A Racer is forged!

The Skip Barber Racing School(s)

What a great idea! Start a racing school where the novice driver can learn how to drive a racing car, teach them how to race, and then provide an affordable series where they can race against each other. On top of that, if a driver wants to advance into the higher levels of motorsport then a series would be available to train them and expose them to national competition. Skip Barber wasn’t the first to start a racing school or a race series but his outfit became the best way to learn auto racing in a package and progressive system that made financial and educational sense.

My career as a racing driver started in the summer of 2005 when I enrolled in the 3-Day Driving School at Summit Point Raceway. There I joined a very diverse group of 18 or 20 students. Some had come up from karting, some, like me, came off the streets. Others had been away from racing for awhile and needed a refresher course and some just liked taking driving courses. Most would not progress beyond the school. I knew I wanted to race but I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to compete. The technical areas like a line around a race track, the construction of a single seat race car, flags, rules, etc., I knew from my previous experience as a crew member on several formula car teams. What I lacked was actual high-performance driving skills. I had never belonged to a car club and had never practiced on open track days (heck, even my Mercedes was an automatic!). All went well and I learned to deftly maneuver around the pylons, heel and toe, and shift without the gearbox falling out of the car. My Chief Instructor was a retired racer named Bruce MacInnes whom I had watched race in Formula Ford at Summit Point in the 70’s. His array of amateur and professional wisdom would continue to guide me throughout my time at Skip Barber.

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The next step was the Advanced 2-Day School. My fiancé Janie and I traveled to the Virginia International Raceway in early August. VIR is located in the rolling hills of south central Virginia near Danville and has a wide open layout with long straightaways followed by tight twisty sections. The school would use the North Loop with lots of turns and the front pit straight. This would be my introduction to the race series spec R/T 2000 with a 2.0 litre engine and a 5-speed sequential gearbox. Also cool front and rear wings made it look and feel like a proper racing car. Now we learned to pass and draft other cars and proper braking techniques to pass in the braking zone. Also we practiced rolling race starts and looking for more speed in the turns. The students here were a step above those in the 3-day school since most were going to advance into racing events. I only saw a couple of faces I knew from my last school. After being near the top of my class at Summit Point, I was a bit disappointed to be only mid pack here at VIR. I generally kept it on the track but had a hard time carrying speed into and through the turns. I was not using all the capability of the car. Bruce felt that I had to trust the car more and learn to rotate and slide the car more. Easy for him to say! Anyway I finished the course and was licensed as a Skip Barber Regional Racer. Next stop: my first race!

Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving

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