Indy Car Driving – Barrie, ON

The Ride

“Hey Peter, we’re driving Indy Cars on Friday up in Barrie, you want to come?”

“Yeah I guess so.”

“Do you know how to drive stick?”

“No… well, I guess I sort of know how, but I’ve never done it before – except in video games. I am really good at it in video games.”

This most unique Gymineer episode began to take shape last fall, when I first got in touch with a man named Hans Wolter. Hans had started up a mobile company called Wings and Slicks, where he toured to a few different cities around the GTA and set up shop – and by “shop” I mean he left a trail of hand-built grand prix race tracks in his wake wherever he did roam.

A chilly morn last October, we decided to forget about my golden rule of sleeping until sunrise, and headed up to Barrie to get behind the wheel of one of these freaky speed machines. We awoke at 5:30 am and begun the long drive north. About 30 minutes outside of Barrie I checked my phone and saw 3 missed calls from Hans. I rang him back. “Jamie, Hans here. We arrived in Barrie and, well, there’s a good inch of snow on the ground.”

At the time, my reaction was the standard “Screw you, Barrie” that everyone musters under their breath whenever they drive by the city of Barrie. But as the saying goes: “Whenever the weather in Barrie screws you, it takes about a year for things to work themselves out.”

Winter then struck, and the delay in my driving development left me a bitter, bitter hibernator. But in a seemingly unrelated turn of event, the next few months would see me reconnect with the talented minds at Engage Learning, a film studio in Toronto. With them by my side, we were able to produce this Gymineer episode in a manner that’s had industry critics abuzz – with comments ranging from “Professional!” to “That’s actually a lot better than that thing you were trying to do before.”

“I don’t know how to drive stick”

This episode was populated with the crew from Engage – which as I mentioned is located in Toronto. I don’t know if you’ve been to Toronto lately, but a lot of people there have given up on the dream of the automobile. I was worried that people in our office might not know how to drive stick, so I asked around. Four of the first Ten conversations went like this:

“We’re going indy car driving – Do you know how to drive stick?”

“I don’t know what “stick” is, but this sounds like something you’d need a license for.”

“You don’t have a driver’s license!?”

“What are you, a suburbanite? It’s shoes, bikes or buses around here ol’ chum – and don’t you forget it!”

Okay, so you do need a license to get behind the wheel of an indy car. Surprisingly, you do not need to know how to drive stick – but it helps.

Pessimistic Peter was perhaps the most worried of the non-stick driving bunch. He took about four tries to get the car in motion on his first round of laps. Then he apparently suffered a flashback to Cruisn’ USA, as he slid into gear and took off, hammering the first corner at a nasty clip.

The lovely catch of it all is that you just have to get the car moving – then you can just leave that bad boy in 1st gear as you zip around the track pulling 0-60 mph in under 3 seconds and topping out at just under 80mph. The adventurous spirits can pop down on the shifter (no-clutch needed to shift up), and voilà, you`re toasting the track in 2nd.

The Pit Crew

Obviously anyone who’s tight with a judge and has a few hundred thou’ to blow can go out and buy a few indy cars to rip around in. What really sets this experience apart is the professional racing team you’ve got holding your hand as you take your first, tiny, 80 mph baby steps.

The operation is run by the Brian Stewart racing team, which in terms of both talent and Canadiana coolness makes this experience the equivalent of a private golf lesson from Mike Weir.

Like I said, Video Game Peter – the most reluctant hero I’ll ever have on an episode – ripped off the starting line cleanly his second time driving one of these cars.

Safety Tips from Safety Jamie

Inevitably the day is littered with spinouts – You want to push the car, but you don’t want to push it too far – then it hits you: The only way to know where that boundary between “fast” and “crap, that was too fast” is, is to (cautiously) find it.

I was once asked on a form what my favourite guilty pleasure was – to which I responded “binging on glossette’s.” Now that I’ve seen the world spin around me while strapped into an F2000 indy car, it might be time to move on from dried grapes and milk chocolate. Maybe this is how people finally start liking that 90% cocoa stuff.  Mmmm…fast.

If you want to feel the pull out of an S-turn and onto a straight away, put down the accelerator and check out Tell ‘em Gymineer sent you. Corporate events welcome.