Featured: This Is Why I Drive Fast

This Is Why I Drive Fast

By Jonathan WC Mills
August 29, 2013
40 comments

“I love the way you drive.”

This line was delivered by a bewitching female and spoken in a French accent. It was uttered even as she was being tossed roughly against the passenger door as I whipped through rush-hour traffic in Manhattan. It was the fall of 1996, and I was young, impressionable, and perhaps a little besotted…and yet these words remain the best compliment my driving has ever received.

I never heard them spoken again.

Over the years I’ve discovered most people don’t drive their cars, “with pace”, and those who do tend to do it quite poorly, engendering evil looks and blaring horns in their wake. It is the rare driver who can drive quickly without drawing unwanted negative attention. To find a passenger who appreciates driving fast (especially one who is pretty and French) is about as common as a Porsche RS, which is to say: extremely rare.

But that hasn’t changed the way I drive.

I learned to drive a manual transmission in the hills of Seattle as a teenager. It was a sweaty nightmare carefully narrated by my patient father. It remains a day that lives in infamy rather than in pleasure. However, I discovered it was a skill, and like any skill, there is improvement with practice. Speed came later, but as I got better at driving, my speed increased—I haven’t slowed down since.

The reason I continue to motor “with pace” is indefensible. I like it. I crave the rush of going faster than drivers around me. I love the mechanical symphony of engine speeds, drivetrain whine and tires at the edge of adhesion all working together to create a unique sensation: speed.

It’s a sensation that isn’t universally loved. Just ask my wife, along with every other passenger of mine since that lovely French girl. Driving fast means braking late, accelerating hard, and driving the car like you mean it. It means understanding the flow of traffic, judging gaps, relative speeds, and plain old risk taking.

It’s an understanding that the point of conveyance is not simply to get from point A to point B… Driving fast means infusing a mundane alphabetical journey with a small jolt of adrenaline and arriving at point B a little faster than I did last time.

I drive fast because I love it. Besides, at least I’m not texting.

Why do you drive fast?

Photography by Afshin Behnia and Josh Clason

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hayden
hayden
4 years ago

I drive fast to prove to no one but myself that I am the best I can be at driving “with pace”. No other feeling in life no matter what it may be will ever come close to the feeling driving gives me. Especially in the right car under the right conditions

Jose Eduardo Soares
Jose Eduardo Soares
4 years ago

It’s all about the size of our smile when we get to point B.

Billy bob
Billy bob
4 years ago

I wish that I had summed up with such eloquence when trying to explain that I drive fast because I enjoy it during a speed awareness course.

Biker Joe
Biker Joe
5 years ago

Very few things in life will paste a grin on my face faster than transitioning a 270 degree freeway on-ramp onto an open stretch of clear asphalt. Desolate Colorado mountain roads, early in the morning, provide ample opportunities for pure joy. Tasteful indeed.

Cecilia Sg
Cecilia Sg
5 years ago

Yes in the right conditions we do enjoy some pace with grace. That is what my car was built for,as am I. Night in particular, wooden steering wheel in my hands, the even flow of fuel through the carbs, the song of a content engine echoing through the darkness – my bliss.

