Hooked On Speed and I Blame the Government

Author: Rick Kosdrosky, BSE '76, current EAA Board Member, Program Manager at Lockheed Martin Corporation.
I was fortunate to attend Purdue on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. Not only did the Air Force pay for tuition and books, they also gave me $100 a month for ‘expenses’. Freshman calculus allowed me to quickly figure out that if I could live on macaroni and cheese, I could afford a new sports car on this government largesse. I came back for my sophomore year with a new Triumph GT6. A lifetime of wasting money on motorsports was about to get underway.

I was walking through Stewart Center a few weeks into that fall semester when I chanced by Richard Dickey, President of the Purdue Auto Club (PAC). He was preparing a display case advertising an upcoming competition, called an autocross, to be held in Ross-Ade Stadium’s parking lot. I had never heard of an autocross but Dickey explained that it was a test of car and driver on a closed road course laid out with pylons. The object was to drive from the beginning of the course to the end of the course faster than other drivers in similar cars did when they made their run. No door-to-door racing, just a stopwatch to determine who’s best. To make it even more enticing, he assured me it was safe for both me and my car. Being inherently competitive and with a new government-provided sports car, I was in.

I would find out just how bad of a driver I was a few weeks later at the autocross. No trophy that day; yet a seed was planted that grows inside me to this day – WINNING AT ANY COST!

To make a long (and often sad) story a little shorter, over the next three years I became President of the PAC and would continue to eat even more macaroni and cheese as Dickey had me ripping perfectly good shocks, springs and other suspension pieces off the Triumph, to be replaced by Konis and other aftermarket, go-fast goodies.

As with most addictions, autocrossing led to ‘harder’ things. After graduation, the Triumph became a Porsche, and autocrossing gave way to road course speed events, and ultimately to no-kidding sports car racing with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). I have since driven in hundreds of road races at the national level and wasted thousands of hours and countless dollars in the process. Racing IS like being hooked on drugs – except they can cure drug addicts. Racers, like addicts, also find solace in the company of others with similar tendencies. Richard Dickey, also now an SCCA racer, remains a life-long friend that I talk to nearly every day.

Auto racing gave meaning and reason to Physics 152. After all, what better use of an understanding of forces, moments, accelerations and kinematics than to apply them to the goal of winning? Mark Donohue, one of America’s greatest road racers, was also an engineer. His book, The Unfair Advantage, details how his engineering training helped make him a better driver. Donohue only went to Brown University. If I make it to the big leagues, my book will be Purdue: The REALLY Unfair Advantage.

So you see, I’m a victim of a government program gone bad. If it wasn’t for that hundred bucks a month, I wouldn’t be helplessly and hopelessly addicted to speed. I’m already scheming about how much faster I’ll be once we have national health care!