Skip Barber Race Series

Mid Ohio

The first race of my emerging race driving career took place at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course near Mansfield. I had attended a couple of Indy Car races there back in the mid 90’s. It’s a nice track to watch a race at, with good views and scenic surroundings. It’s also a very technical track with lots of twisty turns and only one real straight-away making it hard to pass other cars. The race would be contested over the Labor Day weekend and as usual with Skip Barber, there would be practice on Thursday and Friday, and races on Saturday and Sunday. Janie and I arrived at the track on a sunny morning and found the paddock areas infested with bees everywhere. Not a pleasant experience when you’re very allergenic to bee stings as Janie is. After two days of practice I was hovering around the bottom of the time sheets. I was not a happy camper and qualifying did nothing to lighten my mood. I would grid near the back of the field. The races were both run under several laps of caution due to the many spins and crashes. Seems the gravel traps at the end of the long back straight attracted a lot of cars and the wall turning onto “thunder valley” bent a lot of suspensions. By the end of the races turns four and five were littered with gravel and I was getting pelted with rocks when I was behind another car. I finished both my races but was lapped by the leaders each time. I left Mid Ohio disconsolate and unsatisfied with my performance. Racing had become a lot tougher and more difficult than I had foreseen.

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Daytona

Wanting to increase my competiveness and mileage in a race car, I decided to head south and enter the Skip Barber regional race at Daytona in November. Also I had friends and relatives in central Florida so it would be a fun trip. Daytona is an impressive facility. The high banking and long straights provide for thrilling packs of race cars streaking around at top speeds. Driving a race car in those packs would be a totally different feeling. On my first laps out I questioned the wisdom of my wanting to drive race cars. Flat out on the banking, the car had a mind of its’ own…shimmering left then right, skating over the bumps. Out of the turns it wanted to stay in the middle of the road so I had to steer to the right to get up close to the wall. Threshold braking into turn one and into the bus stop chicane, smoke billowing off the tires, tested my stopping abilities. By the end of the first day I became more comfortable with the track and the high speeds. I learned the importance of entry speed onto the banking and not driving down onto the apron (OMG…why am I pointed towards the wall!!!). The racing became exciting and my expectations changed from apprehension to exhilaration. During the first race, a lot of the drivers went off in the bus stop and I found myself in the top five on the restart. After a lot of dicing back and forth, I finished seventh and won the Master’s class and my first trophy. As I told a fellow racer, “sometimes it pays to be old!”. The second race went well and I finished in the top ten. We ran a “memorial “ race in the late afternoon where we skipped the chicane and went flying, foot flat on the floor, into NASCAR turn three and I found myself holding my breath doing that! The weekend helped take away the bad taste of defeat I had felt leaving Ohio and replaced it with a joy of high speed racing. I had also learned an important lesson: speed helps but staying on the track when others don’t will get you a good finishing position. More–>

Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving

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