This article was published more than 5 years ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.
The theory that a fulfilling life comes from experiences rather than possessions has gained real traction.
A recent article from The Atlantic calls attention to the work of Thomas Gilovich and Matthew Killingsworth, psychologists who have studied why people seem to derive more happiness from experiences.
The conclusion: We have a tough time living in the moment, so the default route to happiness is to live in anticipation of a great moment to follow. The other conclusion: The human brain attaches more pleasure when anticipating an experiential purchase and more anxiety with a material purchase.
With this in mind, Mark Hacking presents five distinct experiences, all related to cars and/or driving, all geared toward the enthusiast who may have gathered his or her share of adrenalin-fuelled adventures already. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines …
Watch Monaco Grand Prix
- Cost: $$$$
- Thrill factor: 140 beats per minute (BPM)
- Insider tip: Secure general admission entrance to Le Rocher, where hard-core race fans gather.
A select few automotive events are worth attending for the spectacle alone. The Indianapolis 500 falls into this category, as does the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But no car race has the capacity to capture the imagination of spectators like the Monaco Grand Prix. There is the thrill of seeing the most sophisticated cars piloted by the best drivers; there is the sheer amazement in watching a modern Grand Prix on a circuit that has changed remarkably little since 1929. On any given weekend, Monaco is a spectacular, star-studded and costly place to visit; on Grand Prix weekend, the scene ratchets up to 11.
Drive a race kart
- Cost: $
- Thrill factor: 185 BPM
- Insider tip: Master the two-stroke kart, then move to the shifter kart, a more extreme machine.
For most people, this suggestion will come across as lame. If this is your reaction, we’re willing to bet you’ve never driven a proper race kart in anger. There’s a reason why every world champion driving in Formula One started by racing karts – it’s a brilliant training ground for learning about car control and race craft.
The sweet spot in this particular form of motorsport is the two-stroke kart. Although these machines develop 90 hp (at most), they’re also as light as a Kleenex box – the power-to-weight ratio rivals that of a modern Ferrari. In a race with like-minded individuals driving identical karts, the slightest mistake in a single corner can see you lose a handful of places
Train to be a rally driver
- Cost: $$
- Thrill factor: 175 BPM
- Insider tip: There are rear-wheel drive courses and all-wheel drive courses – unfortunately, you have to choose.
Rally driving is different from race driving for a few reasons, but the main one is this: in rallies, you don’t have the benefit of memorizing the corners through endless repetition. Rally drivers rely on a co-driver reading a route book and calling out the turns in advance. Rallies also take place on all kinds of surfaces (tarmac, gravel, sand) and in all kinds of weather conditions (rain, shine, snow).
As such, rally driving is more of a seat-of-the-pants form of driving that relies on reflexes and a variety of techniques. One of the best places to learn this is DirtFish Rally School, located 30 minutes outside Seattle. The instructors are fantastic, the cars are fun and the facility encompasses 315 acres, so there’s plenty of room to perfect your Scandinavian flick.
Master the Nordschleife
- Cost: $$$$
- Thrill factor: 195 BPM
- Insider tip: Sir Jackie Stewart nicknamed the track “The Green Hell” – he wasn’t being overdramatic.
There are challenging racetracks all over the world – Laguna Seca, Mosport and Spa-Francorchamps are just three that spring to mind. But driving these is the equivalent of navigating a Costco parking lot when compared with tackling the Nuerburgring Nordschleife. This infamous German circuit is more than 20 kilometres long and features 73 corners. There are many ways to learn the Nordschleife, including plunking down €27 ($38) and going it alone on a “tourist lap” in your own car. But the proper way to generate genuine pace on this track is by first analyzing each section, corner-by-corner, an approach taken over two days during the BMW Driving Experience. Glued to the rear bumper of a seasoned instructor from behind the wheel of your own high-performance BMW, this is the ne plus ultra of racetrack experiences.
Tackle Targa Newfoundland
- Cost: $$$$$
- Thrill factor: 205 BPM
- Insider tip: Past competitors are eager to help with advice on how to prepare your car for five days of punishment.
In many ways, Targa Newfoundland simply should not be – when you’re in the heat of competition, it feels like you’re running from the law. Equal parts road race and stage rally, this five-day event sees rally teams in all manner of cars tackle more than 500 kilometres of special stages, pitting themselves against the clock and each other. Some stages take place in small fishing villages, where the range of obstacles runs the gamut from that quaint saltbox house on the corner to the Atlantic Ocean. The roads are a mix of the perfectly and the imperfectly paved, there are plenty of bumps and more than a few extreme cautions marked in the route book. Rain is practically guaranteed and past year’s events have seen a hurricane or two. This is not for the faint of heart.
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