Pattie Hughes Mayer
Safety car drivers in motorsport need excellent driving skills and a cool head to keep a roaring field of race cars in check – all the more so under emotionally charged circumstances.
Behind the wheel of one of the American Le Mans Series safety cars is Pattie Hughes Mayer and she drives a Porsche Panamera GTS.
Her qualifications include an active period as a racer with a total of 20 years racing experience, plus she is a Porsche Sport Driving School instructor.
Hughes Mayer fell in love with Porsche very early in life. She recalls with fondness the warm sound of the 911 as it pulled up to a stop sign near her parents house and then accelerated through a gear shift or two before coming to a stop again outside the family home.
The 911 became her dream car and today she is proud of her own 911 Carrera 4S. She says it’s well suited to the daily demands placed on a mother and homemaker.
But what about the Panamera she drives at the American Le Mans Series? Isn’t the car a little too bulky for the job?
“Oh my goodness, no!” said Hughes Mayer. “This car is absolutely standard and at the same time absolutely suitable for the track. The Panamera is a Porsche to the core. And the faster I drive it, the more agile it feel,” she said.
Hughes Mayer doesn’t just drive the car on tracks in emergencies. The “Vitesse” program at American Le Mans Series includes passenger rides for guests, VIPs, and fans. Her passengers experience something of an emotional rollercoaster. They start off on the skeptical side, with men not infrequently making comments on the order of, “Oh no, I hope you don’t drive like my wife.
“Everyone, regardless of gender, is impressed by the luxurious interior of the car. They get in, relax in comfortable surroundings, and think something like ‘Well this will be a nice drive, but not exactly the racing experience I thought it would be.’
That changes the instant she pushes down on the right pedal and merges onto the track. At the last possible moment before the first curve, when every normal driver thinks the braking point was the last missed opportunity of their life, “They’re struck dumb, and that’s the end of their comments for a while.” She grins. Yes, you can see she enjoys her job. “But I have to be careful to make sure no one forgets to exhale!”
Courtesy Christophorus magazine
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