Rich Davidson
Rich Davidson
5 years ago

This was a terrific post crushed by the staggering weight of people gone safety crazy. It’s quite sad really. As I read the comments from people who seem to be of some universal betterness than the rest of us, I cannot help but wonder how many neon yellow-green vests they have.
One in each car to wear at places such as the gas station. Wouldn’t want the next car in line to forget you are there and plow you over. Better light up in the newest fashion. Don’t want to be run over in the parking lot walking from the four-wheel death machine to the office. And, of course, who would ever dare getting out of a car in a busy grocery store lot without one?
In many ways it has become cliché to point out that those of us who are over forty survived so much that is now considered to be more dangerous than an ISIS death cage during Ramadan. A great many examples have been used. Yet, despite the banality of such things, any reasonable person cannot deny them all to be true.
Many books have been written about the numerous civilizations which have passed through the five stages of national destruction; decreasing reason, fading testosterone, emotionalism, increasing feminism, acceptance of new rule by reasonable testosterone producing civilizations. Obviously, that is what we have here – a population transformed from fearless living creatures to turtles without their shells. Guess which one is great.
The symptoms are everywhere. Within the world of cars they fester in their hand wringer hosts, then spread to others who are unaware how easily the “you’re so dangerous” mentality can be transmitted. Humans, after all, are herd mentality animals, and as we gather the rate of spread increases.
Nowhere is safe.
Favorite sites of open discussion are seen to, almost overnight, turn into hotbeds of safety one-upmanship. Members no longer understand that speed does not equal danger. Irrational volleys of slander are lobbed in place of logic. Soon, the only things accelerating is hysteria and reason as it vanishes in the distance.
Personally, I’m tired of it. I’m worn out by incompetent drivers who see those who aren’t afraid to drive over 45mph as cowboys. People who see anyone excelling and feel the need to put them in their place have no place on the road but they are increasingly abundant. Ironically, they also create great danger as they attempt to keep others in some imagined transcendental place of slowness and security. Jim Smith, doing 50 in a 55, until you start to pass, is the classic road safety hall monitor. Somehow, that guy always manages to get his family truckster, loaded with 1800lbs of safety equipment, up to 80 in an attempt to keep you from going around. It is infuriating.
Fortunately, there is a perfect descriptor that puts it all into perspective – the “Crab Mentality.”
But back to the real reason I bothered with this comment. If speeding is so dangerous, why do these people not drive at half the speed limit? Logic tells me that if I assume speed to be dangerous, then the slower you go the safer you will be. Therefore, why are the road ranger, hall monitor, types still driving within 5mph of the published limits? I can answer that.
They believe they are safe and you are not. Their speed is ok – yours is not. They are the people that quiver at the sight of success. Freedom gets their goat (not GTO). You, the professors of asphalt geometry, tangential trigonometry, physics, and internal combustion are throwbacks to a time when people valued living over life and liberty over chains.
You, my friends, are a living library, written in the language of DNA, providing evidence that mankind is best when it pushes the limits. And they, the safety evangelists, they thirst for a good, old fashioned, book burning.

César
César
5 years ago
Reply to  Rich Davidson

Please, can you tell me what are those books that talk about the five stage of national destruction.

Rich Davidson
Rich Davidson
5 years ago
Reply to  Rich Davidson

Cesar, define “fast.”
J WC, no, I happened across it last night, again.

Sifu Alex
Sifu Alex
5 years ago

I drive fast but I try to drive smooth. Like Jackie Stewart always said “drive with finesse!” Smooth is faster. I try never to cut people off, i never weave into tight spots and try never to be reckless but fast fine but if drive fast and smooth then Respect that.

Peter Green
7 years ago

I drive fast, in fact I just lost my license for 6 months for being caught doing 102 m.p.h. and so I had to start taking taxis.

You are not going to believe what happened next I was in a taxi trolling about in the slower lanes of a 5 lane Freeway and the taxi driver put me into the Freeway wall at 40 m.p.h. after playing bumper cars at 60 m.p.h. We were hit once at about 60, which sent us spinning like a top on the Freeway and then we were hit again which sent us into the wall at about 40 m.p.h.
I was sitting in the the back of the Honda car i Phone in hand just watching the wall come at me.

Give me the FAST lane any day.

When trouble occurs, Hit it.

You know what the taxi driver said after we had finished whacking the wall at 40?

“Just tell them I’m your friend”!

Four days later the owner of the taxi company is at my door asking me to tell the insurance company that they are my friends.
I’m not looking for any new friends!

Two and a half months later with no broken back (this time) I’m not looking for any more friends and I clocked 100 going over the hill today. Saw lots of cops on the road too. Passed the all at 75.

