It was a publicity event put on by Tam Viagens, the Brazilian travel agency, to get interest in the upcoming massive Formula 1 race in November. We’re looking forward to it, but only if we can score some tickets at a discount. $700 apiece is too rich for our blood.
So, ten of us from Tom’s work signed up to go 30 miles outside of Sao Paulo (yea, we escaped the city!) to the Kartodromo in Aldeia da Serra. Turns out, I was the only woman who’d signed up. (Grow up with four brothers and that’s what happens. No way I was going to let this sort of fun pass me by!)
The Kartodromo is nestled against a hillside out in the middle of nowhere; a perfect spot.
The event began with a spiel about the Formula 1 race and the ticket packages available.
My mind wandered a bit during the presentation and I noticed the snacks on offer behind the counter, what every top-notch driver needs: Cheetos and Red Label Johnny Walker!
While we waited, we dined on pao de queijo (cheese balls), cheese and ham tortilla sandwiches, and tiny, tiny cups of dolce de leite (a thick caramel-like pudding, omnipresent here where the people LOVE their sweets).
Finally, it was time to get suited up. A gal named Bruna joined me in the ladies’ dressing room and I followed her lead, with the cover-up going on over our clothes. She also showed me how to wear the balaclava and the gloves. I felt like Ayrton Senna.
Tom and I didn’t know until they called our names that we were actually going to drive. There were slots for five people, but they allowed nine of us to drive, including the son of one of Tom’s co-workers. Dylan (13) was stoked, and his hands were like ice.
Each of us, in civvies, looks like the normal, nerdy folks we are. But, deck us in racing togs, and our personalities change to match. The folks along the railings must have wondered what we were doing when seven of us started walking in super-slo mo on the way to the karts, like the astronauts in The Right Stuff. Yeah, we were just that cool.
Got a ten-minute briefing on the course and course rules, of which I understood about 10 percent (the reiterated the rules for Tom and me in English afterwards). My biggest dread: getting the black flag of death, telling me to pull off the track. I vowed that I would NOT be that driver.
Tom looked the part.
I, not so much. But what the heck. I was going to race!
Dylan and I had agreed ahead of time to be a team, with plans to block his dad Jon and Tom. Ha! Once on the course, Dylan was all business. Not bad for a kid who’s never driven a vehicle at those speeds before. He passed me, which made it war. I had a hard time catching him to pass him back. We leapfrogged for most of the race.
First we drove for ten minutes, while they timed us and then stopped us to put us in racing order. I was number 12 and Tom was number 13, of 17. Dylan was number 16. Then the race was on. Twenty minutes of squealing tires, burning rubber, and pure adrenaline. I grinned the whole time (which was why I realized I hadn’t put my visor down when we started. My teeth were wind-dried.) My arms started aching two laps before the finish, so I rested them on the straightaways, until someone tried to overtake me and I had to swerve and fishtail to cut them off. Not on MY watch, mister! (Tom cut across the grass twice to overtake me. The beast.)
Tom said that his chest hurt during the race, from muscle fatigue and not breathing enough. Again, pure fun!
I admit, I used the brake a lot. Especially on the hairpin turns, where I wanted to spin into the turn, not just slow down. I cannot describe how much fun that was! In the end, Tom took 13th (car #01) place and I took 14th (car #12) (weird how they gauged it, see below). Dylan came in last, but triumphant (against people 10 to 40 years older than he).
Later, at the Fourth of July picnic at the Consulate, so many people told us that they’d seen our names on the list of drivers and couldn’t believe it was us. (I get it; we’re old.) But, from here on—now that they know about our late nights at the clubs, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, our being afficianados of Formula 1 and Indy racing, and our racing adventures—nothing should surprise them. Bring it on.