Some people turn to yoga or gardening to escape the fast-paced pressures of the workplace. Dolphin Aviation owner Ron Ciaravella, 56, spends his weekends racing a high-performance sports car at speeds of up to 196 miles an hour at racetracks in Sebring, Daytona and Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Ciaravella, who has been flying since he was a teen, started racing cars in 1987 after a weeklong immersion at a Sports Car Club of America driving school hooked him. "I always had a passion for things mechanical and I wanted to be involved with cars," he says. "I love anything fast."
Now he owns three cars, which he keeps in Stuart where his team, Turner Racing, is based. These Grand Touring Prototype high-performance sports car built by Spice Engineering are "some of the fastest race cars in the world," Ciaravella says (and some of the most expensive, at $250,000 to $400,000 each). "It's a real rush to go 190 miles an hour and pull two or three g's." To maintain these monsters, he employs a fulltime crew of four, and three additional crew members on race weekends.
Ciaravella joined Dolphin Aviation, the full-service general aviation company based at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, as a flight instructor in 1969. He bought the company in 1978. "I fly jets, and racing cars is the same feeling, like taking off in a jet airplane," he says. "It's exhilarating and takes a lot of mental preparation as well as hand-eye coordination. It's cerebral, a challenge to set up the car to make it perform, and have your engineer adjust it to get the maximum performance out of it. Plus, it's the only place you don't have to be really civil."
Ciaravella won the 1999 and 2003 Rolex MCI Endurance Champion races on the Historic Sportscar Racing circuit. "This is what I do," he says. "I love the competition."