Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Making Tracks Reporter Relishes Laps in Racer

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Making Tracks Reporter Relishes Laps in Racer

Article excerpt

Before Al Unser Jr. or Michael Andretti or others of America's top-billed competition drivers set their first tire on Gateway International Raceway, there was Ralph Korte. And John Baricevic. And me.

Racers none, we and a few others from Wednesday's "media lunch" were strapped into some souped-up pace cars for a few fast laps an hour ahead of the big guys' first practice.

Korte, the general contractor who built Gateway, assessed the experience against his two VIP trips to Navy aircraft carriers. "This takes your breath away almost as much as being shot off the carrier in a plane," he said. "But with that, the sensation was over in a few seconds. This just keeps going on and on." Baricevic disappeared into the duties of officialdom with his role as St. Clair County Board chairman, and could not be found thereafter to assess his ride. But Korte had enough enthusiasm for both: "At 110 it was pretty exciting," the builder said. "How fast did yours go?" Well, mine was 130 down the 2,000-foot straightaways and 100 through the turns, owing to the luck of the draw. Korte got a gold Nissan Maxima; I had a deep green Lotus Esprit, a truly exotic British machine the track folks told me later was probably capable of 180 in the straightaways. Gail may have been capable of that, too, as my driver and a racer of some sort. The angry roar of the Lotus powerplant was not conducive to conversation, nor was the nagging need to review one's whole life while sailing through Turns One and Two. Hence my failure to report her last name. They were holding down the speeds - Gail and Unser and everybody - because Gateway's egg-shaped track is new and they're not accustomed to it. Wednesday was the first day cars used the track, and nobody wanted to be the first to challenge the fresh white concrete wall and the shiny silver cable-reinforced fence atop it. There were times I wondered whether Gail and I might be the first ones - and going not much more than half of the speed the fans will see at Saturday's race. But Mike Sack, a CART PPG race series official, explained later that the Lotus, Maxima, Dodge Intrepid and Pontiac Firebird used as pace cars were extensively modified for this work far beyond the obvious amber and white strobe lights. …

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