough. That possibility sickens me – maybe if I’d had a cooler head, I could’ve gotten on ‘em harder and stayed out of the wall. Or maybe not, maybe I was just moving too fast for the tires to drag and shed rubber.

I should note, here, that a light drizzle was occurring, enough to turn the wipers on, but the pavement appeared to still be dry. There’s no way in hell I’d have entered the braking zone at well over triple digits if the roadway was wet. I have at least a modicum of common sense.

If you’ve never gone off a track or hit a wall, it’s not a pleasant experience. It was my first significant off and my first contact with a wall, and I’d like to not repeat it. My previous track indiscretions are limited to putting two wheels off at Thunderhill (the car was, to my knowledge, undamaged) and arguably putting one wheel off at Gingerman once (a friend/colleague says she saw me do it, but I never felt it and the car was fine. I don’t know if she was wrong about what she saw. She could also be trolling to get a rise out of me). I’d not recommend the experience to others.

As I said, my memory of the few seconds between me touching the brakes and the car thumping the wall are a blur. I do remember a few things, though. For one thing, the old cliché racers say about how you become a passenger at some point is certainly true – once I left the track, I felt like there was nothing I could do to control the car. I also remember that I wasn’t scared – not because I am some brave, tough guy but because I was so busy trying to avoid the wall that I didn’t have time to be scared.

The impact was certainly solid enough to be felt, but it could’ve been so much worse. I suspect I managed to scrub enough speed, somehow, to mitigate the impending disaster somewhat. I also hit at an angle. The airbags didn’t even deploy. Nor did my helmeted head appear to strike anything inside the car, such as the A-pillar.

THE AFTERMATH

The second-worst part of the incident, other than the crash itself, was the aftermath. It took me just seconds to reflexively do a quick self-assessment, with nothing seeming to be broken or bleeding. I felt only like I had some scratches on my legs from them hitting the bottom of the dash. But mentally, I was a bit of a mess.

I was in shock – not the medical kind, but the “I can’t believe that just happened, please tell me I am dreaming” kind. I was embarrassed, angry at myself, and ashamed. Especially because I help with the organization of the event – I put extra pressure on myself not to crash, since those of us who help run the event emphasize safety. I want to lead by example, and I felt like I failed.

Time moves slowly when you’re sitting in a wrecked, immobile car. The thought of getting out quickly to escape a possible fire didn’t cross my mind, probably because I was driving a production car and not a racecar. I just sat there in my shame, watching the corner worker wave the yellow flag, awaiting the tow truck.

When the safety workers arrived, they had me climb out the passenger side, since the driver’s door was wedged shut. This threatened injury of its own kind – limber, I ain’t. Then I got the true pro-driver treatment – an ambulance ride, complete with the standard medical questions.

Fun times. Not.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Long-time TTAC readers will remember that this site, along with rival blog Jalopnik, once outed journalists who crashed on events. We haven’t during my time here in part because I haven’t been made aware of incidents often, and when I have, I haven’t been able to confirm facts well enough in order to publish. But also, I feel it’s a kind of bullying that doesn’t serve readers. I understand the reasoning went along the lines of “well if a journalist crashes and then writes a review, isn’t he/she being dishonest with readers? Maybe he/she didn’t get enough miles to write a review!”

My retort has been that we don’t know if the writer got what he or she needed and it’s inside baseball that readers only care about as gossip and nothing more. I don’t see the point in pulling a Nelson Muntz and using these pages to “ha-ha” a good driver who had a bad day. Or an inexperienced driver who got in over their head. Maybe schadenfreude could be directed at the small but vocal band of assholes in this business who think that what they leave in the toilet doesn’t smell, the ones who overrate their abilities and show no shame when the inevitable happens, but that seems best saved for one-on-one conversations as opposed to rhetorical bombs tossed safely from behind my keyboard.

That said, I’m writing about what happened to take ownership. And to maybe hope you will learn from my crackup should you take to the track. Yes, it also shields me from accusations of hypocrisy, since I manage a site that once played tattletale with glee, but that’s not the primary reason I’ve been hacking away at this post.

