It was Saturday, June 28th, early evening. We were on our way back from a long and mentally exhausting race day at Watkins Glen. My Continental Tire Series racing car driver friend was riding passenger with me, while Mathias was following in his trusty 1999 Mercedes ML. Two hours or so into our return trip, my bad luck started to shine.
We got off Route 17 (or I86) in Hancock so I could stop at my favorite smoked food smoke house. As we were driving through Hancock, my car’s “newly acquired” exhaust “modification” accidentally attracted the attention of the local police as I made a left turn. The police officers dashed into their car, made a quick u-turn, and followed me directly into a gas station lights on. After writing me up for my exhaust, we were on our way once again.
After this incident, I decided that we were going to continue the next section of the trip on some familiar backroads, where no police would bother me, and where I could do some spirited driving.
After pushing my car a bit on some paved twisties, we hit Methol Road. Most of Methol Road is unpaved, loose gravel. With nothing but trees, grass embankments, and steep cliffs as your runoff area. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it is very low traffic, cars have no reason to come up or down these roads, they don’t really go anywhere.
We continued on Methol Road, taking it pretty easy. It was only my second time on Methol with my car, and the only car control skills I have are what was taught to me at Lime Rock by the guys at Skip Barber, and what I have come to know over the “years” from what I have practiced.
I achieved some small slides and a little Oppo, but still kept it decently together and not too dangerous. As I was going down the road, my passenger says “dude, I would totally rip this road up”. I look at him and nod. When I got to the end of the dirt section of the road, I pulled over, waited for Mathias to catch up, shut off the car, turned to my friend and said to him “If you put my car in a tree...”, and hopped out.
After letting Mathias know what what was going down, my friend and I switched seats and we took off.
We were flying around corners sideways, probably a little too hot, but I knew my friend had it under control. He’s a trained racing car driver. How could he not? He avoided getting into a five car pileup at Watkins earlier that same day! The thought of having four off wasn’t even in my mind. Until it happened.
I see the grass on the side of the road become closer and closer, trees heading toward me. It seemed as if the car was understeering after an overcorrection, he couldn’t save it. I clenched my camera and braced myself.
We were four off but the car was still moving. The car flew off the side the road and pitched itself on the side of a hill. When we came to a stop, I looked around and made sure my friend was okay. His first words? “Im so sorry”.
He was in full shock, I turned to him to calm him down. He thought I would be furious and upset, but this wasn’t the case. I reached over, shut the car off and put it in gear so it wouldn’t roll any further.
We hopped out, climbed back up the hill to the road, and surveyed the situation. The car was stuck. We were both fine, the car narrowly missed trees everywhere.
I texted Mathias that our friend “had an off” and to come back around. He pulled up with his face in his hands, amazed with what had just happened. I called a tow and we got comfy in the ML.
As the night sky fell, my car slowIy disappeared into the woody darkness. The tow truck was nowhere in sight, and not one car had come down the road since the incident occurred.
Soon enough, I heard the reliable rumble of a Dodge Cummins and hopped out of the ML to wave the tow down.
Greg, the tow truck driver hooked up the car and pulled it out. After we got the car back onto the road, we inspected the damage, made sure the car would run, and paid Greg his $325 (seriously?) for the recovery.
The car started right up and ran fine. Nothing horrible besides from some front end damage and oddities in the steering. Thankfully, I was able to drive it back down the road to family’s house about 10 minutes away, where the car will stay until she can be fixed.
Photo and video credit: Aaron Brown, Mathias Rios