I really can't overstate the torrential downpour engulfing Portland International Raceway right now. Even Noah would grab a hammer and head to the lumber yard. Goldberg rode shotgun with a hotshoe for the first outing, because he's smart. I'm not. Which is why I'm sliding sideways through the first corner at a face-warping 25 mph.
The advance team set up the track with enough cones to line off three miles of freeway construction, and for good reason. The race line is drenched, so I'm basically driving in the middle of PIR, and trying to find anything resembling dry tarmac. It's utterly fruitless.
So I take it easy on the long straight leading into the first bend, brake early and lightly, and turn right, then left and start feeding in what I think is an appropriate amount of throttle. Nope. I overdo it by about 10 percent and I was only pressing maybe 1/8 of the way down. The back end swings wide, I catch it, lift off, catch it again, and then subtly remove a small bits of seat cloth from my sphincter.
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I keep it cool for the first lap, attempting to drive a line that makes absolutely no sense, but designed to keep hamfists like me out of the weeds. After the second lap, things are starting to gel, but every time I look in the rearview mirror I see some guy in a black hoodie with a scythe.
I finally give it the full boot down the straight and the traction control is chattering away like I've got a commercial mixer in the trunk. I am perfectly okay with this. When I finally get the gumption to lay into the brakes, the 15.4-inch front rotors with six-pot Brembos throw me forward and my co-pilot says I just registered 1.8 Gs of deceleration on the performance meter. Sweet!
But everything that made the Hellcat an absolutely delight on the road feels like a detriment on the track. Yes, the weather is horrible and the power is insane, but that's manageable once I understand that anything beyond 10 or 20 percent throttle in a corner is begging for an impromptu farming expedition. But it's also heavy. Like, minivan heavy. The Hellcat has a curb weight of just over 4,400 pounds, which is more than a base Honda Odyssey. That amount of sustained momentum on the road is comforting – even reassuring – but out on the track it feels unwieldy and unhinged. But I'm seeing sun, so it's time to head back out.