The Joy Of Driving Fast

Today's sports cars make 100 MPH feel like you're standing still. That means you can drive faster than ever. Giving into that urge is only natural. Here's why.

I live to drive fast. Don't believe me? I passed up a real career — one with respectability, a fat paycheck, and health insurance — to write about cars. But that writing is just an excuse to drive the fastest cars in the world on good roads and great racetracks and have someone else pay for it. Do I miss the nice house, the savings account, and the closet full of suits? I do when I'm counting backwards from one hundred while a surgeon draws purple lines on my skin, or when I'm sitting by the side of the road contemplating jail time by the glow of flashing red lights. But those things are shoved aside by adrenaline when I turn off a congested highway and see a "curves ahead" sign.

Driving fast is dangerous, illegal, and irresponsible. Society dictates that you shouldn't do it, but car manufacturers sell faster and more powerful cars every year. Twenty years ago, the fastest car in the world, the Ferrari F40, made 471 HP. Now you can buy a four-door Cadillac with almost 100 HP more. People want fast cars because driving fast is dangerous, illegal and irresponsible. In a society beset by mindless conformity, the fear of risk, and the pressing need to uncover President Obama's birth certificate, cars deliver an easy way to experience danger and control.

The danger inherent in fast driving is different from the risk you run as you tool back and forth to work and Wal-Mart. It's not "a car might run a light and hit me today," or "this bridge could give way and drop me into a river." It's "if I screw up, I'm going to die." One is passive, the other is active. The difference between the two is the difference between existing and living.

In a nutshell, that's the key. That need to exert control over your own fate is primal in nature, the lingering artifact of monkey heritage in the upright ape's mind. Man's ancestors didn't walk out of the woods because we could run faster or bite stronger than our relatives — we're unique because we use tools. What is a car if not the ultimate tool? What is driving fast if not using that tool to the fullest extent of its intended purpose?

When Karl Benz insisted that a horse wasn't fast enough and invented a way to do better, he was solving his problem by creating a tool. Michael Schumacher isn't returning to Formula One because his wiener-schnitzel fund is running low; he's going back because existence without challenge bores him. When I post this piece, I'm going to walk out of my house, climb into an Audi S5, and speed, all because it's my nature to do so. I'm sorry, officer — I just can't help myself.