“Is that a stock car?” the Tim Hortons server asked, which seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to say when a race car comes to a drive-thru in Kentucky. The little rally 944 wasn’t, but it was thoroughly awesome to make his day, regardless.
I just spent my vacation on the LeMons Rally across the eastern United States, where competitors take vehicles ill-suited to long-haul travel, drive them to Buffalo in the dead of winter, and then down to Alabama, across the Tail of the Dragon and other bits along the way. Rally co-driver for hire and OppositeLock moderator Steven Harrell and and I were in a stage rally car, and I needed coffee.
And thus, we answered one of the great questions of the ages: what happens if you take a fully prepared, caged and stickered-up race car through a drive-thru?
The answer: Depends on the drive-thru.
The 944 we had borrowed from rally driver Charli Tameris was loud, but otherwise, mostly stock aside from all the safety gear and the near-complete lack of insulation inside. There was a hole in the car near my feet that necessitated the wearing of multiple socks during the rally. Sure, the 944 was made for going the distance while racing, but it certainly wasn’t a comfortable highway cruiser like your mom’s Cadillac.
Most of our stops for caffeine were stops. Get out of the car, source coffee or some form of fizzy sugar water, and keep going. But on the last day of the rally, the starter that had been making loud, grinding noises throughout the trip finally died on us.
This complicated matters somewhat. Stopping the car meant either pushing it back to life, or parking on a downhill. We’d let it roll and get some momentum going before we popped the clutch for a push start. Because of this, stalling the car had more consequences besides laughter.
Fortunately, we’d found the holy grail of caffeine on the return trip, after the rally had ended: a Tim Hortons in Kentucky of all places, where the exit to the drive-thru angled downwards—just in case. Steve was driving since he doesn’t drink the hot brown stuff and the 944 had no cupholders.
This drive-thru was thoroughly amused by the appearance of a race car in its midst. Another worker joined the wide-eyed younger guy at the window to have a look. Questions as to what it was came our way.
There’s something deeply amusing about breaking up the monotony of a server’s day with a car that shouldn’t be in its drive-thru, but is anyway. Fortunately, the car did not stall, either.
Either way, we discovered the one downside to taking a race car through a drive-thru at the Tim Hortons stop: the loud exhaust made “assorted” sound like “chocolate.” I got 20 chocolate Timbits instead of the small cornucopia of donut hole flavors I was expecting. Not a problem, really.
Our first attempt at taking the race car for coffee was through a Starbucks drive-thru in Tennessee. We were playing obnoxious Porsche drivers for the LeMons Rally, so we’d even donned our racing suits for the day along with the transit-stage headsets we were using to talk to each other over the exhaust note.
You see, “That Guy” doesn’t just bring a car prepped for a different series with an unlimited budget to a lowly LeMons race for sub-$500 crapcans—he’s also the kind to show up to the hotel bar in a racing suit to attempt to impress the masses. LeMons’ road rally has no such budget cap, but we did have a Porsche built for Rally America, so whatever we could do to annoy the LeMons staff along the way was great.
The lady at the window chuckled a bit and said that she loved the car when we drove up. She wasn’t as amused by it as the guy at Tim Hortons, but I’d still call putting a smile on the face of someone having to stand at a window all afternoon a success.
Even looking the part (and Steve stalling a very loud vehicle—a butt-clenching moment when our starter was starting to fail) didn’t hardly seem to faze the extremely professional lady behind the Starbucks window in Tennessee. I got my venti Frappuccino that fit the obnoxiously large sunglasses I’d packed for the trip, and all was well.
Still, when the worst that can happen is still chocolatey goodness, taking a mildly prepared race car through a drive-thru is a fun time. Clearly, it depends on the car. A more extreme car with a trick clutch that has sacrificed all of its drivability at low speeds for performance while racing would be a nightmare.
Your average street car-turned-race car, though? Probably fine, if not delightfully silly. Leave the tow vehicle parked. We’ve got this.