It’s taken me over a week to write this. In part because of other projects, in part because of writer’s block, but mostly because I’ve been feeling sick about the incident and it’s just hard to write about without dredging up the guilt I feel. Even though some well-wishing colleagues tried to cheer me up over Spotted Cow ales later in the evening, I can’t quite shake the guilt.

I do have some lingering physical issues that manifested themselves once the adrenalin wore off. My right shoulder is sore, and my right wrist hurts a bit. Not bad – no worse than when I got mauled by some dude twice my size playing recreational flag football a few years back. Not so bad that I had to skip my next softball game. But just enough to remind me of what happened, at least until I heal fully.

I keep thinking about what I could’ve done differently. Slowed down to 120 when I saw I was doing 125, instead of shooting for 130. Or maybe 130 was fine, but I should’ve just lifted earlier than I did, in order to get more front-tire grip. Maybe I needed to keep the wheel straight when I realized the brakes were cooked. Maybe I needed to apply more brake-pedal pressure than I did – pro instructors will tell you that people often don’t apply max pressure, and they don’t even realize they aren’t doing so. I’ve had that bit of instruction myself, several years ago.

All these things are a part of the reason why I’m thinking of taking a car-control class soon. But not the usual pro-driver instruction I’ve had over the past decade-plus. That type of instruction, while very valuable, is all about going fast safely, and avoiding incidents in the first place. No, I want to take a class that will teach me what to do when shit goes sideways. How to react once things go pear-shaped.

I took a class like that many moons ago, and I think a revisit would be good. I crashed in part because I, for lack of a better word, panicked. Not the screaming, hysterical kind of panic, but rather because things were happening too quickly for my brain to process and I reacted on instinct – and reacted poorly. I faced a situation that’s common to track driving but had yet to happen to me, and I didn’t react in the proper way to handle it.

Had I stayed calm and kept cool, and had I mental muscle memory for what to do, the outcome may have been different. I may still have gone off, but perhaps without bending sheetmetal. A damaged ego is far less of a problem than a damaged car and/or a damaged human body.

At approximately 1:40 PM CST on an overcast fall Wednesday in October in Wisconsin, I made a decision that at the moment felt correct. A defensible decision, probably. But one that nonetheless resulted in an undesirable outcome. In part because of something I couldn’t foresee but should’ve been prepared for, just in case.

I’ll be feeling guilty about this for a while. Probably even after my next track day, whenever that will be. Even if I have a good, fast day with no further incidents. But I have two choices – stew about it and let it eat me up inside, or learn from it and use it to become an even better driver. That all sounds cliché, but it’s true.

I choose the latter.

Life is all about decisions. When a decision goes wrong, the best decision you can make next is to learn from it. Which is exactly what I plan to do.

[Image: © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

*Editor’s note — There is only one picture of the damaged car because it’s the only one I took. I had no chance to get pics in the immediate aftermath of the crash, for reasons that should be obvious.

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67 Comments on “On Decisions, Consequences, and Being ‘That Guy’...”


  • avatar
    dr_outback

    I feel the same way when reviewing stupid screw ups with girls I dated so I never do it again. It’s a shot at the confidence level for sure and an embarrassment.

    At least you’re willing to learn, unlike a lot of people.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, damn! Glad you didn’t get seriously hurt.

    Who teaches how to deal with a car that’s out of control, though? Sounds like the instructors must have solid unobtainium nuts.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      When I was a teen, I did a course in an empty parking lot where the only things you could hit were cones. They’d wet mats down so you’d slide.

      I think Bondurant does something similar with rigs attached to cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I don’t track day but I do ride dual sport motorcycles. It happens rather often where I’m in a situation that tests my waning/aging reflexes. Typically I’m a bit too fast (for my age according to my riding buddies) and get into what they feel are sphincter tightening situations.

        More times than I care to remember, I’ve come around a corner and there’s a rather deep new hole/rut/bump/log etc. in the trail. So far I’ve managed to stay loose, get into attack position, lighten the front wheel and take the hit. If in doubt, gas it.

        I do occasionally hit the ground. Dirt biking is a contact sport after all. Harry Callahan used to say, “A man’s GOT to know his limitations.” I’m still figuring that one out.

