Personal Best: Bitterman feels the need for speed

Rather than risking arrest driving 120 miles per hour down Interstate 5, amateur speed racers should test themselves on a real racetrack with Speed Ventures and Aaron Bitterman.

The racing entrepreneur has been operating Speed Ventures from his Southern and Northern California offices since starting the company in 2001. His dad Howard’s house in the lower Haight district serves as the company’s San Francisco base, where Bitterman organizes track events at road race venues across the state, including Infineon Raceway in Sonoma and Laguna Seca in Monterey.

Speed Ventures provides its clients with a race track, driving instruction, timing, scoring and corner marshals, as well as tow service, clean up and an ambulance if needed. Bitterman is quick to note that out of approximately 10,000 drivers in his eight years in business, the most serious injury has been a concussion.

“A lot of that is luck,” he conceded.

The clientele of Speed Ventures may be grouped in three categories: time-trial participants who battle for the fastest lap, wheel-to-wheel racers competing in road races, and the majority of the customers are the guys — 98 percent of the clientele are male — that just love the sport of racing.

Bitterman’s connection to cars and driving them fast began at the age of 16 with his first car, a Mazda GLC station wagon that he purchased from his dad.

“I was a crazy teenage driver,” the now more sedated 40-year-old said. “I got into trying to skid the car and slide around turns.”

In 1999, while running his San Francisco-based publishing company, Bitterman was servicing his Porsche 911SC at The Stable on Pine Street, when he overheard a few guys talking about a racetrack. This gave him a spark and he dove deeply into racing, replaced the Porsche with a Honda S2000 and later added a Mazda Miata to his racing stable.

Two years later, Bitterman’s hobby turned into his profession.

Beginning drivers with Speed Ventures need to relearn driving skills.

“You really have no clue how your car handles and behaves in critical situations until you’re a race car driver,” Bitterman said. “You’re at the limit all the time. Everything happens. You get into every situation and you learn how to control the car in those situations.”

Bitterman’s clients range in age from 16 to 75 and their cars are equally as diverse. He’s had Lamborghinis, Toyota Corollas and 1950s-era Studebakers on his tracks.

The common bond is an affinity for their cars.

“Emotionally, it can be a humbling experience for a lot of people,” Bitterman said. “It can be extremely thrilling, and they lose themselves a little bit.”

So, if your dream is to “put the pedal to the metal” after hearing “start your engines,” then your next maneuver may be to chase down Bitterman.

 

The Bitterman file

Who: Aaron Bitterman, owner-operator
What: Speed Ventures, organizing track events
Contact: www.speedventures.com

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