Here it is, my dark, secret shame. Though I may be of the esteemed driving class known as “a Jalopnik writer,” I had never, ever driven on a track. Not for a second in my life. Until now. I survived my first track day, and this is how you can, too.

Obviously, being a Jalopnik writer meant my secret shame couldn’t stand for long. Despite the occasional incident, we take performance driving seriously and the kind of cars we get to drive and the trips we get to go on are determined by our driving skill. This ranges from full-on racing school to HPDE to one-on-one instruction with people who can drive better than us.

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But being a Jalopnik writer isn’t all blazing burnouts and big drifts. It’s mostly, well, writing. Track stuff is only one aspect of cars, car culture, and the business. In fact, I was originally a financial journalist, who was hired because I had a world-class knowledge of mergers and acquisition, who just also loved the crap out of cars.

Just because you’ve never gone through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca doesn’t mean you aren’t a “car guy.”

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And we do actually track test cars quite often, both on pavement and dirt, even if it’s usually one of my other crazy colleagues with more experience who tend to do all that track testing.

That paradigm can’t last forever, though.

So on a chilly day a little while back, I got dragged all the way to the Lime Rock race track to get my first trackday in. And when I say “dragged,” I mean I enjoyed the creature comforts of driving up there in a Ford Mustang GT (with the Performance Pack, duh), and once I got there, I sidled into a Volkswagen Golf R. Mostly because the Golf R is faster than it has any right to be, and also because it’s pretty hard to crash it.

Which I was truly, genuinely terrified of doing. Get esteemed Jalop honcho Matt Hardigree to tell you enough times that if you crash something and you don’t die, he’ll end your life anyways, you’ll get nervous, too.

But my job is very occasionally ridiculous, and very occasionally I sacrifice all my dignity to entertain you, The People.

The prize here wasn’t the Golf R at all, however, as good as it is. The real reward was the chance to drive the absurdly lightweight, absurdly visceral, absurdly wonderful Alfa Romeo 4C, with its carbon fiber construction, unpowered steering, and interior made of joy and used condoms.

I just had to manage to not only go fast, but not die at the same time.

Watch the inaugural episode of Neat Stuff in Cool Cars to see if I made it.


Contact the author at ballaban@jalopnik.com.
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