He went out in a Corvette. Now Dan Parker wants to come back in a Corvette.
Eight years ago, the former American Drag Racing League’s pro nitrous world champion lost his eyesight totally in a crash that wiped out the 1963 Corvette he slammed into a concrete barrier while doing 175 mph.
Though Parker may be blind today, he still has visions of the challenges he wants to conquer.
One such vision is to become the world’s fastest blind person without human assistance – driving a specially equipped C6 2008 Corvette that’s been painted in the same color scheme as his destroyed ’63.
“It feels exciting,” Parker told Car and Driver. “Yes, it is more dangerous than anything I’ve done before, obviously because I can’t see anything. I’m 100 percent blacked out. But this gives me a purpose. This gives me a reason to push my limits. I enjoy the technical side of racing, the designing of a race car, the problem solving. I tell people that I want to be treated as a racer, not as a sideshow.”
Parker has actually been preparing for this challenge practically since his crash. The next year, in 2013, he used a modified motorcycle to become the first blind person to race at the Bonneville Salt Flats. That same year, another blind person, Mike Newman, set a blind speed record of 200.9 mph in a Litchfield LM1 RS.
Now, Parker believes he can break Newman’s record in a specially modified 2008 Corvette. He’s already driven the Corvette on a 153.8 mph run at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico back in February, managing to keep the car within five feet of the centerline, even with 22mph winds.
He says the seemingly outrageous goal is actually very attainable despite being blind because of a custom guidance system created by his friend Patrick Johnson.
Parker depends on that guidance system which uses previously plotted coordinate points on the track to let him know if he’s going in the right direction.
It’ll shut the car down if he veers more than 20 feet off this centerline and it’ll deploy the parachute if he goes over 150mph during testing.
He admits it may be a backyard project “but it’s not backyard technology.”
The guidance system uses automated video cues to let Parker know how far from the centerline he is. Being able to hear those cues, however, isn’t easy with the powerful engine in front of him cranking out 570 horsepower (and even more with the nitrous system from Induction Solutions). The solution was a custom exhaust system with three mufflers.
Other modifications include 700-pound rear springs and 750-pound front springs from RideTech, Baer racing brake pads, a full roll cage from Stormin Normand, a pair of fire systems from Spa Techniques, Stroud Safety seatbelts, window nets, and a parachute.
Find out more about Parker’s dream on the video “Driven Blind” from Alabama Public Television.
Parker hopes to reach his goal of becoming the world’s fastest blind person sometime this fall. We’ll keep you posted.
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