COTD: Evil Genius Racing Edition

Evil Genius Racing is a shop in West Sacramento that specializes in building Spec Miatas and has some fame for preparing a good number of LeMons racers. The evil genius himself, John Pagel, is worth a story or two.

He gave up driving racecars regularly about five years ago, but he started racing a showroom stock Ford Fiesta back in the early ‘80s, eventually rolling something like five times at Portland International Raceway. Forgiving him the rollover, he had a really wonderful quote about the difference between competing in a racecar and driving a road car.

I feel safer on the racetrack than I do on the highway. On the track I'm surrounded by professionals, but on the highway everyone's going 70 with no idea what they're doing.

When we asked, how to become a better at driving, reader Jstas questioned whether it's even good at all to mix up what happens on the racetrack and what happens on public roads.

Don't fall in to the trap that being a good race driver correlates to being a good street driver.

Driving a race car is about car control. On a race track or closed course, the environment is fairly predictable and controlled so that outside influences like pedestrians, cross traffic and other fun obstacles are kept to a minimum. The reason for that is well, safety. Not just for those obstacles but so that the race car drivers can focus on the task of traveling at high speeds and running the fastest lap they can each time they circle the track. It's a different set of skills.

On the street, the object is not to go as fast as humanly possible as consistently as humanly possible. The object is to not die or kill or injure others in the process. Driving on a race track is concentrated driving focused solely on car control. Driving on a street is fundamentally distracted driving because not only do you have to concern yourself with car control but you also have to obey traffic signals and laws, watch for and consider other drivers, pedestrians and environmental obstacles. With all that going on, it can be difficult to focus on car control.

Racing can help because you learn valuable skills revolving around car control that make things like maintaining control under panic braking, recovering from a skid or evasive maneuvering almost second nature. That can allow you to asses a situation faster than an average driver and maybe even avoid the accident entirely. A lesser skilled driver might be prone to panic and do something stupid like remove their hands from the control devices and end up as a passenger along for the ride and ensuring a collision.

Driving a race car can help but it is by no means the same as driving on the street.

Photo Credit: Evil Genius Racing