Friday, December 5, 2008

Isuzu Imark

They were actually a player in the automotive industry once. And although they were known for their trucks (Trooper’s and Rodeo’s…more about those in a later story), at one time in the late 1980’s they were in the car business.

This is about the 3-door sports coupe with the badge of honour: “Handling by Lotus”. Yes, somehow, Isuzu’s management had convinced Lotus to massage the suspension and other handling bits to produce a well-balanced pocket rocket. Best kept secret in the industry.

The experience that still brings back goose bumps occurred at the long gone racetrack east of Vancouver. The client-sponsored exclusive event for the new Dealer network was set up to showcase the performance of the vehicles. Classroom sessions combined with track time.

The highlight of this particular event involved being driven around the track by real racing drivers. They took us out individually and demonstrated the full performance envelope of each vehicle. The pinnacle point of the day was the ride at near race speeds in the Lotus-massaged Isuzu Imark.

Three laps. Warm up, hot lap and cool down. Not sure if that was for the passenger or the car.

My turn. Race helmet on. 3-point seatbelt tightly cinched. Really tight. Final instructions: brace feet firmly in foot well; hold on. Only took until the first corner of the warm up lap for those instructions to kick in.

Out of the pit lane, accelerating up to the first corner and sharply across the apex down the hill and we were off.

The warm up lap went quickly. Too quickly. The driver handled the car at 12 –10ths of my ability. And this was the warm-up lap!

Remember coming back up the pit straight past the start/finish line and my driver mentioning casually that we were now going to accelerate up to speed. First corner coming up quickly now. Gentle falling away right-hander. Brake. Brake! BRAKE!! Car tossed sharply across the apex, right wheels riding the curb. Don’t remember if he touched the brakes.

Accelerating hard again down hill toward corner two. Sharp right-hander. Driver side wheels now riding the curb setting up for the corner. Still accelerating. Driver actually talking calmly explaining what he was doing. Don’t remember what he said. Screaming in my mind for him to use the brakes. Instead, shifted down through two gears. With a quick stab at the brakes in between. To ‘neutralize’ the balance he said. To get my heart racing I wanted to yell back!

Quick right turn of the steering wheel and we were drifting sideways. Right wheels aggressively over the curbs now. Me holding on with both hands. Both feet braced. Bum off the seat. Screaming for delight in my head.

Don’t remember much after that. Learned that you can sweat sitting still.

Cooldown lap a serious anti-climax.

What a rush!

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