Unreal reality – a ride in the DTM Race Taxi
Wow! The graphic is truly wicked – just stunning. The sound? Absolutely intoxicating. And the race seat! Accelerating, braking, cornering – the perfect reaction to every manoeuvre. Everything feels absolutely authentic, downright real. How that? Because it is real! And nonetheless, somehow completely unreal. I am not sitting at a gaming console or in a simulator – but in the passenger seat of the DTM Race Taxi and charge around the Lausitzring with BMW works driver Dirk Werner.
What I feel? My body is exposed to massive forces, jerking me backwards and forwards, to the left and to the right. But emotion-wise? Somehow nothing. My brain seems to have found a way to cope with all the impressions that are hitting me – it has shut down, created a kind of parallel word for me. While blurred shadows of the Lausitzring are flying by, I’m asking myself what in heaven is going on? Ironically, there’s one thing I rule out categorically: driving a car. After all, this really hasn’t got anything to do with driving – this here is far, far too incredible!
When I was invited by BMW to a Race-Taxi ride I was all for it right away. Never ago had I been sitting in a racing car – and now the leap right into a DTM Race-Taxi cockpit. With a big dose of pleasant anticipation I hit the road to the Lausitzring. “Don’t eat too much before the ride;” “When I did so, I felt really sick, afterwards;" “That will be tough – can’t wait to find out how you will cope with it.” That’s the kind of advice and patter accompanying me throughout the weekend. On Sunday morning I am provided with the taxi-ride voucher, fittingly accompanied by a bag for unexpected body reactions.
It’s awfully hot in the racing overall. With the helmet under my arm I take to the race track and meet my ‘chauffeur’. “For me, it also is the first Race-Taxi ride on a DTM weekend. I also am slightly nervous,’ former DTM driver Dirk Werner admits with a grin. “At first, you also have to familiarise yourself with the car and the circuit. Therefore, I drive around 80 percent, during the first ride. But at the second I already tend to take myself and the car to the limit. I would say 94 percent.”
Hmm, I am the second… My safety equipment is checked by helpers, the safety-harness presses me into the seat. “So, the nervousness is gone, everything fine?” I nod. “Okay. Have fun.” Werner presses the starting button, the engine roars – and we’re already halfway down the home straight. It’s the last point of reference I will have for the coming 90 seconds.
Werner puts the pedal to the metal and I’m pressed even deeper into my seat. We are braking for the first left hander – the safety harness pushes against my body that is pressed to the right side of the seat just fractions later. The lateral forces are enormous – and my brain blacks out. Like being in trance, I witness gravel beds charging towards me and disappearing right afterwards, how the rear of the car tends to pull – but doesn’t. My body helplessly is exposed to the laws of physics. My footrest is vibrating violently, making my legs vibrate too – what at least gives me the impression of a kind of body-awareness and control.
Suddenly, there is a moment of relative peace. We are back on the home straight, only to enter the second lap, a.k.a. known as another 90 seconds of irreality.
I get out of the car, still feeling muzzy. Other than some of the other Race-Taxi passengers whose legs are shaking that hard that you can see it despite the thick racing overall, I’m completely relaxed. And slowly, just slowly, my thinking also returns to the real world. I become aware that the drivers’ performance on the track is extremely impressive. It took just seconds until I was immersed by the enormous forces in the car into a parallel world. Forces the drivers are exposed to for an hour and quite obviously cope with without the slightest problem.
Even weeks after my Race-Taxi ride my opinion hasn’t change: this has absolutely nothing to do with driving a car. It’s professional competitive sport on the highest level – both physically and mentally.