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Autopsy: Sidecar Racing

by spike.com   July 16, 2009 at 5:08PM  |  Views: 442

Drifting, made popular in the Fast and Furious movie sequels, is a form of driving that when done right keeps the car at speed while maintaining drivability when coming out of a turn. To properly drift, you actually oversteer your car so that your front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction of the turn. Just looking at it, it seems easy enough, especially for those who have driven in snow and ice. But pulling a hand brake and skidding to a stop is not the same as tearing around a corner while your car is sideways to the turn and ready to peel out in perfect control. While drifting itself is a sport, the technique is used to help improve speed and maneuverability. When done wrong, drifting will cause you to have an impressive skid, but that is it. And that won’t cut it when racing. Jesse thinks it is a piece of cake, but can he master the art of drifting in time for his big race? Losing control of your vehicle while Sidecar Racing spells disaster, but worse, for Jesse, even if he does survive, it means failure.

On the other side, since Jesse is not racing alone, he needs to learn teamwork. The second man on the Sidecar is called the monkey because he bounces back and forth across the back of the bike to help with weight distribution in order to keep speed and control. His quick ability prevents the motorcycle from flipping and rolling. The monkey will get within inches of the ground while moving at speeds near 100mph. One wrong move by driver or monkey, and it is lights out. Crashes are frequent, many will break bones and cause serious injury, and some will cause death. To help him learn to drive, we give him a very large task. He has to drive a fire engine. Not your momma’s fire truck, but one with a second driver in the back. The truck, known as a Tiller Truck, or Hook and Ladder Truck, is big, and tough to control. It has an extendable ladder which was first introduced in the 1930s to reach the top of the new buildings that were first being built. The Tiller version of the fire truck came many years later as buildings became taller and streets narrower. It requires two drivers as it was designed to maneuver through those tight streets. But that same reason it was designed is its downfall. Without a competent team driving this massive truck, it is more likely to take out buildings and people then to save them. Similar to Sidecar Racing? Not exactly. Even the massive size difference cannot make up for the speed differential Jesse and his teammate will reach. But nonetheless, this is good task to see how Jesse works in tandem, which will be the key, if he expects to keep him and his teammate from crashing.

Sidecar Racing is not only one of the more difficult forms of motorcycle racing, it is arguably one of the most dangerous.  Reaching speeds in excess of 120mph and requiring precision teamwork and a mix of driving skills, makes this challenge as tough, if not tougher, then anything Jesse has tried so far. He will have to focus, listen, learn, and apply skills, if he is to survive this challenge and live to die another day.

David Sandler is the Science Advisor for 'Jesse James is a Dead Man', and President and Co-Founder of StrengthPro, Inc. He can be reached at info@strengthpro.com


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