Lizett Bond on what Mussorgy would most likely drive to an Exhibition
Orange County, on the California Coast, is truly a setting to see and to be
seen, from the posh gated communities to the shopping to the beautiful
people and the cars that they drive. At least that is the way the OC is
presented on television. The real thing is of course, somewhere in between.
Saturday mornings in Orange County an event for lovers of cars provides a
venue for those who want to partake of the entire OC sight spectrum. It’s an
opportunity to strut one’s stuff and to photograph fellow stutters. Steadily
gathering momentum it provides car buffs the occasion to observe everything
from MG’s to an occasional real Porsche 917. Strolling along the rows one
can feel a bit like Mussorgsky roving through his “Pictures at an Exhibition”
as models of cars tend to collect together. There is nothing modest about
this promenade however; name a manufacturer and it has probably been
represented be it rare, fast or just cool looking. Some are trendy enough to
have their own line-up while others stand alone to garner plenty of attention
and draw the shutter bugs as they rumble or purr into place at dawn and then
out again mid morning.
While I occasionally enjoy perusing all those cool cars it’s even better to
drive and/or be seen in one. Cars and Coffee is the place to be for either
experience. There is something about driving in or out and having a hoard of
street corner cameras trained on your ride or thumbs up from a passing
motorist that feeds the shallow side of the ego. As someone who spends a
good deal of time in Wranglers and boots atop a horse my forays behind the
Orange curtain sometimes feel a bit fraudulent, even when I do manage to
pull off “the look”. I can “snob it up” with the best however if you put me
behind the wheel of a cool car with the sunglasses and a good outfit.
One car that fed the fantasy and rewarded a considerable amount of attention
is the Audi R8. Heading out of C and C, through the “car lovers paparazzi”
and merging on the freeway the focus was on how much fun the car is to
drive, at the responsiveness and the pure speed and not on the WRX Sti
pulling up beside me. The occupants were not armed in the typical Southern
California freeway style either. Nope, as the window of the Subaru rolled
down I was looking down a barrel all right, but it wasn’t the lethal kind. It was
the 500mm lens of a camera, and they weren’t after my picture. I pulled my
nose down out of the air and pulled the car over to the curb so these guys
could take pictures of THE CAR. Did they ask for my phone number? My
name? NO. They asked how I came to be driving this car, how it felt, did I
like it, etc., etc., etc. Did I feel deflated? Not really, I felt like one of the
guys, the one with the bigger toy. I was “Samuel” to their Schmuyle.
And why not? It’s all about the presentation and the Audi R8 is an impressive
car. With looks that rival any of the venerated Italian sports cars this ride is
all about attention. It doesn’t scream “I’ve arrived!” not audibly and not visibly
like some of those cars, it is a softer sound that belies its performance until it
is called for. It’s subtle. In other words, I could get in trouble in lots of ways
in this car and not even know it until it was too late.
Driving on the street is one thing but what about on an actual track at speed?
How many have the opportunity to actually run on a real racetrack? I had
seat time in the R8 on the west coast and spent a pleasant hour on some of
Florida’s back roads but I know my limitations as a driver. The track at
Sebring presented me with the vicarious opportunity of sampling the R8’s
“racetrack at speed” capabilities and to practice my Queen for a Day parade
wave. Audi hosted my personal jaunt around the track with Scott Hughes of
Sunset, South Carolina serving as my own personal liveried R8 driver and
Sebring track docent. After a discussion of what to expect on the 3.7 miles
of track as well as involuntary passenger braking do’s and don’ts. I was
treated to some fast runs around that famous raceway in an Audi R8 at
speed. The difference between “just” driving and being a passenger with
someone who knows what they are doing is more than an exercise in vanity,
it is an education and lesson to be learned.
It’s amazing to be hitting triple digit speeds and still be holding tight to the
track’s twists and turns. I normally drive a pickup, saving the 911 for the non-
snow days, so enough said about the handling contrast.
Three too quick laps around the track and it was over. The waves to the
infield crowd at each pass and their corresponding thumbs up combined with
the pure joy of the high speed and being seen in an awesome car on the
track at Sebring was, well, Cars and Coffee on steroids.
I stepped out at the pits, a little weak kneed and wind whipped (window down
to avoid car sickness) but with a strut and a swagger. Exit to the strains of
the Great Gate at Kiev only let’s make it the prog rock ELP version, shall