"I don't know," says John Thawley in just the kind of authoritative way that makes you think maybe he does know, "this doesn't feel like 148 mph."
Thawley has gone 148 mph plenty of times before. You have to go 148 to get to 204, which is his current record in the Progress/Magnaflow Civic he drives at Bonneville. With that kind of seat time, this speed, whatever it really is, doesn't feel that fast to him. It's fast to me.
From the passenger's seat, on the left, up against the center line, with the knowledge that Thawley isn't used to driving from the right side of the car, it feels butt-puckeringly fast.
To cover my abject terror, I slouch casually in my seat and suggest a nerdy hypothesis. "I bet it's faster up here at 7,000 feet than it is at sea level. The turbo should make almost as much power up here, but there's so much less air drag."
Thawley protests, but the ruse works. He slows to 120 mph to ponder the possibility. After a short volley of pseudo-science at double the speed limit, we decide to try another top-speed run when we hit Death Valley in a few days. The subject is dropped, and finally, I can relax the muscle, freeing half the Sparco seat I inadvertently sucked up my ass.
Oh, yeah, we're driving a Focus RS, the only Focus RS in America.
Originally, we were to be driving the car on the Trek to Sonoma, which began five feet from the picturesque pier in Huntington Beach, Calif. There were to be lots of other car geeks with us, we would stop at car geek places, go to clubs and party a lot. After a few days we'd stagger into the NHRA Race at Infineon Raceway (Sears Point, to you and me) and rip off a few passes in the hottest Focus Europe has to offer.
But to drive from Huntington Beach to Sonoma, your car has to be in Huntington Beach. Somewhere between Garrett's Detroit office, where the RS was living, and its Gardena, Calif., office, where we were supposed to pick it up, the car slipped into a disaster vortex. First, there was Jimmy Jo-Bob Cletus McSmith's Car Haulin' and Gin Runnin' Service. Their truck done broke out yonder by Kansas City, Kan., stranding our Focus for a spell. This forced us to switch to Plan B. Suddenly, the Trek to Sonoma was solo, and it started in Kansas City, Kan.
Just as we were buying tickets to KansasCletus got the truck fixed up and started heading west. We bought tickets to Denver, Colo. instead, hoping to intercept him. Cletus only made it as far as Salina, Kan.
Then our plane was three hours late. Then the cab driver got lost on the way to the hotel. Then we found out about Cletus' second breakdown. Another truck was sent to drag the car the last 433 miles from Salina to Denver.
Finally, after a few hours delay while the new driver slept off the after-effects of Cletus' secret stash, we met the Focus and hit the road.