John Warner IV grew up with very influential parents. His father was the secretary of the Navy and a U.S. senator. His mother was from the Mellon family, and his stepmother was actress Elizabeth Taylor.
From an early age, he had a fascination with cars and ultimately became a professional race car driver. However, a series of accidents would lead him to transition from racing to writing.
Warner grew up in Washington, and he would often do his homework at the Pentagon while his father worked. His father took Warner all over the world while he was the secretary of the Navy, and he was exposed to heads of states, admirals, and generals. From an early age, he learned how the world worked at the highest levels of government.
After his father married Elizabeth Taylor, their family was in the eyes of the media constantly. For Warner, the scrutiny was difficult.
“School was tough for me. I got beat up a lot. It’s the kind of attention a young teenage boy who struggles with academics and school, you don’t want that,” Warner told The Epoch Times.
Race Car Driver
There was a very prominent car culture when he was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, and Warner would build model cars and race tracks. As his mother taught him how to drive when he was 12, Warner developed a profound interest in cars at an early age, and was always intrigued by the mechanical details.
While attending the University of Virginia, he decided that he wanted a fast car. He had saved up some money from his summer job and asked his father to help him with a loan.
Warner purchased a bright-green Ford Pantera in Charlottesville, and one day, took his father for a ride. The two were driving on a back road, and Warner pushed the car to 140 miles per hour.
His father suggested he get some professional driving lessons, and a nascent passion for racing was stoked.
“I didn’t want to be another stupid kid in a fast car, and didn’t know how to drive it properly,” Warner explained.
His father had always told him that he could do anything he wanted in life, so if he was going to do something, he should do it well and to the fullest.
While learning how to drive in racing school, Warner became hooked on the sport. There was a class of 25, and the instructor informed the students that many of them would quit. After a couple of months, there were only six students left as race season began.
How to Race
Warner learned quickly that racing was entirely different from street driving. He had to essentially relearn how to drive, and unlearn bad habits that he’d picked up from street driving.
He had to learn to keep his foot on the gas while his brain was telling to hit the brakes, and how to calculate a variety of factors constantly. He learned how rain and temperature affected the grip of his tires, how to listen to the gearbox and the engine to make sure the car was running properly, and how to calculate oil pressure, all while working the radio.
“It’s not just raw courage. You’re living life at 100 percent. Most people go through life at 40 or 50 percent. It’s just the way it is. Racing is one of those things like mountain climbing or another dangerous sport, where you’re really living 100 percent. You’re using every scrap of your intellect, your courage, and your higher thinking,” Warner explained.
Death was always an option if he made a mistake, and the prospect of being killed allowed him to develop a concentrated focus, while breathing and trying to relax.
In 1995, Warner started racing professionally full time. Contrary to popular belief, race car driving isn’t a glamorous lifestyle. The pay is low, and a race lasts an entire week. He would practice during the week, qualify on Saturday, and race on Sundays.
Warner would wake up in a motel somewhere, wondering if he was in Florida or California. Racing did have its perks though. He had the opportunity to race against Paul Newman and Dale Earnhardt, and compete with some of the best drivers in the world.
The Crash and Writing
In 2001, the danger of the sport caught up with him. During a practice run, Warner crashed backward into a wall at high speed. At the hospital, doctors told him that many of his spinal discs had a lot of wear and tear. After a couple more accidents, his back began to hurt more. After three surgeries, his racing career had come to an end.
While he was recovering, a good friend suggested that he buy a laptop and begin to write. He had written in high school, and the friend had liked his work. After two years of practicing and writing short stories, he started working on a historical novel series, titled “Little Anton.”
With an interest in both cars and history, Warner wanted to write about the technological innovations of the 1930s and 1940s and espionage. Furthermore, he wanted to write about how notable leaders took advantage of these technological advancements in the World War II era.
According to Warner, the novel tells the story of engineer and professor Dr. Ferdinand Porsche while Adolf Hitler is rising to power. Hitler ultimately asks Porsche to develop race cars and military hardware, and other engineers are drawn into the regime’s ambitions.
Warner also describes the book as a love story between a British aristocrat named Lady Beatrice Sunderland and a Bavarian racing driver named Lutz Becker. Sunderland becomes a spy and goes on a mission to gather intelligence on German armaments, while Becker drives for Porsche, and competes in the international Grand Prix, which becomes part of the Nazis’ propaganda campaign.
Warner is currently working on the sequel to “Little Anton,” titled “Lion, Tiger, Bear.” While his writing career started late, you could say he was destined to become a writer. Ten years ago, as he was starting to write professionally, he asked his mother when he learned how to read and write. She said she taught him how to read and write at age 2. Astounded, he asked her why.
“You asked me to,” Warner recalled her saying. “And that floored me,” Warner said.