Driving at 186mph would be absolutely terrifying for most people. But imagine how much scarier it would be if you couldn’t see where you were going?
For 52-year-old Mike Newman, it’s not hard to imagine at all. The former bank manager just beat the blind land speed record by driving at an average of 186mph around Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground track in a Porsche GT2.
Mr Newman, who was born with glaucoma and lost his sight at the age of 8, had to rely on the help of his driving instructor step-father to guide him via a radio link – relaying commands like when to brake, go left or right, keep straight ─ his life really was in someone else’s hands.
“I’ve done my best. It was hard,” Mr Newman told the Times. “Concentration levels are so high. Trying to keep the car straight, trying to do everything when you cannot see is hard work.”
Mr Newman is surprisingly blasé about it all, describing driving fast cars as “heaven”. He added: “Listening to a powerful engine ─ there is no better music in the world.”
Mr Newman was trained by former racing driver Rob Schirle, who had half a day to impart him with the necessary knowledge.
“He was struggling at the start,” Schirle said. “So I said, ‘Put your hand on top of my hand so you can feel what I’m doing with the gear lever.’ Then I said, ‘Touch my knee, so you can feel what I’m doing with the clutch.’ It was quite an experience.”
The world record was originally held by blind Turkish pop singer Metin Senturk, who achieved a speed of 182mph in a Ferrari F430 back in 2010 at the GAP airport in south-eastern Turkey.
Although an inspirational achievement, Mr Newman isn’t finished yet. He now plans to beat the blind water speed record of 90mph. Somehow we get the feeling it’s as good as beaten.
When he’s not driving at break-neck speeds with no clue where he’s going, Mr Newman runs his own charity, Speed of Sight, on a full-time basis. It specialises in designing and building track cars for disabled people.