Blind Driver Speed Record - Christmas Tale

I'm on my way to the airport to witness the setting of a new blind driver speed record. I like the idea of planes being kept away from their runway in order for cars to take over with a higher purpose, but my face shows anything but a smile, as ever since I woke up this morning, everything has been covered in thick fog. The two-hour drive turned into a three-hour one and the photos I've taken on the way show just how much this affects a camera's abilities to capture the surrounding world. The feat
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Everything's white and, as I make a sharp right turn to enter the runway, all I can think about is how to get a good photo setup for this kind of weather. I'm already up through the sunroof, with my colleague driving me towards the point where it all starts.

I'm here to see exactly what Florin Georgescu can do with a BMW 1-Series in his hands. Florin, 36, is training in order to break the blind driver world speed record next year and in the process he'll be setting a new national record today.

We met recently and I'm a bit worried because I don't know if the details have been set up correctly. Our last conversation didn't convince me that he's ready to make the most of what the 143 hp the BMW 1-Series diesel he's driving today has to offer. I feel that maybe we'll have to spend a few minutes to talk about this.

What's that sound and why is there smoke around the red Bimmer? I reach the crowd and as the people make room, I see Florin. He's got both hands on the wheel and he's doing... a burnout!

I can barely get into position to take a few photos before he sets off. "Go! go! go!" I yell and my driver puts his foot down. I can't believe my lens - we're at the middle of the runway, doing around 160 km/h (100 mph) and Florin keeps accelerating. A couple of moments later, he steps on the brakes full weight and, before we realize which way he's gone for, he's turned the car around and started a new practice lap the other way. "Go! go! go!".

Florin in crazy - crazy good. He manages to manhandle that car in a way that literally shakes me. He acts like he drives BMWs round the Nurburgring for a living! I'm trying to find a good position for a steady shot, but in order to catch up with him we have to use full throttle, which turns the rain and the fog into some sort of blindfold for both me and the camera. Will I manage to capture his speed?

And then it strikes me: when I usually propose a project, whether it's a test drive or an unusual one like this, there's always somebody that relies on me to immortalize what he's done. But this time it's different - Florin will never be able to see any of the pictures I'm taking today, no matter how hard I try to make them clear - he lost his eyesight when he was fourteen. I have to find out how he manages to be such a dedicated driver!

We reach the end of the runway and he stops for a briefing with the timing expert. The man with the seconds comes from the world of rallying - for him speeding cars are nothing more than the norm. He sits calmly at his table, while explaining to Florin that he had prepared the instruments for timing the 1 km (0.62 miles) run.

Florin talks to you as if you both share the same childhood memories. "Hy there chap, thanks for coming, want to join me for a practice lap?"

He climbs aboard and, even though he's only been in this car for about half an hour, he perfectly masters all the buttons. I take a seat in the back and we start. On his right, he has Alex, a good friend that acts as a co-driver.

"Are you ready? Good, then let's set off! Straight, straight, easy right, straight, keep it like this" - Alex, a former professional athlete just gives Florin these instructions, but he never touches anything in the car.

Towards the end of the run, we hit about 180 km/h (118 mph) and the only thing that stops us is the fact that the red lights that signal the end of the runway are approaching fast.

The car starts to shake on the wet surface under the hard braking, but Florin is unbelievably relaxed. His prompt reactions to Alex's indications shows that he's perfectly aware of the risks, which means that his approach only comes from self confidence.

As I would find out a little bit later, he is convinced that he has to work with himself first in order o be able to have a role in other people's lives - considering our speed, he holds a pretty important position in Alex's and mine right now.

I have to admit I was a little nervous at the beginning ,but after seeing him so focused and witnessing the rally-like communication between them, albeit without a special language, I only wish he could convince the speedometer's needle to climb even higher.

I get off at the end, climb back in my car - it's time for the timed runs. We line up at the start, Florin warms up the tires a little bit and we set off. I was expecting to see him focus solely on gathering speed and thus make some steering errors, such as small but sudden moves, but you could swear he's driving a train.

In fact, he was in such a hurry to gather speed that we couldn't even catch up with him for the second run. However, as we approach the end of this, we stumble across a splatter of plastic and glass on the runway.

We stop the car next to his and as I step out to talk to him I notice a little bit of damage to the front fender and a broken headlight. Nobody knows why, but one of the timing instruments was placed towards the middle of the runway and the thick fog caused Alex to see it to late in order for them to have time to avoid it.

Even though the impact took place at well above 100 km/h (62 km/h), everything's fine, except for the aforementioned damage.

"The whole thing could've come in through the dashboard, but we're past that now. I have to focus on the speed," Florin tells me. The next moment, he climbs aboard seeming even more determined to push the car to its limits.

We set off and the concrete runway makes the entire car shake. The wind howls, the fog is so thick it feels like I'm smoking and the focal point on the viewfinder reminds me of the Tasmanian devil.

We soon stop next to the red 1-Series and the timing table. The results are in. Over the 1 km course (0.62 miles), Florin managed to set an average speed of 136.8 km/h (85 mph), a record for Romania.

The world record currently sits at an average speed of just above 320 km/h (200 mph), but that has been set with a car almost five times more powerful than the 1-Series Florin had. Trust me, even though this was Florin's first ever performance driving session, if he had been given the controls to a car that muscular, he would have offered a competitive result.

As for the top speed, this wasn't officially recorded, but his speedometer showed around 180 km/h (118 mph), enough to make a few journalist who also asked for a ride in the back during the practice session travel their way back on foot.

It was now time to relax, so Florin asked us if we could get to a quiet part of the runway where he wanted to... make some donuts. Wait, what? Yes, he wanted to get a good feel of the car with no electronic nannies in the way before heading home. This really does tell you something about him, so you can jump to the next page to really get to know him.

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About the author: Andrei Tutu
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In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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