        Nice write up and glad to know you are okay.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @Tim:

        The next piece needs to be about what happens with the manufacturer AFTER you crash their car. I’ve always wondered. Do they bill your insurance? Does Lexus limit you to driving a UX in a mall parking lot?

        Inquiring minds want to know.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          “Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman. He’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it!”

          https://youtu.be/QN_Nod65e7o?t=112

          Language advisory if you watch the whole clip (the kind of language found in a Tim Healey writeup).

        • 0 avatar
          Tim Healey

          I am fairly certain the event was insured. I have no idea if Lexus will be angry with me/us but I can tell you many, many apologies were issued on my part.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I stopped instructing because riding with track newbies in vehicles that are faster in street form then official race cars was way too stressful. I rode with a guy in Challenger once and after returning to the pits I simply told the organizer to put the tow truck on stand by and that I would not be assisting this student any longer.

      I’ve also had the opposite where someone was so careful and slow I had to basically beg them to give it the beans. The learning curve, skill set and egos are all over the place… but its the egos that are the worse. If get in a car with someone who isn’t scared and they seem to be attempting to impress me with how fast their car is that’s when I get out. Fear is a good thing.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “but that seems best saved for one-on-one conversations”

    How do I get a one-on-one conversation with Scott Evans?

    I don’t think you need to mock anyone, but you’ve stretched the “how is this about cars?” line enough times in your editorial tenure that stating you won’t report other journo incidents comes off like a regrettable omertà situation.

  • avatar
    JMII

    As an occasional track day driver myself everything you wrote is spot on. This is what separates the pros from use mere mortals. Your muscle memory just isn’t trained or conditioned enough to recover, even if your brain can sort out the situation despite it all happening so quickly you can’t even remember it. As the pro say: at some point we all run out talent. The early-in / early-off problem is common. In fact after plenty of laps at Sebring, my brother (who has been guided by several pros and has more hot laps under his belt) let me in on a secret: the turn in cones are late on purpose – because its safer.

    No doubt odd feeling brakes is the WORSE part of track driving, even the tiniest bit of “hmmmm that doesn’t feel right” is enough to turn your fun day into a stomach churning sensation of constant fear rendering the whole event into painful waste of money as you chicken out and pack in after just one session.

    Sure its embarrassing but thankfully its someone else’s car, imagine the horror of this happening in your own ride. My C7 stickered for $75k, even at 1/2 that cost used (which is all I could afford) turning it into shards of cracked fiberglass haunts my dreams. I lost the brakes on my 350Z on track once (piston seal gave out), thankfully it was in area where I had plenty of run off so I didn’t hit anything. I managed to stay calm, pump them enough to slow down and return safely to the pits. However I’ve seen cars, right in front of me in fact, make microscopic errors and turn into worthless crunch and twisted rumble in the blink of an eye.

    Good on you for posting this, learning and moving on.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Rationalizing away the lesson keeps you from learning anything. 130, in the rain no less, in a car you haven’t driven before and can only guess at the limits of.

    The eff did you think was going to happen?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      As I said, I wouldn’t have gone that fast on wet pavement — it was drizzling but the track was dry. And I felt I was well within my limits, and the cars. I was probably wrong, but I don’t think I am rationalizing here — just explaining my thoughts/decisions/actions transparently.

    • 0 avatar
      davewg

      did you even read the part about the brake issue…

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        That’s the lesson. You can discover the limits by gradually working up to them, or else you can discover them all at once.

        • 0 avatar
          Tim Healey

          I get that, but trust me, I wasn’t in anyway trying to build up to the limit. In my mind, I was within my limits based on past experience. Same goes for the car. The point is something unexpected went wrong, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Not that I was pushing past the limit recklessly. I’ve never done that, ever, in 14-ish years of driving on tracks. If anything, I’ve had right-seat riders push me to go faster/be more aggressive.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Dan is 100 % spot on. Going faster than previous laps in ‘drizzle.’ On a track that sees high levels of tire rubber powder fragments and oil.

      Some people have less regard/respect for property if its not theirs. I have no idea which camp Tim falls into. But this is true. Nothing is REALLY apologized for (in this situation) until something of value is given (payment).

