HOT WHEELS

Pedal to the metal at Race the Run­way

Ottawa Sun - - FRONT PAGE - ME­GAN GILLIS

I’m rolling thun­der, pour­ing rain I’m com­ing on like a hur­ri­cane

Black clouds only threat­ened but there was plenty of thun­der on Run­way 24 at the Russ Beach Air­port near Smiths Falls on Sat­ur­day as nearly 100 pow­er­ful ma­chines seemed set to take flight.

While the likes of ACDC were cranked on the sound sys­tem, the real mu­sic was the sound of roar­ing en­gines fill­ing air redo­lent with fresh­mown grass and high-oc­tane gas as ex­otic autos, mus­cle cars and tuners hit the tar­mac for Race the Run­way.

The event, in its sixth year, also fea­tured about 100 cars on dis­play, in­clud­ing a 2016 Pa­gani Huayra worth a cool $3.5 mil­lion that had the crowd snap­ping pic­tures like pa­parazzi.

But this is no elit­ist event, said Pe­ter O’Ble­nis, one of three co-chairs of the Race the Run­way, which drew ev­ery­one from reg­u­lar folks itch­ing to put pedal to the metal to high-end car pros, all shar­ing talk, tips and tools.

“We all have the same ad­dic­tion,” O’Ble­nis said. “We love fast cars.”

The need for speed is some­thing you’ve got — or you don’t.

“If you have to ask, I can’t ex­plain it,” O’Ble­nis said. “It’s in­nate. It’s a vis­ceral re­ac­tion, not just the speed — the shape, the engi­neer­ing. I think it’s prob­a­bly some­thing you’re born with.”

Mak­ing his point nearby was nine-year-old Cameron Tin­guy eye­ing a bright green Lam­borgh­ini. “My dream one’s right there,” he said.

The Race the Run­way for­mat is sim­ple. The cars and bikes rum­ble to a stag­ing area in groups of 20.

One at a time, they pull onto the run­way and re­verse onto a steel plate to “burn out” their tires, mak­ing them stick­ier so they can ac­cel­er­ate faster.

Then the cars — clas­sic Amer­i­can mus­cle cars, lux­ury Ital­ian mod­els, a few soupedup Volk­swa­gen Golfs — roar off, with their speed mea­sured at the half-mile mark.

Af­ter that point, they have just a quar­ter-mile of run­way left on which to slow down. Small planes take off at about 100 km/h but by early af­ter­noon the run­way had seen speeds of 300 km/h.

The Ot­tawa driver of a Nis­san GT-R with 1280 horse­power (it cost “about a house, de­pend­ing on what part of town”) de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence as like be­ing aboard a rocket with G-forces pin­ning you to your seat.

Mean­while, a Kawasaki bike lived up to the moniker crotch rocket with a 298 km/h run.

“It’s like go­ing on an in­sane roller-coaster ride,” O’Ble­nis said. “That run­way at 240 km/h starts to feel very, very nar­row. We’ve had cars go­ing over 300 km/h. A quar­ter of a mile dis­ap­pears in a few sec­onds.”

One hot-rod­der packed a para­chute to help him make that stop while a trio of fire trucks stood by — just in case.

“We’re here on standby,” ex­plained Mon­tague Town­ship fire­fighter Craig Barr, as col­leagues manned a char­ity bar­be­cue at the event, which has raised more than $200,000 for the air­port and lo­cal char­i­ties over five years.

“We hope the res­cue tools stay in the truck.”

Steve and Patti Ree­son brought their bright blue 2015 Corvette St­ingray and its 460 horses to do what it can’t on the drive from Whitby.

When un­governed by speed traps and traf­fic, the $90,000 car zooms past 200 km/h.

“It sat­is­fies your need for speed,” Patti ex­plained.

“Legally.”

One of the par­tic­i­pants smokes his tires be­fore the race to get more trac­tion.

Sophia Sec­ca­spina, 3, sits in the driver’s seat of her fa­ther’s Lam­borgh­ini Aven­ta­dor at Race the Run­way yes­ter­day. Be­low, a Bu­gatti. Need we say more?

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