Racing School

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Skip Barber racing class. A friend’s friend had a birthday and basically sported a bunch of us for a day class. That had to be one of the most exciting things ever! D and I flew to Cali, into San Jose or something, and rented ourselves an ’04 convertible mustang. Yellow. As the class was starting early the next morning at Laguna Seca, some couple hours south of us, we deemed it appropriate to head north into San Francisco to hang with some friends. And hang we did. Raging all too well, we had a super time but morning came too soom and on the road we were. We got to the course a little early, and met our fellow drivers, before a nice little classroom session.

They suited me up in a racing suit, gave me a helmet, then stuck me in a chair to pay attention. Fortunately I’d been honing my skills on Gran Turismo 4 that week and had been studying Laguna Seca. On the track we found an army of little cars…they referred to them as Formula Dodges. Basically they were like little Formula cars, exposed wheels, one seat, engine all over. So cool. I got in after learning the correct techniques and we followed a pace car, which we pretty much did all day. But what a thrill. Learning to take the turns faster and faster, sharper and more skillfully, taking into consideration the effects of gas and breaking, angle and radius. It’s really amazing what it takes to push a car to its limits, and how to recenter its limits.

Around one turn I turned a bit early, felt a little fear (believe me, it’s white knuckles the entire time) and tapped the break to slow down. Mistake. By tapping the break the weight shifted forward off of the rear wheels. Before I could react, those underweighted rear wheels were in front of me. Remembering my training from 2 hours earlier I put both feet in (clutch and break) and stopped the car without hitting a wall. Yay me!

The spinout led to my own little adventure in which I took a lap around without the pace car. Whoa. It’s kinda like being in a free-fall. In the dark. These cars don’t have spedometers, so you’re playing with engine sound and gearing to gauge turn speed (odometer if you’re crazy enough to take your eyes off the road). I did alright going around on my own, I stayed on the track, kept the rubber side down, but I have to say I was a bit timid.

But wow! Great fun! Thanks D and G!