I don’t eat when I drive, I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t listen to much music at all any more, I just get on with the driving……

I certainly do not text, I tried and crashed the first time…. rear ended the lady in front of me….

All these people on the freeway texting, being on their cellphone and not paying attention, going far too slow in the fast lane
Driving 2 hrs through that lot is a nightmare and slow is not the speed…..

Xander Cesari
Xander Cesari
8 years ago

When do we get to see the video of that SPG up there?! I just bought one!

GARY MILES
GARY MILES
8 years ago

Mr. Mills — thanks for a great article about driving. One can certainly drive fast without endangering the lives of others; I assume we all drive a bit fast on occasion. I think that I drive with “purpose.” I don’t talk on the phone, eat, or whatever; when behind the wheel, I drive. It’s pleasing, its relaxing, its my refuge.

stevethecurse
stevethecurse
8 years ago

I don’t know who’s car that is on where the photo came from, but I love that Saab up top. I’ve never seen a Saab look that sporty and aggressive and just plain old cool.

Chris Dyer
Chris Dyer
8 years ago

I drive fast. Absolutely. I’ve driven nothing but sports cars my entire life, I’ll be 44 in another month, I’ve been driving since I was 16, I haven’t had a speeding ticket since I was 31, and I have [b]NEVER[/b] been involved in an accident. Unlike the author, my driving has never been complimented by a pretty French girl, but I have actually received numerous compliments on my driving from numerous people. The most recent being from a Porsche driving instructor who also told me I seem to already know what I’m doing.

How have I managed this? Because I care about driving. I’m passionate about driving and about cars. I know my car and it’s limits better than I know anything else. You have to have that intimate of a relationship with your car if you’re going to drive fast. I pay attention when I drive. Period. When I drive, I’m driving. I’m not talking on the phone, not texting, no food or drink, I don’t even listen to the radio. I drive, that’s it. It’s because I drive fast that I have not had any accidents. It’s the slow drivers that cause the accidents.

I don’t believe the author is writing about reckless driving. I think those of you who are flaming this piece have missed the point entirely. Yes, it’s about spirited driving, but it’s really about passion. Feeling. If you don’t feel that way about driving, or you’re scared to get behind the wheel, then please, don’t do it! The automobile is not an appliance, and if that’s why you’ve bought one, you have no business driving. You’re endangering everyone else on the road who actually does care.

Jonathan WC Mills, I’ll ride with you any day. For those of you who flamed this piece, please keep your Camry off the road.

Paul Steel
Paul Steel
8 years ago

Just a thought, I wonder how many confident drivers have realised they have exceeded there’s or the cars limit 1 second before impact!

RS Anthony
RS Anthony
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Steel

Regardless of there being any impact at all – knock on wood – I have crossed the limits more than once. Oh yes I have. My Renault 19 has so little front grip it just starts to understeer very early. Like a warning sign that maybe I ought to ease off the throttle a little and straighten up the wheels.
This makes me think of my former Nissan 200SX. They commonly end up as drift “projects” now so people tend to forget they were meant for [i]spirited[/i] yet safe cruising. They are quite capable on countryside roads as well. Showing little “cushion understeer” at the limits. The only occasions I had mine oversteer was because I really meant it. On the wet. With old tires. Only thing they lacked was a more luxurious interior and a nicer sounding engine. I kind of miss mine.

Paul Steel
Paul Steel
8 years ago

Interesting! I suppose an article of this nature was bound to provoke mixed reactions, and was probably the authors intent.
Myself, I like to drive quickly, that is that at times I accelerate hard, take corners at speed and sometimes exceed the speed limit, only if I am familiar with the road and the conditions allow, taking other road users and pedestrians into account, and never when I have a passenger.
Awareness is the key. That means that I drive sensibly in built up areas, lower than the speed limit if that is what I sense is necessary.
Taking risks that could endanger others is just irresponsible, you have to take into account those drivers that are seemingly unaware, like those that drive at 40 no matter what, in a 50 and in a 20 zone who are likely to be unpredictable.
Personally I believe that all drivers should have to take a top up lesson every 5 years and risk loosing the privilege to drive, pending a modern retest, if they are deemed to be unsafe.

