by Tony C. Lesesne
The heartbreaking news of the death of actor-philanthropist Paul Walker was especially troubling to me for many reasons. As a filmmaker, host of AutoFOCUS Tv (a car show on the web) and car enthusiast, I could relate to his tough, but lovable performances in the Fast and Furious franchise. Walker played Brian O’Conner, an undercover cop turned street racer with a talent for winning illegal races around the globe and taking down bad guys in the process. Walker made us all feel the excitement and thrill that comes with being behind the wheel of a turbo-charged, fuel injected street machine capable of producing eye-popping speeds and spectacular chases. His death in a crash on a California street near the shop where he and fellow race driver Roger Rodas held a charity event is more than ironic, it’s downright sad. However, Walker once said in an interview that if he died in a fast car, smile for him because that’s what he really enjoyed doing.
Walker was driving was a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT; a rocket that can produce a whopping 600 horsepower and be some accounts should not even be allowed on the streets. This car is so fast that reaching 120 mph is a walk in the park, but raw-power like this is unforgiving. The slightest error, man-made or mechanical is likely to be catastrophic. PERIOD! Even the best professional drivers get into accidents, and a few of them actually DIE, so imagine the risks on a city street lined with telephone and light poles, trees, fences, buildings nearby and other unseen hazards not seen on a professional race track.
Those risks were probably on the backburner, and the temptation was probably too much for Rodas and Walker who were taking the exotic hyper-car for a spin around an industrial park. The incredible hazards they faced obviously resulted in a fatal event that still has fans mourning.
Not long ago, I was honored to be among a handful of automotive journalists at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a charitable event called RIDES AND SMILES. We drove kids, many of whom were special needs children, their families and wounded warriors around the same track that NASCAR uses for the championship finale. The event was led by Bill Adam, a widely respected international race driver, television race commentator and president of the Southern Automotive Media Association, of which I am a member. Safety, above all else was first and foremost. Speed was one of the lowest concerns with those of us that were driving, and the children loved it. Who doesn’t enjoy riding around a race track in exotic cars? Being responsible was our first concern. RESPONSIBLE! Having a powerful car should only heighten ones desire to drive safely because the faster the car, the higher the risk, and this formula is multiplied when passengers are involved. While we weren’t pretending that this was a DRIVING MISS DAISY episode, all of us were acutely aware that we had to be at our best, which also meant we had to be completely 100% safe. There was nothing to prove, and we showed that driving slower can still be fun.
That was not the case in the Walker death, and now he is gone. So we are left to celebrate the life of this extraordinary individual and hopefully support the cause he was supporting that day; a relief effort for the victims of the massive typhoon that slammed into the Philippines not long ago.
As a filmmaker and car enthusiast I was hardcore when it came to The Fast and Furious franchise
. As the host of my own web TV show that features some of the coolest (and sometimes fastest) cars on the planet that actually come to show rooms near you, I felt like Walker was one of us. Now he’s gone, so let’s learn from his life, and his death. Live, go after your dreams and passions, give to those less fortunate, and if you take risks, be sure that the odds are heavily in your favor and that your life isn’t the price you have to pay if you lose.