      Tim owes Lexus a few $1000 out HIS pocket.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Well, if the car lost traction and was skidding, the pedal should not have gone soft. It should have kicked back as ABS triggered. You don’t think Lexus would send journalists out in a car lacking standard safety features, do you? So the slight moisture on the track may have made the situation worse, but can’t be the sole cause.

        As for personal compensation, that’s a pretty rigorous standard, and makes me wonder if you partake of insurance.

        • 0 avatar
          Tim Healey

          If the ABS didn’t kick on, maybe I need to brake even harder. One of the lessons I am taking away from this.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            Certainly, you were the one piloting the vehicle, so you’re expected to know the limits of the car. However, if the limits change during a lap, that’s very difficult to compensate for. I don’t know if you remember Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap test of a Nissan NISMO 370Z where the brakes failed? Seems pretty similar.
            https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a15129918/z-meets-wall-we-investigate-why-the-nismo-zs-brakes-failed-at-lightning-lap/

            I don’t know exactly how you can plan for such an event. Test the brakes by braking halfway down each straightaway? Not really sure.

      • 0 avatar
        Tim Healey

        I do have respect for other people’s property. And it’s not in the story, but I apologized to Lexus a bunch.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I didn’t read this as the limits changing mid lap. I read that Tim assumed a limit based on the totally different cars he’d driven earlier that day, at least some of which must have been before the rain started, and then nudged that upwards another 10 mph in respect of the big honkin V8. Nothing about the car feeling like it had some left on the 125mph entry he just tried. Nothing about the brakes didn’t do that last time. There was no last time and this was the absolutely inevitable outcome.

        All respect to Tim for swallowing his pride enough to admit that this happened at all. Now stop letting it lie to you about why.

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          Dan, it was described as happening in turn 12, and I assume the lap began at turn 1. He said the brakes “immediately went soft”. To me, that means something changed as compared to previous corners. Unless it’s faulty memory, I don’t see any other way to read it.

          If it had happened to me, I would want to understand why it had happened and how to avoid it from happening again. What’s your take? How would one stop this from happening?

          • 0 avatar
            Tim Healey

            SPPP is correct — the lap begins with track out, then we do the 14 corners before pit in. Actually, we do more — we use a chicane instead of the famed Kink for safety. The brakes felt good right up until the braking zone for 12. Which makes me think they got too hot and faded.

            Dan makes a good point, too — I really should’ve adjusted better to the Lexus’ weight and brakes. It’s not a Supra or Mach 1 or BMW M4 Comp or even the Hellcat Redeye I drove on track earlier.

            The rain wasn’t an issue, though. Track was dry. I’d have slowed if not. Road America in the wet requires you to slow way the hell down.

            In fact, it was my last lap of the day — the rain looked threatening and I wanted to drive some other cars on the street anyway. So yes, it’s a bit like the cop being shot one day from retirement — I was three turns away from returning the car undamaged.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Glad you’re okay – how bad off was the car? It doesn’t look totaled.

  • avatar
    Rboz

    Glad you are well Tim. This is why I hang out at Canada Corner when at Road America. The fact that you took time after to review and explore what went wrong, makes you a better driver in the long run.

    I think Road America offers a winter driving class, get back on that horse!

  • avatar
    davewg

    Thanks for your forth-rightness and honestly about this. Twenty odd years ago I stuffed a Skip Barber open wheel car into the tires at Lime Rock headed into West Bend.

    Damage to the car was minor – I just completely misjudged the braking, and it may have been damp (my recollection on the weather is fuzzy).

    Even in my early 30s I wasn’t mature enough to unpack it to figure out what had gone wrong (dumb), but I can certainly attest to feeling all of the same things you seemed to feel with this incident.

    It sucked, and unfortunately because life gets in the way, I haven’t been back on a track since (unless you count arrive and drive go-carts). I like to think I’d actually be more thoughtful about my driving on a track today and might even be faster than my 30 year old self (with a LOT of practice and a good level of new instruction) because I recognize I wasn’t thinking enough about the driving (at the time) and letting my ego assume I could just do it.