Andreas Lavesson
Andreas Lavesson
8 years ago

There’s a difference between driving “fast” and driving fast. Since “drivetrain whine and tires at the edge of adhesion” is mentioned, I suppose this article is about really hammering down on public roads, unless you’ve got a really slow car with a weak engine. However, even if that was the case, being on the verge of losing the grip on public roads is just plain ignorant and dangerous.

That being said, slightly exceeding the speed limit, when opportunity is given and you are far from fellow motorists is acceptable in my book. I sometimes enjoy going a little fast if I know that I am alone on the roads (actually see that there’s no one there for a couple of hundred meters) and try to corner in a somewhat “sporty” fashion. That means going slightly faster than allowed and possibly moving around a little in the seat (don’t have sports seats).

On highways I tend to go slightly above the speed limit out of boredom and I actually prefer people who might go a little fast (with emphasis on “a little”), but are fully emerged in their driving, as opposed to people who drive on the legal limit or below, but are being irrational on the roads. I see people (worryingly a lot of truck drivers) who text and even read news papers while driving and that’s far more dangerous than driving with a little pace.

If I’m chauffeuring someone though, I tend to drive in the fashion so beautifully described by RS Anthony above.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
8 years ago

After giving some careful thought on how best to comment to this article (if at all), I have arrived at the following, which is the revised, polite version of my opinion: I suggest the writer enroll in a proper, established driver training program. I would hope that he would learn that he is, in fact, nowhere near the limits of his machine or skills, and would respect that searching for these limits is left for the track, not for slicing in and out of traffic on public roads. I believe he would find greater respect for his own vehicle, a better understanding of his own skills, and would hopefully learn some respect for the other drivers (and their families), with whom he must share public roads. The latter is clearly not demonstrated here.
I am shocked that you actually had the audacity to write this, which by all accounts advocates speeding and encourages unsafe motoring for many of the other younger (I presume) readers. I thought better of posting on this, but frankly, I am quite surprised by the number of comments in support of this article.
If you actually drive through traffic the way you describe here and I were a passenger in your vehicle, I would likely ask you to pull over so I could take a taxicab instead.
I understand tossing your car around the back, winding roads, but this is plain ridiculous.
Thank you for reading.

Mauricio Lizama
Mauricio Lizama
8 years ago

Just beautiful I might just cry to how well said this is.

Schnell87
Schnell87
8 years ago

Boy, more flames here than a Gemballa 911. 🙂 I also drive fast…by knowing what I can do and what’s appropriate for the conditions. If you’re in traffic and the drivers are inexperienced around you, don’t be an idiot and rocket down the road at twice the limit. It’s all about being aware and in tune with your surroundings. Would you drive the same on the autostrada as you would in say, Chicago? No. I love drifting through corners on snowy logging trails in northern MN, but wouldn’t DREAM of doing that in Minneapolis. A skilled driver knows and is in harmony with the car, the conditions and the surroundings and is respectful enough to not put others at risk.

Gábor Ugron
Gábor Ugron
8 years ago
Reply to  Schnell87

– Well put. I find it really strange and frankly a bit sad that this article is getting so much negative feedback on a site like this. Granted, “plain old risk taking” is something you should NEVER do on a public road. But that’s about the only thing I disagree with in the article. Other than that, I really believe that you CAN drive fast in the right road conditions without being aggressive and jerky, endangering others or drawing negative attention. And you can still be elegant about it. And I’m sorry, but if a woman in her fifties has absolutely no objections about your driving then you’re doing in wrong. (Couldn’t resist.)

