This particular opportunity, however, turned out to be no ordinary weekend joy ride. Michels was paired with Asheley Ray, a partially sighted college-bound high school senior who served as the team’s navigator over the approximately 80-mile, two-hour road course. Ray was one of 52 Institute students who competed in the event—a Los Angeles tradition of more than 40 years.
“As the sighted driver, you are entirely in your navigator’s hands,” says Michels. “This was a time-speed-distance rallye. The students are given instructions that use specialized language and abbreviations. They spend several days training for the event. Asheley did wonderful job.”
Holding a large-type copy of the instructions close to her eyes, Ray guided Michels and his open-top roadster from Hollywood to Universal Studios to Burbank to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl to the finish line at Griffith Park. Their time deviated from the target by about nine minutes, placing them in the middle of the partially-sighted class. Other entrants competed in Braille and alumni classes. Michels’ admits the quirkiness of his car’s vintage speedometer and odometer might have hindered their performance.
Fellow TMS associate Logan Meyer and his navigator—14-year-old Hector Juarequi—fared even better, tying for third in the same class with a deviation of just 3:19 in a shiny new Lexus IS F.
“I’ve been working on a 1969 Mercedes Benz 280 SL for about a year, but it wasn’t quite ready for this,” says Meyer, Corporate Planning product development manager. “It was a lot of fun. We worked well together as a team. And Hector really liked the sound of the IS F’s engine.”
The winning team, finishing a mere 1:21 off the mark, was piloted by Rick Mueller—like Michels—a member of the California Association of Sunbeam Tiger Owners.
The rallye attracted an eclectic mix of people—such as KABC-TV automotive reporter Dave Kunz and auto writer Paul Dexler—and cars—including a Smart Car, a DeLorean in full “Back to the Future” regalia, a couple of Ferraris, a Corvette and a Prius (driven by Dexler) from Toyota’s press fleet. Meyer notes that the Institute has more students who want to compete than volunteer drivers with cars.
“This was the first time I participated in this event, but I would definitely do it again,” he says. “It was a great experience.”
For more information, go to http://www.brailleinstitute.org/los_angeles.