To ready Jesse for Gap Racing we thought impact preparation is important, but avoiding impact would be even better. So to help Jesse get accustomed to split-second decision making, we decided to use a test that perfectly replicated Figure 8 Racing. Well…okay, maybe not, but it sure was cool trying it. At first, if you have seen the “Sneak Preview” clip, or when you see the show, your immediate thought may be: “What the heck does firing a gun have to do with figure 8 racing?” But it makes complete sense, at least to me. The only way you can really get good at driving a car is to do just that. But getting good at timing, reaction, and split-second decision making is not something you want to test on a busy highway or residential street, let alone race day. So why not use a challenge that has all the elements of speed, accuracy, and of course, awesome power! We chose not just any gun, but a Jesse James-style badass ballistic cannon that hurls monster bullets with enough penetration force to go through steel. Oh yeah, it’s the real deal. Okay, so back to the challenge…
At just 10mph, objects travel at nearly 15ft per second. At 100mph they travel at 147 feet per second. A good human reaction time is 2/10ths (0.2) of a second. During that time, the object has traveled nearly 3ft at 10mph and 29ft at 100mph. Not impressed? We gave Jesse a target that was about 2.5 feet across and had the cars approaching one another at a combined speed of 20mph. That gave Jesse a visible target window of just 1/10th of second. Plus the gun was fixed in one spot, so he could not maneuver it around and line up the target ahead of time. Still not impressed? You should be. Because this fixed target scenario means that by the time he reacts (with good reaction time) it is already too late. Remember, reaction is not action. He still has to aim, pull the trigger and account for all the other variables like time it takes for the bullet to travel to the target. Okay, so with this weapon the bullet moves so fast that is not a big deal, but lets take this back to the track. If cars are zipping around the track at 60mph, drivers with super reaction times of 0.12s will cover 10.5 feet just thinking about whether to hit the brakes or the gas! Remember too that cars can reach speeds twice that fast. Ok, if you are still not impressed, you still have to factor the speeds of every other car that could approach or be in the gap at the same time as you. In other words, Jesse has literally hundreds of pieces of information to process, make the correct decision, fire the muscles to hit the gas or the break, steer the car properly, and if that is not enough, he has to do it all within hundredths of a second at least 2/10ths of second before he needs to actually make the decision. Sounds confusing? It is. And if you think you could do it, try this at home, on a back street. Drive down the road with your window down past a garbage can 50ft from your car and see if you can toss a tennis ball and hit the can, let alone make a basket. Oh, and we will let you take time to line it up, unlike Jesse had. Who thinks this is easy now? If anything, this test is ridiculously impossible but it is somewhat similar to the instinct and timing that he needs in Figure 8 racing. Besides, it is cool, and what person wouldn’t want to try to fire those massive rounds at a moving target!
Jesse is about to try one of the most difficult tasks in all of racing. Heart-pounding action, quick reaction, and pedal to the metal racing forces Jesse to push the envelope one more time on his quest to prevent himself from becoming a Dead Man.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org