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It’s springtime once again and in sunny, southern California, that can only mean one thing. It’s time for the annual Toyota Grand Prix Pro/Celebrity Car Race in Long Beach. This year, General Hospital’s Ingo Rademacher (Jax) is behind the wheel to race for the first time.
We caught up with German-born, Australian-raised, crystal-blue eyed Rademacher on Tuesday, March 29, 2005, the practice/press day for the race. After a few trial runs, the celebrity race participants -- who also include Patrick Dempsey (Gray’s Anotomy), rock star and actor, Meatloaf, Entertainment Tonight’s Mark Steines, basketball great Karl Malone, Malcolm in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz and Justin Berfield, and Wes Scantlin, lead singer, Puddle of Mud -- were treated to a buffet lunch after which they pulled their race car number from a clean plastic salad bowl. Rademacher will be driving car number #8. “What color is that car,” he asked. “Black,” was shouted out.
Sporting a sexy five-o’clock shadow, the first thing Rademacher did upon seeing his official race car for the first time was check out his new ride from tip to toe. He got on his knees to check all the tires. He bounced the car up and down to check tire pressure. Then, he got inside and adjusted the seat and steering wheel. He tested, adjusted and secured the seat belt. He was comfortable in and with car #8 and was ready for the next practice run.
How did Rademacher hear about the race?
“I first saw the race on television,” Rademacher shared. “And I thought what a great thing. Cameron Diaz was racing in it that year –in a yellow Celica,” he recalled without skipping a beat. “I was like wow that sounds like fun. I want to do that. There have been a few times I’ve come close to doing it, just never really followed through. This year it all came together, so it was perfect.”
Actually, Rademacher won this year’s slot by default. As far back as 1981, soap celebs have participated in the Pro/Celeb Race. Josh Taylor (Roman, DOOL), Kate Linder (Esther, Y&R), Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R), Joshua Morrow (Nicholas, Y&R), Lauralee Bell (Christine, Y&R), Mark Consuelos (ex Mateo, AMC), Jacob Young (J.R., AMC, ex Lucky, GH), and Peter Reckell (Bo, DOOL) have all had their turn behind the wheel. This year, someone from All My Children was originally supposed to do it. The race officials were very excited, because this was an east coast star coming out the west coast just to participate -- very similar to when Mark Consuelos (ex Mateo, AMC) raced back in 2001. But at the last minute that actor, who was not revealed to me, bailed out. Rademacher’s publicist jumped right on it, and Rademacher got the invite.
A ski champion, professional beach volleyball player, professional equestrian, triathlete, and someone who races motorbikes and sailboats, Rademacher definitely has a penchant for speed, and was quick to discuss the race car driving intellectually.
“I like racing on all levels; motorcycle racing; dirt bikes. Whatever it is,” he said. “As long as you can go fast. Anyone can go fast. But going fast and smooth, and fast on a race track, is a skill. It’s not just (about) who can put the pedal to the metal and go fast. You can, and break as hard as you can. It’s a really high skill level -- especially racing these cars. They’re not very powerful. They are fun to drive and they are definitely quick, but they are momentum cars. You gotta keep them rolling.”
The cars in question are Toyota Celica GT-S Liftbacks. According to Rademacher, getting the momentum going requires a clever handling. “Keeping up speed through a corner is all about setting up the entrance of a turn and then getting a really good exit so you’ve got a lot of speed in the turn without hitting the wall. You’re riding the cars on the edge basically the whole time.”
Sounds scary. How did it feel for Rademacher being out on the track during the practice runs?
“Good. Really good. I was a little bit nervous about the track at first. Because it’s such a wide track and you can really run the car very wide. In order to get maximum speed through the corners, you really have to be right up against the inside of the wall. And then, you really have to basically drift almost out of control all the way to the outside of the next wall. You want to be right on the edge of drifting the car all the time.”
Rademacher went on to qualify that statement slightly, proving he already had a darn good grasp of the track. He admitted that there are times to take the speed down a notch. “Some of the turns require a slower set up, to get a better exit,” he said. “Like on some of straights. Turn One is really very tight. You don’t want to be spinning around that. You want to make sure the car has grip. It’s almost like driving around the town. It’s a very slow turn. You want to get it down to about 25 or 30 MPH.”
Very open about racing but rather secretive about his role on GH, I did get Rademacher to open up a bit about his character and how the new character of Rachel is getting in the way of things. I wondered if Rachel and Jax shared some hidden past. “Not that I know about,” Rademacher said. “She is more involved with Courtney, and that’s why Jax is involved with her.” Did he have a wish for what should happen to Jax? “You know, I just trust the writers. They write such wonderful things and I go with it. I leave it all up to them.”
But I did get Rademacher to fess up about one thing -- his Australian accent. When he first started on GH back in 1996, his Aussie inflection was as sexy as it was prevalent. But now, there is hardly a hint of it. Rademacher revealed that he has actually worked with voice coaches to soften it. Plus, he’s been living in the US for ten years and his accent is just gradually fading. He’s now picking up more of an American accent. “Most acting jobs are for American guys,” Rademacher admitted. “So my Australian accent wasn’t helping me.”
The celebrity participates for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race underwent race car driving training at a facility out in the California desert to get them up to speed (no pun intended) with the how the cars handle. Soapdom wanted to know, how fast has Rademacher gotten the car?
“The last session we were doing about 80,” he said. “This session, I think we’re gonna get up to around 110!”
As part of this press/practice day, all the press are invited to go for a ride in Toyota Pace Car, driven by a professional driver. Several years ago, I was driven by Jeff Gordon and shared that story with Rademacher. “Jeff Gordon drove you!” Rademacher bellowed. “That must have been exciting.” And it was. Gordon has gone on to become a Nascar superstar.
Speaking of Nascar, has Rademacher ever attended those race events? “I am more into motocycle racing,” he shared. “I watch a lot of that on television. I get into some of the F1 – Formula 1 – racing. I used to love watching Australian production car racing. So, production car racing like this is actually very exciting for me. They are cars that people can buy, so people can relate to the cars.”
But it will be the race participants doing all the driving on Saturday, April 9, 2005. Start time is 12:15 PM. It’s a ten lap, 1.9 mile race. You can smell the burning rubber of the tires as the cars peel out on to the track. Soapdom will be there to cover race day and we’ll talk more with Rademacher, before and after the race. Stay tuned!
The 29th Annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is the largest celebrity racing event in the world. This event is expected to raise over $100,000 for "Racing for Kids," a national organization that benefits children's hospitals in Southern California. The 10-lap sprint race will feature star-studded celebrities competing against professional drivers in identically prepared, race-ready Toyota Celica GT-S models. For more information visit http://www.toyota.com/motorsports/psz.html