Alain Prost retired from F1 racing for the final time in 1993, with his last race coming at the Australian Grand Prix in November. He finished second in the race to his fierce rival Ayrton Senna but handily won the World Championship to the runner-up Senna. But the two of them raced for one final time in December of that year...driving go-karts.
Predictably, the pair took it very seriously: four-time world champion Prost having tested extensively before the event; Senna, a three-time title holder, having a kart shipped to Brazil so that he could practise.
Speaking of what fast looks like, here's a pair of synced videos that show just how fast F1 cars are. On the left are drivers participating in a track day, that is, normal folks who want to drive their cars fast on a real race course. A couple of them look like actual GT cars and are moving pretty quick. On the right, you've got F1 cars on the same track. It's not even close:
File this one under what fast looks like: motorcycle racers reach speeds in excess of 200 mph as they navigate the tiny curved roads of the Isle of Man during the Isle of Man TT race. The crash at 1:30, which is insane by the way, involves a stone wall, sheep, and was filmed cinematically from a helicopter.
There's a driving technique called heel-and-toe where the driver uses all three pedals (brake, clutch, throttle) at once to make deceleration smoother, especially in the turns.
Heel-toe or heel-and-toe double-declutching is used before entry into a turn while a vehicle is under braking, preparing the transmission to be in the optimal range of rpm to accelerate out of the turn. One benefit of downshifting before entering a turn is to eliminate the jolt to the drivetrain, or any other unwanted dynamics. The jolt will not upset the vehicle as badly when going in a straight line, but the same jolt while turning may upset the vehicle enough to cause loss of control if it occurs after the turn has begun. Another benefit is that "heel-and-toeing" allows the driver to downshift at the last moment before entering the turn, after starting braking and the car has slowed, so the engine speed will not be high enough when the lower gear is engaged.
Here is a video of Formula One great Ayrton Senna demonstrating the techique in a Honda NSX. You'll note he's wearing a button-down shirt, dress pants, Italian loafers, and no helmet while burying the speedometer on his way around the track.
It's a bit difficult to understand from the video what Senna is actually doing...this step-by-step video shows the heel-and-toe technique more clearly. (thx, micah)
I can't find a great account of it (go here and here for the basics), but the story of how Tony Stewart won the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship at the Ford 400 in Homestead, FL is flat-out amazing and as thrilling as anything that's happened in sports over the past 12 months: an aging former champion wins five out of the last ten NASCAR races (more than 10% of his total career victories), including a final race in which he recovered from two slow pit stops (one of which was agonizingly slow), passed 118 cars total, came from back of the pack twice, made several ballsy four-across passes, and was saved from defeat by a passing rain shower. And the guy he was chasing the whole time (in this race and the points standings) was driving great...it's just that Stewart was racing insanely great, right on the edge.
I've seen very little coverage of this on the big generalist sports blogs...nothing on Deadspin and only a short "Tony Stewart won some NASCAR thingie" on Grantland. Come on! Simmons, Klosterman, someone, get on this!
At 1 o'clock on a bright October afternoon, I'm standing in a convenience store parking lot five miles east of Martinsville, Va. In the 24 hours before the green flag drops on the Subway 500, I need to find a ride to the speedway and a $75 ticket to the sold-out race. Problem is, all I have on me is $20, a cell phone and a camcorder. And I'm not allowed to use any media connections to get into the race-or so much as mention the letters ESPN (at least not in that order).
According to Yates and his fellow Cannonballers, trying to beat that record today is pointless. Their argument goes something like this: Cannonball records were set back when the free-wheelin' '70s hooked up with the greed-is-good '80s for fat lines of cocaine and unprotected sex. But these, brother, are Patriot Act days - executive-privilege end times in which no rogue deed goes untracked, no E-ZPass unlogged, no roaming cell phone unmonitored by perihelion satellite. Big Brother is definitely watching. Big Speed, the old Cannonballers say, is a quaint, 20th-century idea, like pay phones or print magazines.
Roy was inspired to take up fast driving by the short film C'était un Rendez-vous, where Claude Lelouch races through Paris at breakneck speeds to meet his sweetheart in Montmartre. Here's the route they took, another piece on the record in the NY Times, and a book by Roy on his exploits. This is the sort of thing that is really, really cool up until the moment Roy's tricked out BMW makes contact with a family minivan at 120mph...and then, not so much.
Those guys look like they're doing about 90-95... BFD. You see that all the time going up and down I-5 and I-95.. I once was doing about 90 down I-95 and got passed by a HOUSE on a flatbed truck. (yawn)