Most of the writers here got their start in more humble ways like “applying” or “writing a lot on OppositeLock.” I did a lot of that last one, too. But before that, I also owned Jalopnik’s then-editor-in-chief Matt Hardigree in the ultimate regular-car track battle first—and I’ve waited nearly four years to gloat.
I’m pretty self-conscious about the fact that I’m just okay as a driver. I’m not really good. I’m not really bad. I exist somewhere in the realm of acceptability, which isn’t really acceptable to me. I’m always looking to get better. Either way, it’s why you don’t hear my articles start off with a bunch of braggadocious nonsense about how I could take on Sebastian Vettel in a Trabant. It’s not me. (I’m open to make an attempt, if he’s reading.)
But this time, I have facts and numbers on my side, and I, Goddess of Speed, was faster than the Matt Hardigree. All bow to my gargantuan balls of steel and excellent driving ability. In other words, let me have my moment. (I don’t get these very often.)
I met Matt during the weekend of the first United States Grand Prix in Austin. Several friends from the FinalGear boards had descended upon Harris Hill Raceway after F1 was over, and our friend Nugget invited Matt along.
Matt had a perfectly regular car to test that weekend: a Dodge Dart SXT/Rallye. Somehow, after we’d crammed into Thomas’ Chrysler 300 rental car for a very floppy and slow lap, our group got it in our heads that we have five “rental cars” that needed to go head-to-head in an ill-advised, all-out track battle.
Two were actual rental cars: Thomas’ 300 and Monica’s Buick Verano. The rest of us had cars that we deemed slow and rental-like enough to participate: Joel’s Jetta SportWagen TDI, my Lancer GTS and of course, Matt’s Dart.
We deemed it the “Rental Car Deathmatch.”
Three laps, balls out, winner is the first to cross the line. Oh, and don’t crash if you didn’t get the full damage coverage.
At first, I shied away from the idea. My so-called “rental car” was actually my daily driver. I track the Lancer all the time, but whenever the word “race” is involved and it’s not a multiple-hour enduro, I tend to get exponentially stupider. Technically, the Lancer is still titled in my parents’ name—even today. It’s also the car I needed to get to work, which was a regular desk job at a tech company. If I broke my car, I would be hosed.
After some convincing, I caved and lined up the Lancer next to everybody else. After all, Joel’s Jetta wagon had to take him all the way back to Washington state, so he had to be careful, too.
My assurance to myself that I’d be easy on my car lasted for about two seconds. Then I just had to beat people. (Like Matt!)
Harris Hill is my home track, dang it. I have a ton of laps there, as did Monica. This was for pride! For honor! For the Puffalump!
I made short work of clawing my way through to the front of the pack, and putting some space on my competition. Joel stuck to his policy of responsibility, but I had succumbed to the dumb and blew right past him. The Lancer’s CVT whirred like the angriest pack of bees, but this was mine. I could smell victory. Most importantly, I was also in the lead with one lap to go.
Monica’s cheaty midsized Verano was gaining on me, but if I could hold her off, this would be an easy win.
Then I promptly flew straight off the turn 2/3 bend and kicked up a big cloud of dirt.
Fortunately, I was in the Lancer. It’s like a rally car, but...not! Sure enough, my car held its now-wider line like a champ, and I just rejoined the track just as if I’d just been on a rallycross extension of the road course.
Matt was so far behind in his cushy press vehicle that my off-roading expedition didn’t even matter.
When we crossed the line, it was official: I was faster than Jalopnik’s editor-in-chief. I win. Me. Ahead of someone. Look! Ha HA!
Matt claims the Dart’s transmission kept going into fail mode that day, but pfft. Excuses.
I also lost to the Verano, which flew past my car as I made that off-road detour outside turn 3. Look, we should have run classes, okay? There’s no way a mid-size car and a compact should be in the same class. Even Hertz doesn’t think they’re in the same class!