Sunrise 110hp Per Ton and Sunset 550hp Per Ton

John Campion, March 28th 2016

Last Thursday we began shooting a short film with Petrolicious at 5:30am. We started with my 1967 Lotus Cortina, making 110hp and weighing 1,995 pounds and ended the day at 6:30pm with a Lancia S4, making 550hp and weighing in at 1962 pounds.

I could not have had two more completely different driving experiences…two distinctive locations with two unique cars. The morning shoot was in a part of town some might consider the wrong side of the tracks—lots of graffiti and buildings in disrepair. We ended the day shooting on a farm—unpaved roads and dusty fields.

The morning began at my shop at 5:15 am. The film crew was busy making sure all the equipment was charged and ready for a long day of shooting. I, on the other hand, was making sure I was fully charged with several large espressos. My shop had made sure the Cortina and the S4 we all tight, fueled up and kitted out with all the necessities: jumper cables, tool kit, portable air compressor, etc.

Picture One

At precisely 5:50 am we headed out to chase the sunrise. I was certainly a little apprehensive given my good friend Murphy would surely invoke his first law and at any time, more likely than not (despite the hard work of my shop), have the Cortina suffer a devastating engine failure causing massive commuter chaos turning the shoot into an Action News Traffic Alert. The drive was 20 minutes to the location. I followed the camera car, disrupting commuters as they wondered why a GMC Acadia was playing cat and mouse with some old boxy looking car.

We arrived at the location with just a few minutes to spare as the sun began to rise amidst the urban decay of derelict buildings and chain link fences. The next 3 hours were spent shooting film and stills only punctuated by a minor mechanical issue with the otherwise reliable Cortina. The exhaust dislodged itself in protest to the constant back and forth over the aforementioned tracks. Luckily, the tool kit came in handy and with a quick push and shove and tightening of a clamp or two, the little Cortina that could was back in action.

Picture Two

We arrived back at the shop at 10:00am for the interview portion but first, more espresso and a quick change of wardrobe. The PR Crew consisting of the two Heathers had decided that I should wear a suit for the “wrong side of the tracks Cortina scene.” They probably had a premonition of the mechanical failure or were being paid off by my tailor or both…in any event back to my comfortable uniform of jeans and a racing shirt for the interview.

As I was getting in the correct “head space” for the interview, I overheard the film crew and my shop staff making bets on how long I would go before my language regressed to my roadie years. This, I can assure you, did nothing for my “head space” but at least it’s not live and I remembered I did okay with ABC News and Bloomberg TV so away we went. Aside from some shenanigans we completed the task at hand without too many retakes.

Picture Three

After a quick healthy lunch, we packed the Lancia S4 into the trailer and off we went for the second part of the day. No fancy Italian suit this afternoon! It was a 3-layer race suit and with no roll down windows let alone any AC it was going to get very hot.

I was nervous in the morning but by the afternoon I was completely and utterly terrified. I was going to drive one of the most brutal rally cars ever created for the most brutal rally class ever! Four-time world rally champion, Juha Kankkunen, eloquently described Group B as “WRC is for boys! Group B is for men!” I can confess, I wasn’t feeling very manly—I was as scared and horrified as a turkey in November. 550hp, 0 -60 in 2.3 seconds, and did I mention, you literally sit on the fuel tanks!!

Again, what could possibly go wrong? Well, I completely forgot to get my man in Milan, Guido, to score me the correct wheels and tires for my off road excursion so, in absence of the correct wheels and tires, I was preparing to drive Satan’s shopping cart around a farm on SLICKS!

Here we go 550hp, 0 -60 in 2.3 seconds and 1962 pounds of weapons grade death in the dirt on SLICKS. Think of figure skating on ice wearing socks!

Picture Four

I had limited seat time in the S4 and thought since I am relatively comfortable in the Lancia 037, I should be okay. I was completely and utterly NOT prepared for the sheer brutality of the acceleration, never mind how squirrelly it would be on slicks. My adrenaline was pumping; all my senses were on alert and the animal instinct of fight or flight kicked in! I’m banging through the gears with my foot to the floor in sheer terror hoping and praying that I can keep this nuclear powered death machine straight on the dirt track with out killing the crew or myself. It was one of the most visceral experiences of my life—hot, sweaty, cramped, impossible to hear, impossible to breath with all the dust and dirt coupled with the smell of race fuel all compressed into concentration on keeping it straight!

Picture Five

As the hours passed I started to sweat and get uncomfortable in the race suit but ironically I also started to get more and more comfortable with this ballet of brute force and ignorance. In a very strange way I began to understand Russian roulette. As I drove through the peaceful farm, within millisecond and inches of certain death, calmness came over me as I looped around and around so the director could get the perfect shot in the perfect light on the perfect day!

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