Paraplegic Driver Mike Bauer Tests Corvette at High Plains Raceway
Denver, CO – RIS – August 1, 2013 - Injured in a motorcycle accident in 2003, Florida resident Mike Bauer is now a paraplegic but that hasn't dampened his passion for motorsports. Under the watchful eye of neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Falci from Craig Hospital in Denver, Bauer this week took to the track at nearby High Plains Raceway, testing a specially modified 450 hp C5 Chevrolet Corvette.
"It was awesome," said the 50's-something Bauer. "The car is a technological wonder. It's very fast."
He had put in a few laps a couple of days earlier to become familiar with the hand controls but today was at racing speed. "I can now gas it out of the corners. This is a serious race car. It has immediate power and is such a rush."
Prior to his accident, Bauer had been primarily an open-wheel driver, racing Formula Fords and Super Vees, as well as karts. But this car was completely different from anything he had raced before. "It would make four of the Formula Fords," he said.
The project to build the car came after Bauer expressed his dream of getting back into racing, according to Dr. Falci, who saw the benefits of promoting awareness of spinal cord injuries. This led to a collaboration with Denver area companies RaceKraft & Design (owned by orthopaedic surgeon Dr. George Frey) and Arrow Electronics.
The car, which has a modified LS-1 engine and Tremec six-speed manual transmission, was built to SCCA World Challenge Series specifications. The adaptive controls are from Italian company Guidosimplex but have been modified by the engineers at RaceKraft to handle the demands of a race car. A ring assembly behind the steering wheel controls the throttle and there is a hand system for braking. Since the Corvette has a manual transmission the gear shift lever is fitted with an infrared sensor which disengages the clutch when the driver touches it, then re-engages it when released.
"Everything is different," says Bauer. "The clutch is not easy to get used to and the brakes and throttle certainly aren't easy. I'd say it's unlikely that any amateur driver can just get in it and go. Eight out of 10 would be in the bushes in the first few laps."
What he does like about the car is that it is so well balanced. "I come to a turn and think this isn't going to get through the corner – but it does." There is a little oversteer but that is what Bauer likes.
Dr. Falci notes that there are other things they have to worry about, such as the driver's legs kicking out. And in fact there was one incident during the morning session when Bauer's foot was caught under the clutch pedal – no longer directly used but still connected to the hand control. "That would have to happen when the boss (Dr. Falci) was in the passenger seat," said Bauer.
While no specific dates have been arranged, plans are that the car will appear at race venues and car shows in the future.
"It has been quite a journey," said Dr. Falci. "Mike has been an inspiration for this program."