RS Anthony
RS Anthony
8 years ago
Reply to  Gábor Ugron

Haha, nice one! I think she liked it smooth. Yet spirited as only a skilled young man is capable of 😉

Kuroneko
Kuroneko
8 years ago

If ‘driving fast’ is a parallel for ‘con brio’, then I do it because I can, and I enjoy the car within my, the roads, and legal limits. If ‘driving fast’ merely means driving fast, then you are indeed a tosser and do us all a disservice, and you can go back to a BMW club meeting to brag about such all day…

Guss Tsatsakis
Guss Tsatsakis
8 years ago

Beloud – I stopped reading after [b]your[/b] erroneous use of the word “Your” instead of “You’re” when making [b]your[/b] point. If [b]you’re[/b] not grasping the concept of simple grammar, then I can’t rely on [b]your[/b] opinion on something philosophical like why one would enjoy driving fast.

Bertram Wooster
Bertram Wooster
8 years ago

Jonathan, you’re a misplaced European and you don’t even know it.

Deep Deo
Deep Deo
8 years ago

I dig where you’re coming from… Confidence is key, knowing your blindspots, the flow of traffic, right gear at the right time for power moves, limits of adhesion, etc. What dissuades me is the potential of speeding tickets (mostly the jacked insurance rates for a couple of years) and the cost of my own life and others (got a 5 month-old.)

That being said, I do enjoy taking the M3 out for a good 7am beating now and then :).

RS Anthony
RS Anthony
8 years ago

I’m a car enthusiast. And a driving enthusiast even more so. The simple fact of driving delights me more than many things in life. And sometimes the car itself doesn’t matter.
I also love motorsports and enjoy some time attack at my local kart track every now and then. And truth be told, lack of funds make me spend too much time on racing simulations for my own good.
But on open roads, I don’t drive ‘fast’ literally speaking. I comply with speed limits the majority of the time. Except, I admit it, in corners where I tend to carry any speed I can legally reach. Commuting can be boring so I try to give myself some challenge. Keep a certain pace while remaining as smooth, safe and aware of my environment as possible. Particularly when I have people riding along. I don’t want them to feel the G forces when I switch gears. This is something I dislike when I am the one riding along on a casual drive. Breaking is done gently and early to avoid upsetting the balance of the car. Entry speed I try to baby so I won’t put much effort in accelerating out of corners. Through which I aim to be as gentle as possible with direction inputs so my passengers don’t jerk left and right brutally. Treading the softest line corner after corner. Driving this way requires some concentration. And simply put, it’s just more elegant isn’t it?
One of the first women who complimented my driving was in her fifties. She enjoyed what she called a relaxing and confidence inspiring drive in my twenty year old Renault 19. I was only 25 then. It was in Brussels. Her words comforted me to keep driving this way on the road. Haven’t changed since. And it seems women love it this way.

Samuel

Rui Moreira
Rui Moreira
8 years ago

Honestly, I prefer to share to road with someone who drives fast and knows what he/she is doing than the bunch of people I see everyday driving at 30kph on the boulevard with their limited attention divided between cellphone, the girls on bikini walking by, the talk with the passenger, etc. They’re driving at 30 kph but still fail to stop at the red light, at the stop signs, zebra crossings…

I also do enjoy driving fast and flowing, traffic allowing it. You’re focused on what you’re doing and your surrounds. It’s becoming almost a lost art. But trying to master it keeps me elated.

Rodney Wren
Rodney Wren
8 years ago

I’m going to teach my daughter to drive a stick because I never want her in a situation that she can drive away from and she won’t be tempted to text and drive. If more people still drove sticks there would be less texting, shaving and make-up applying and more driving.

John
John
8 years ago

I love this article and I couldn’t have said it better. Those of you on high horses, you are better than us, I admit.

