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BlackTop Nationals maze lets drivers unleash their inner racer

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, August 24, 2013, at 6:05 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, August 31, 2013, at 7:02 a.m.

Nineteen-year-old Andrew Siedhoff crossed his arms and studied the obstacle course of orange caution cones before him.

He looked unconcerned that a blindfolded man was about to drive his car – a shiny red restored 1966 Chevy II.

Are you nervous?

“Nah,” replied Siedhoff, who loaned his four-door Chevy for the stunt. “He’ll make it.”

Moments later, the Chevy’s engine revved, with Curtis Waltermire – sight obstructed by two blindfolds and by newspapers covering the windshield – behind the wheel.

Waltermire, a local magician and entertainer, wowed a crowd Saturday by driving blindfolded through an autocross course set up in a parking lot of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The stunt was part of the events scheduled during the fourth annual BlackTop Nationals Classic Car and Bike Show, which runs through Sunday in downtown Wichita.

Saturday afternoon, breathless spectators whispered, “There’s no way!” and “That’s amazing!” as Waltermire, 45, navigated the maze of caution cones.

Waltermire billed the stunt as an act of magic; he told the crowd he would “see” the course through the car owner’s eyes.

But in reality, “it does take a considerable amount of skill and training,” Waltermire said. He’s performed the stunt publicly only twice.

“It’s not rigged. There are no electronic devices” such as GPS, Waltermire said. “But to those who don’t know, though, it’s a very convincing illusion.”

The autocross course, a timed maze that anyone could race their own car through, was set up Friday and Saturday using equipment donated by local members of the Sports Car Club of America.

Local club members Greg McGehee and Monte Rans said drivers completed more than 600 runs during this year’s BlackTop Nationals event. Each lap cost $5, which helps support McPherson College’s automotive restoration technology program and Kansas Honor Flights.

Saturday afternoon, Rans watched a driver cut around caution cones. Tires squealed as the car jerked and slid across the pavement.

He gestured toward a line of cars and drivers awaiting their turn on the course. The fastest so far – 26.3 seconds – had been a Subaru WRX.

“We allow them to do things out there that they can’t do on the street,” Rans said, grinning.

“You just have to do it.”

Waltermire’s drive through the autocourse will be featured later this year on an upcoming episode of “Street Rodding American Style,” a locally produced television series that airs weekly on PBS and on Cox Kansas 22. Waltermire, who is also an Army veteran, said he has no immediate plans to repeat the feat.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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