    Bottom line – we have to learn from all of these things. That, hopefully, makes us better.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I understand engines don’t produce vacuum at full throttle. I did lose my brakes coming down a 7% grade, towing heavy and the only thing that saved my bacon before Dead Man’s Curve was a long straightaway. Both feet on the brakes and pulled up on the bottom of the wheel like a bumper jack.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      @davewg

      The next time you run an ‘arrive and drive’ go-kart – lean OUT in the corners. You’ll pass everyone.

      Also, don’t tell anyone else this trick. Thanks.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Tim, glad you’re OK. Our egos recover easily. The car will go to the crusher. IS250 owner, so I gotta ask; “didja like it? didja like it?”. Well, before the crash I mean.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “But also, I feel it’s a kind of bullying that doesn’t serve readers.”

    No, it’s a kind of bullying to counter their smugness–which in most cases is its own kind of bullying.

    If you can’t take the heat…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Tim, I think this is your best piece ever.

    I’ve never been on a track, but the lessons you described apply to daily driving, also.

    I thought I was a good driver for about 40 years. In hindsight, I’ve had a lot of accidents and most were my fault. I have learned from all of them, but now I believe that I’m a pretty mediocre driver.

    Just because I understand how the car works and how to fix it, doesn’t mean that I’m a good driver.

    Anybody who can run at a track is a better driver than me. Kudos for sharing your experience with us. Glad you were OK. I know that sick feeling quite well, but it will pass.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    When I saw the picture, before reading the story, I said “He’s going to blame the car in some way, then say he’s not blaming the car”.

    I was right!!

    What do I win??

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Kinda thought I was clear in that while there did seem to be an issue with the car, the onus is still mostly on me for not knowing how to react when the brakes were faded.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    TL;DR: I don’t always make excuses, except when I do which is always.

    Tim, some very personal advice: You talk about your weight and lack of flexibility a *lot* (and have for a long time). If you spent 1/3 the effort actually addressing these instead of broadcasting it to the interwebs in some sick form of learned-helplessness victimization woe-is-me rubbish, you could have made a lot of progress by now.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Stock brake pads are usually iffy for track duty, especially on a heavy, powerful beast such as the IS 500.

  • avatar
    BSttac

    That’s a tough break. Im happy you were not hurt on the crash. Even looking at the car it doesn’t look like it hit too hard. Road America is my home track so I’m very familiar with the turns. I feel for you. That feeling is never fun. Keep your head up. It sounds more like brakes were the issue here.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    I thank you Tim for the story. I think I can learn something from it although I have never been on a track. Denver Mike, can you elaborate about the vacuum stuff? Are you suggesting Tim should have been on the throttle as things went south? Tim, can you explain the braking system in the IS a bit? I assume modern cars have some sort of computer/ electronic interface between the pedal and the pads in order to make ABS work at the very least. If there is any artificial feel does this contribute to confusion when the brakes aren’t right? Again thanks for the story. Ignore the haterade.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I am no engineer, but yes, there is almost certainly some computer action at play for ABS. I think I simply need to get on the brakes even harder than I did to engage the ABS, and my failure to do so is part of what I want to correct in case there’s a next time.

  • avatar
    AK

    That’ll buff right out

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    “Good brakes,” Tim mused, casually lighting a cigarette, “but certainly not great brakes.”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    1) You are Ok. That is most important.
    2) You owned up to what happened. A life lesson that we should all remember.
    3) How many times have Clarkson and Hammond (and in particular Hammond) ‘pranged’ a test vehicle? They make boatloads of money doing just that.

  • avatar
    beachy

    Don’t worry about it. You improved the appearance of the car.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    For an interesting review of this car, check savagegeese on ewwtoob. The reviewers had a lot sideways fun on the Autobahn CC track and loved the V8, but not much else. Summary, swan song for the V8 in an otherwise dated car. Nothing about the brakes, though.
    I’ve stopped viewing any other site – savagegeese has the best production values and commentary. Give it a look.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Are there a couple of car control class’s you would recommend?

  • avatar

    Wrecking on a public road with other people and wrecking on a track are different. I get an impression that for the folks testing a car on track there is some macho thing going…you get the car for a few laps and have to show everyone your inner Senna….the factory drivers have thousands of laps and you aren’t catching them….but you want to have the experience to write about. The OE’s know a few JournoSaurs will bend the metal, but they are part of engineering or PR and no one pays or gets hurt.

