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The Harbus Intraview

Speed Racer
by Brian Ericson, NP

It was every guy’s teenage fantasy come true. Or at least one of their teenage fantasies–the one involving really fast cars. I’m not really sure what teenage girls dreamt about, but judging by Robin’s initial trepidation, I was pretty sure it wasn’t this! Nevertheless, she was a good sport, and willing to give it a ride.

Our Intraview destination was F1 Boston, a snazzy indoor racing complex in Braintree. I’d heard about it from a friend at work a while back, and had been just waiting for a good excuse to drag, er, bring, Robin there. When she mentioned that Uncle Jordy was seeking (and funding!) exciting Intraview adventure stories, I could already hear the engines revving.

I was, I must confess, particularly psyched about the funding bit, since like many fantasies, this one came with a pretty high price tag–$35 to be precise. And all that got you was a single-day license and a grand total of about six minutes pretending to be Mario Andretti. Each additional six minutes of racing goes for another $25.

Of course, that’s only counting the time actually spent cruising around the track at an average speed of 25 mph (or upwards of 30 mph if you are braver and more talented than yours truly). The entire experience, which includes getting fully equipped in a very snazzy full-body racing suit, a very comforting neck brace, and very serious helmet, took about half an hour. I think for Robin, getting all dressed up was probably her favorite part–she briefly got to live out her fantasy of being one of Charlie’s Angels.

I was feeling pretty good about our chances when we first arrived for our 5:15 racing group. Initially, it was Robin, myself, and another couple that didn’t seem to know what they were doing either. However, just before we took to the track, the “serious” racers arrived. I knew we were in trouble when I noticed they had brought their own helmets–clearly on par with the people that bring their own bowling balls to the lanes, cues to the pool hall, etc.

We were given a brief, make that very brief, introduction to the rules of racing, what all the flags meant, etc. Clearly, they were going on the assumption that most of the people there were NASCAR fanatics. Finally, we stepped out and got into our cars, which basically are really souped-up go-carts, and got in line behind the red light, anxiously ready to race.

Robin and I started in the front, but we certainly didn’t stay there for long. During the first practice session, which consisted of 5 laps around the 300 meter track, I embarrassingly got passed by virtually everybody, while I tried to figure out how the heck to maneuver my high performance automobile around a number of very tight corners, down a ramp, and through a tunnel. Robin’s showing was actually a good deal more impressive, especially considering how little she likes to drive regular cars!

During the “real” race, which lasts for 10 laps, I started to get the hang of things, and figured out how to cruise around the corners with a satisfying squeal of the tires. Cocooned in a full racing suit, and trapped inside a helmet, you feel very isolated from the rest of the world (including your Intraview!), and become pretty intensely focused, not to mention, pretty darned stressed. For an hour or so after the race, my muscles were still sore from being on edge for those six intense minutes.

As it turned out, all that intensity didn’t really get me all that far. While I kept improving from lap to lap, I still ended up finishing sixth out of 10 racers, and was still finishing lap 8 while the racing addicts with the helmets were cruising past the checkered flag on lap 10.

All in all, though, it was a pretty darned cool experience. The facility itself is quite impressive–they are clearly aiming for an upscale “isn’t this a cool place for an office party” crowd (not that they have much choice at $35 a shot). In addition to your six minutes of tense exhilaration, there’s a great balcony where you can watch other racers in awe or amusement, a surprisingly impressive restaurant, a fairly posh billiards room, and, of course, a gift shop, where you can pick up your very own sexy racing suit for a mere $250. So, there’s definitely enough to entertain big groups, including those like Robin, who think the whole racing thing is a bit silly! Believe it or not, they have resisted the temptation to include any flashy racing video games–I guess they figured no one would accept such a wimpy substitute after experiencing the real thing.
You can find out more at f1boston.com

The Reluctant Racer
by Robin King, NF

Unlike other Intraviews, it was pretty much a given that my Intraviewer would be sleeping over post-Intraview. I don’t have much of a choice-Brian and I have been living together for almost two years. Sure, we aren’t classic Intraview material, but Uncle Jordy knew that HBS puts a bit of a damper on even the sturdiest of relationships.

So, I was thinking romance… Perhaps something like L’Espalier for dinner followed by dancing. Brian, unfortunately, was thinking Formula One racing and, for once, Brian won.

This might not be so bad, I thought, checking out their website, www.f1boston.com. Hey, the Improper Bostonian even mentioned them as a possible site for a fun wedding reception. But wait…the website mentions that they provide free use of racing suits, neck braces, and helmets. Are they kidding?
Despite my reservations, Brian and I headed south for Braintree. On our way there, we passed quite a few signs for Wrentham Premium Outlets. I begged Brian to ditch our plans and whisk me away for a day of shopping. Needless to say, he was not swayed. He can be so cruel sometimes.

Before I knew it, we arrived at F1 Boston and are assigned a racing time. Ours was not for a while so Brian and I headed to the tracks to watch the racers. Just I had feared, all were clad in racing suits and whizzing their little go-karts around an elaborate two-level track, complete with fancy lights and an electronic board featuring the racers’ names. This did not look particularly safe to me. I don’t even like to drive. We are talking about a person who hasn’t regularly driven a car in over four years. What if I wreck? Flip over? What kind of boyfriend would drag his beloved to a place like this?
With no more time for second thoughts, the staff herded us downstairs to suit up and listen to a pre-race briefing. I actually thought I looked pretty cute in the racing suit-kind of like one of Charlie’s Angels-until I was handed a head sock to wear under my helmet. A head sock is exactly what it sounds like, and no girl can look cute in one of these. Just as I finished putting on everything, two men walk in with their own helmets. What kind of person brings his own helmet? I had feared people like this. Not even the scary race I watched earlier had people with their own helmets!

The staff quickly briefed us on the safety rules and assigned each of us to a car. I was first… Great, I’ll be squashed at the beginning of the race. Have I mentioned that I don’t like to drive? Green lights flashed and we were off. I found the whole thing pretty stressful. And I was painfully aware of the fact that everyone was passing me. Fortunately the race was over quickly and the staff handed us printouts of our times, and our race results were posted on the electronic bulletin board for all to see. I managed to slow down each successive lap, and came in dead last. The Helmet Heads came in first and second, of course.

Brian and I grabbed a quick beer at the F1 restaurant, Ascari. Take the ‘N’ off NASCAR and add an ‘I,’ and you have a fancy Italian sounding name. I patiently listened to Brian recount stories of his driving prowess, pretending to be impressed, and we headed home. All in all, it wasn’t too painful and Brian seemed to have a good time. But I have
to say I won’t be having my wedding reception there.

April 9, 2001
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