I was fortunate enough to attend the Skip Barber school
in June, 2000. This organization has schools at many tracks throughout
the US. I picked the Laguna Seca Raceway, one of the most famous
in the country. I wrote a short description of my time there.
Unfortunately, now I'd like to run some actual races in the Barber Dodge Race series. The *unfortunate* part is coming up with the money required. Donations are *freely* accepted... :)
In the meantime, here's a link to the school's website.
We had about 28-30 students in our
class for the 3-day school
Our full class was split up into two groups of 15 or 16 people. We had one female to start, although another joined on the second day. The second woman never DID get up to any decent speed. I think the first day she missed really hurt her learning.
We had an hour-long discussion in the morning about the best line through the corner. We also discussed the way professional drivers learn and understand various race tracks. The morning track time consisted of some laps on a pylon course. This got us used to controling the cars, and how they handle in turns. A couple of guys spun out, but overall, it was interesting. We also discovered that driving a race car is a LOT more work than we imagined. Some of us worked up a sweat during the drill. Then back to the classroom for discussion on vehicle dynamics. We learned how the car reacts under acceleration, bracking, and turning. The instructors drove us around the track, explaining each corner in detail. After lunch, we went out in groups of three to drive the track ourselvs. We followed the instructor, who was driving a Neon. Our task was to place our car in the same tracks as the Neon. After each lap, the leader in our group would pull off to the side and fall in last in line. Each of us had a chance to be directly behind the Neon, and see exactly where the car should be. Later, we drove the track by ourselves. The instructors were stationed at various points on course. After each lap, we had to stop at the start/finish line. The mechanics were there to relay the feedback. Some was good, some bad. In most cases, no news is good news.
We had more discussion on the correct line through corners. We also discussed the friction circle more. On track, the observation points were turns 2, 8, and 11. The rev limit was raised to 5000 on the front straight. The braking drill in turn 2 consisted of full speed to the turn, then threshold braking to the apex. A cone was placed about two car-lengths from out target cone on driver’s right. At 5000 rpm in 3rd gear, it doesn’t seem like you’ll make the corner. Well….it was possible. In successive sessions, the braking cone was placed closer to the turn. This meant we had to brake harder than we were used to to make the turn safely. Our other drill was for threshold brakind to a full stop. Cones were setup a distance out of turn 11. We drove to the cones in 2nd gear at 3000 rpm, ahd tried to stop in the shortest distance. Did I mention this was supposed to be without tire lockup? THAT was the tough part. Once the tire locks up, it’s sometimes difficult to ease up on the brakes to let the tires spin again. We tortured MANY race tires…<g>
Discussion on passing. We learned about ways of accomplishing a pass: Acceleration, braking, drafting. The pass under braking is the most difficult. We learned how cars behave in a draft, both leading and following. Our drill today was a passing drill. A group of cones was setup in the braking zone of turn 5. Our assignment: come up the the cones using the normal racing line. When we come to the obstacle, we have to pull out to make a simulated pass, brake offline, and catch the race line going in the turn. Our normal brake marker there is marker 3. Unfortunately, that’s where they placed the cones… Roaring up to the turn, at full speed, and trying to brake later than normal doesn’t inspire confidence. It wasn’t EASY, but it was do-able. Later in the morning, the passing drill was removed, and we had more practice laps. We also had our first serious incident. One of the drivers in our group crashed coming out of turn 6. Apparently, he got into the corner too hot. On the turn exit, he dropped the right side tires off the track.. The car snapped back to the left before he could react, spun back across the track into the tire wall. He was unhurt, which was good.
In the afternoon, something new. In every previous session, we had to stop at the start/finish line for feedback. Now, we didn’t – we had the whole track to run! The front straight drops downhill after the start/finish line. Flying down the front straight at full speed, engine screaming, feeling your heart pound and stomach drop, and straining to slow down for Turn 1 is unblievable feeling...
Later in the afternoon, Turn 6 claimed another victim. Another one of the drivers in our class, but from group 2. I never heard the cause of that accident. The report was that the driver was shaken up, but not seriously hurt. They took him to get checked out. Our instructor thought he would be back before the end of the day, but he didn’t come back. Hopefully, he’s ok.
Overall - a GREAT experience!
If it weren't so expensive, I'd enter the Barber Dodge race series...
time at the Skip Barber
Racing School at
June 5-7, 2000