    If you need to spend time on a track till your eyes bleed, may I recommend Lemons or Champ ? Here’s the car, come back when the tank is empty.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I spun a friend’s Miata on a right hand kink going over a slight rise. Fortunately zero damage, but it ate me up for weeks, mostly because I was on a cool-down lap and had taken 20-25% speed off from previous laps. I found a video of a virtually identical spin by another Miata and there it was, trailing-throttle oversteer.

  • avatar
    j lu

    As has been said…Any crash you can walk away from is a good one. Cars are replaceable, people are not.
    I would suggest that perhaps you take a refresher race inspired driving course to remove the guilt you feel and then get back on the horse, as they say and enjoy the ride.
    You aren’t the first journalist to crunch a fender nor the last.
    Hang in there and don’t punish yourself.

  • avatar
    NoID

    When you write 3207 words “owning” your decision, it feels like a check written against the bank of bullcrap to me.

    Trust me, I felt like saying a whole lot of semi-apologetic, ultimately face-saving explanatory exposition when I nearly drove my entire family into a pond in a UTV before rear-ending my 12-year-old son and his cousin in a different UTV. Some of the people there even attempted to provide me ample opportunity to do so, giving me way more credit than I was due.

    But I swallowed all that, apologized for over-driving and losing control, made no excuses, and accepted the blame. No excuses, no “defensible decisions” or other baloney. I didn’t leave enough room for error, so having committed one error (over-driving a corner completely unnecessarily) I was at that point “along for the ride”. Hard right to miss a tree. Hard left to correct the resulting slide and avoid a pond. Slam on the brakes far too late to avoid impacting the stationary vehicle in front of me. No time to think, no time to plan my steps. Errors stack up when you don’t leave yourself room, and that’s exactly what you did here. And having not prepared yourself for what to do once it all went “pear-shaped”, you too were along for the ride. Sorry, that’s the truth.

    If you have spent 14 years occasionally driving at the track, but haven’t spent time mentally preparing for when things go wrong, then you’ve just been irresponsible for 14 years. This article could have been 500 words about how you created a problem and lacked the skill or preparation to respond appropriately. Just as I did on the UTV.

    I’m not sure you learned anything, because you’ve gone to great pains to identify something, anything, to fully explain what went wrong. You admit you made a bad decision, but then call that decision defensible and identify multiple extenuating circumstances to minimize your role in everything.

    You didn’t own it…you’re leasing it for ad revenue here at TTAC.

    But it’s OK, just keep writing your fellatious reviews and running this website into the wall like that poor Lexus. I came back here today to check the site out after a few months of ignoring it, and this piece here just reminds me why I checked out in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I thought I was pretty clear that I took responsibility for everything — but I wouldn’t have been fully honest about the incident if I didn’t mention the brakes. The site is called the Truth About Cars. It’s there in the name.

      The brakes fading — a car issue. Everything else, including my response, my fault. So the accident is, if not 100 percent my fault, at least 80 percent. I am taking responsibility and did so with Lexus, as well.

      I would also take issue with saying I’ve been “irresponsible” for 14 years. All my track driving, or almost all, has been in production cars. Most of it has been set up to minimize the likelihood of brake fade or mechanical failure. Whether it’s because the cars had good brakes, or the track was slower than RA, or we did lead-follow to keep speeds down, or whatever. You can argue I got complacent, or that my experience isn’t the same as someone who has raced, but I consider myself quite responsible on track. As said in the article. I simply hadn’t encountered that situation before and reacted poorly. That’s my fault, and something I aim to correct, but I don’t think “irresponsible” is the correct word.

      Yeah, it was wordy. I know. Unusually so for us. Many of those words were the intro, setup, and conclusion, however. Just sayin’

  • avatar
    Reedred

    Glad you don’t suffer from delusions of grandeur with regard to your driving abilities. As for your writing, the title Managing Editor does project an illusion of competence.

  • avatar
    ltcmgm78

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandiose_delusions

    Glad you’re OK. I suffer from delusions of grandeur myself!

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