Car culture influences students’ interests

March 27, 2015 — by Aditya Chaudhry and Vibha Seshadri

Every morning, the parking lot is filled with an assortment of car brands, ranging from Honda Civics to Ford Mustangs. What most people don’t realize is that some students use these cars — and other ones they never drive — for recreational racing, an expensive but thrilling hobby that many find addicting.

Senior Alex Whitman has been a car enthusiast since age 2. As a toddler, he spent his days maneuvering Hot Wheels, but as a high schooler, he has moved on to more exciting pursuits.

In an event called autocross, Whitman goes to an open parking lot where different car clubs assemble cones around the lot. People come to these parking lots and race for time. Whitman has been participating in autocross with his father for the past two years and averages around 45 seconds per race. Each race is approximately three fourths of a mile.   

“I think it’s eye opening because a lot of kids think they are the best drivers in the world, and then you go [to autocross] and actually try it, and you realize how bad you are at driving,” Whitman said. “But you learn a lot.”

At autocross, his dad drives a Lotus, which Whitman has driven a few times as well. Usually he drives his mom’s Fiat Abarth because he can control the car more easily than the Lotus, thus allowing him to have better times. He said that once he is at a more advanced level of racing, like his dad, he can extract the proper potential out of a Lotus.

In addition to autocross, Whitman follows professional racing such as Formula one, Williams Martini Racing and Team Lotus.

Aside from racing, Whitman has invested time into learning about the engineering of cars. This past summer, Whitman worked at Suspension Performance in Mountain View, where he helped the mechanics with various tasks such as changing the oil and brake pads.

“Driving itself is a fun experience, but also the engineering that goes into making cars and race cars and things like that also captured my imagination,” Whitman said. “I just thought it was cool to learn how internal combustion engines work, and how all the components of the car work together.”

Whitman plans to major in mechanical engineering in college, saying that cars have had “a big impact on what I plan to do with my life.”

Junior Giulia Corno has also been impacted by car culture. Corno’s love for cars is heavily influenced by her dad. Her father often tells her stories about driving experiences in Italy. Because Italy has a plethora of twisty mountain roads and a lack of speed limits, her father learned how to drive well under different conditions, which Corno said rubbed off onto her.

Her passion for cars has spurred Corno to learn and foster  a vast knowledge on different cars and their statistics.

“I’ll see a car that I know everything about it because my dad told me or I looked it up,” Corno said. “Usually [I know] the engine, horsepower, torque, model year and stuff like that.”

Corno especially loves Ford Mustangs, an American muscle car known for it horsepower. Corno has spent so much time reading about Mustangs that she can name specific designers of the car and new features on many models.

Her love for Mustangs stems from her family who first bought a 94 Mustang One in Seattle. The family later bought a 2001 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra and just recently bought a 2011 Ford Mustang GT 100. Corno added that her role model is Henry Ford because he created the first affordable car.

Corno hopes one day she can race her Mustangs at Laguna Seca, a raceway in Salinas. Despite this, her love for racing has permeated her life and defined who she is.

“Cars have defined a part of me,” Corno said. “My passion for cars is another aspect of my personality.”

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