Taking an IndyCar open-wheel car on any public street would attract local police in a hurry.
Taking a street-legal IndyCar two-seater on local streets where an IZOD INdyCar race happens soon, will attract fans. Police are busy with other duties.
When this reporter got the opportunity to take a ride through downtown streets of St. Petersburg prior to the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the answer was a swift: "Yes!"
As a veteran of exciting rides on racetracks in NASCAR and IndyCar, hosted by the Richard Petty Driving Experience and Indy Racing Experience, with drivers of note like Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle and Davey Hamilton, the street ride had to be much slower experience. But speed wasn’t the purpose.
This reporter also suspected the street-legal engine would not be a race version. A real IndyCar race car weighs at least 1525 pounds, and has a V-8 engine that produces 650 horsepower. It’s a light-weight, highly-aerodynamic race car that hugs the earth while approaching turns at 200-plus mph.
It’s almost like a rocket on wheels.
The IndyCar street-legal version looks very low profile, but it actually sits higher than the race car version. Probably, that’s an adjustment to accommodate any uncertain infrastructure known to open roads. Potholes are not friendly to race cars.
As for the engine, as suspected, the street-legal version has a much smaller power plant, a Honda six-cylinder motorcycle engine. But make no mistake about the mechanics; this legal car had big exhaust pipes. Hearty noise is its purpose.
The ride began after this ample body somehow squeezed into the slender cockpit. The Honda engine erupted when the driver hit the ignition, and rumbled loudly as the car inched past a display model of a real IZOD IndyCar open-wheeler adorning a corner for passing pedestrians.
The lower profile of that open-wheeler was obvious. It’s not known if the display model even has an engine as that could cost in the $100,000 range. This model’s purpose is to sit, look cool and attract attention. It was doing that as the street-legal car moved across that intersection.
Once on an open street, the driver hit the throttle and the car lurched forward, even produced a G or so that could be felt. The thrust was accompanied by engine roar.
The passenger was amazed at the active bumping of the suspension.
But the astute driver slowed quickly as the car approached the next intersection. Cars with surprised drivers stopped to allow the two-seater privileged entry into the center as pedestrians gathered swiftly with cameras and cell phones snapping special moments.
This racy-looking car has turn signals, break lights and a license plate. It’s street legal, after all.
The driver maneuvered a series of turns with equal reaction and attraction from residents and traffic. The purpose of this street-legal car is fun and promotion, and that happened at every turn.
But the driver hit the peddle whenever it was safe to make some noise and the resulting thrust gave this public run a touch of speed, a feel of thrill. The passenger got more G’s
This street-legal experience had this reporter smiling with only one suggestion. The Interstate is not far from downtown St. Petersburg and this dart-looking car is street legal. Is it possible to get this speedster to a high speed highway for a little more fun?
With that question, another suggestion came to mind.
Be careful what you wish for.
If you can’t make it to the paddock seating near the harbor you can watch The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC. Information and race details available on www.gpstpete.com. Photo credit: Dwight Drum at Racetake.com