For the last several years, I've thought of myself as an iconoclast, of sorts -- the only member of the University of Virginia's faculty with a deep and enduring interest dragsters, hot rods, and all manner of fast cars. I've taken a not-so-secret pleasure in knowing that many of my colleagues view my motor sports writing and photography as vaguely disreputable activities.
Imagine my dismay delight, then, when I discovered that I'm not the only one, that there's another UVA professor who shares my passion. In fact, she trumps it, decisively.
Robin Dripps and a teammate download data. East Coast Timing Association, Maxton Mile, Maxton, NC, 26-27 June, 2011. [Photographs copyright John Edwin Mason, 2011.]
Her name is Robin Dripps, and she's the T. David Fitz-Gibbon Professor of Architecture in the university's architecture school. More to the point, she's set records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Mecca of land speed racing, the fastest place on earth.
I met Robin at the East Coast Timing Association's Maxton Mile land speed race, a couple of weeks ago, and still can't believe I hadn't know about her racing. Sure, I don't follow land speed racing closely, and UVA is a big place, but it really doesn't make sense that we'd never met.
Robin Dripps and her '32 Ford roadster accelerate down the track. East Coast Timing Association, Maxton Mile, Maxton, NC, 26-27 June, 2011. [Click directly on the images to see larger versions.]
Robin was into hot rods and badass motorcycles, when she was a teenager and in her twenties. She built them and raced them, on dragstrips and road courses. After a long period of being away from the sport, she hooked up with Rob Gibby, an old rodding friend, and the two of them decided to go racing. They built the '32 Ford roadster, doing the design work themselves, and took it to Bonneville for the first time, in 2005. With Robin doing the driving, they set class records in 2006 and 2007, running at over 173 mph. Those records have since been broken. Dripps & Gibby Racing is going back to the Salt Flats, this year, hoping to take them back.
At the June meet in Maxton, Robin set a new record in the E/STR class of 182.041 mph. That's damned impressive. The races at Maxton are run from a standing start over a mile long course. Reaching 182 mph with the small engine that the class mandates is a quite a feat.
Professor Speed? That would be Robin.
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