Darin Spyderdog
Darin Spyderdog
8 years ago

i drive fast because im the self riotous ass hat who thinks i own all the roads, and i could care less about putting everybody else who pays taxes just like i do in danger. i also drive fast because i can justify my irresponsible actions via calling out other drivers that may, at most equally be just as ignorant and selfish as i am because they text and drive sometimes. i drive fast because im arrogant, and i probably over estimate my abilities, because my car is so special, and im so cool, that its completely ok for me to be a giant hypocrite. i drive fast because i feel the rules dont apply to me, even though they completely should apply to all of you. i drive fast because im too stupid and/or lazy to google “race track”.

seriously guys, for a website that unquestionably creates the most beautiful, most awe inspiring, highest levels of content in the automotive hobby, this is article is complete garbage, and you should be embarrassed by it.

cheers

Thanos Ts
Thanos Ts
8 years ago

[quote]It’s a sensation that isn’t universally loved. Just ask my wife, along with every other passenger of mine since that lovely French girl[/quote]
If you think that this article is complete garbage , I believe you didn’t understand a word from it and you are in the wrong website. From the moment you go out on the road with your car you taking a risk, driving fast doesn’t mean you drive more dangerous. You are more concentrated, you have to watch the road and not just look it and you have to predict the other drivers moves etc. I don’t say that anyone who drives fast drives carefully or right but the way this article is writen I can understand that the author knows what he’s talking about as I understand that you don’t have a clue about fast driving and why someone needs it.

Lon Thompson
Lon Thompson
8 years ago

Beloud – While you make a good point, I would much rather be exposed to the exploits of folks on this forum who “like to drive fast” (I would count myself among them…) instead of the average idiot I see on the highway playing with their phones, putting on makeup, driving drunk, going too SLOW to properly merge or keep up with traffic, or just generally not being focused on the act of driving. Out and out street racing is of course stupid, but if we are talking about exceeding the speed limit by a reasonable amount while being totally focused on driving properly I will galdly share the highway with that gentlemen any day. Not an asshole IMHO.

Chris Beloud
Chris Beloud
8 years ago

Your the asshole that puts multiple innocent lives at risk including your own, save it for the track where everyone is there to do the same thing and all know the consequences.

Gábor Ugron
Gábor Ugron
8 years ago

Driving fast must come from within. Yes, this does sound quite a bit cheesy, but it’s the truth. And I think a big part of why I caught the bug was my dad. “Understanding the flow of traffic, judging gaps, relative speeds” and just generally using every bit of what the road conditions and your car’s abilities allow you to do… my dad did that in a 26 horsepower Trabant. Overtaking was an event and boy did it need to be planned in advance. But he still did it because he enjoyed it. We all did. He continued in much the same fashion in our RWD Lada, getting the tail out in the winter to my mom’s horror and me and my brother’s absolute fascination. And that’s basically how I grew up. I drive an E30 318is now and that just wants to be revved and driven fast, it’s in its character. But if it hadn’t been for my dad and how he drove, I’d even venture to say that I wouldn’t have this car at all. I’d probably drive a TDI, brag about my mpg and be totally indifferent to cars. So yeah, it must come from within.

Josh Clason
Josh Clason
8 years ago

[quote]I drive fast because I love it. Besides, at least I’m not texting.[/quote]

So true. Here in LA I am shocked to see how many people are looking at their phones while driving.

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson
8 years ago

I drive swiftly because i do. I never notice i listen to the engine and dont look at the speed just whats in front. The way it should be if you get to drive. I also dont care what people think about my driving, i drive for me and me alone as long as i am smiling thats all that matters when i get in a car

Daniel Kelly
Daniel Kelly
8 years ago

“understanding the flow of traffic, judging gaps, relative speeds”

I pride myself on these concepts in terms of interstate/highway driving. For instance, when it comes to having to pass slow pokes riding in the left lane, I’ve gotten really good at being able to determine if I’ll be able to pass on the right or not without being a jackass about it (i.e. cutting the person off). Smoothly executing such a pass just feels like a carefully executed dance.