Rick Mahurin Applies Technical Wizardry to Auto Racing

A Day at the Races

When a race car going more than 200 kilometers per hour crashes, spectators generally shudder. But journalist Alaina G. Levine’s emotions were more mixed when she learned that Team Falken Tire’s Porsche had spun into the fence during the final minutes of a 4-hour race held at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. She was at this American Le Mans series race to interview Rick Mahurin, the team’s electronics wizard, for his profile in this issue.

The crash showed him jumping “into superengineer mode,” says Levine [above], who immediately saw the opportunity the crash presented, once she and others were assured that the driver had walked away unscathed. “I couldn’t believe I had the good fortune to be there when this happened,” she says. “It was, of course, disappointing to be part of the team that crashed, but the event really showcased Rick’s talent.”

Levine watched as the racing engineer scrambled to figure out how a tire could have blown without giving some advance warning in the telemetry he’d been monitoring. You don’t get such intimate glimpses into someone’s work very often—the opportunity to see him or her tackling significant challenges in real time. Levine knew the fates were being kind to her, even if they weren’t being so kind to Mahurin’s team.

Levine spent two days at Elkhart Lake interviewing Mahurin and his colleagues and generally throwing herself into his fast-paced world of American Le Mans racing. What’s it like reporting from the pit, where the sound of roaring engines is so deafening you need radio-equipped headphones just to communicate with the people around you and where fireproof suits are de rigueur? She answers in just two words: “Totally awesome.”