I completed the 3 day Skip Barber Race School yesterday. I started Monday and finished yesterday afternoon. First off let me say this, what an experience!! I was a decent driver before, but now I have weapons at my disposal I would have never dreamed of. I soon realized I had the skill but just didn't know how to apply or better yet properly apply it.
My class was 19 students, pretty large by any means. But the instruction we got was awesome. In my class were 2 Mercedes Benz test drivers, a 13yr old kid who has been racing go karts since he was 5 and a Busch North series driver.
We get broken down into two groups where one group is out lapping, the other is getting coached or watching the cars on the track with an instructor getting pointers.
We also shared the cars with someone in the other group. So if they spun and flat spotted the tires or wrecked....well if they wrecked you got another car, but flat spots....you had to deal with those.
The first day starts off with an 'auto-x' of sorts with the race cars. The race cars are 1300lb formula cars with 130hp Dodge engines. They run street tires to keep the speeds down. You almost lay in the cars. It looks uncomfortable, but it really isn't.
I'll skip the slow stuff and tell you what they taught us then get to my spin and open lapping. During the first two days you learn double clutch heel toe downshifting (yes double clutch), singe clutch heel toe downshifting, threshold braking, trail braking, trailing throttle, skid control, double file starts, and passing. During the three days you have a rev limit for every gear when you are out there. At first its low at 3300rpm. Then the next time its 3600. You basically get a 300 rpm increase everytime. The redline is 6300. When we were out on track doing practice, we would stop on the front straight away to either be waived on, or get a two radio handed to us and get coaching from one of the instructors who was out on course somewhere.
Lime Rock is very short circuit so you get coaching from almost all points of the track.
On day three, yesterday the instructors see I'm the fastest one in my group if not the class. I'm hitting most of my marks but I need work in the left hander, the uphill and the downhill corners. Its 'only' three corners but LRP is only 7 corners so thats almost half of them.
Right before the morning session ends, I'm moving along very quickly. An instructor is with the students at the exit of West Bend. Its a good viewing area to see how people carry their speed through it and into the downhill, its the most important part of the track for good lap times. I go through West Bend very quickly, knowing I am catching the guy in front of me. I go at 30% throttle then back to full at compression through the apex. Well the guy in front of me didnt' go full throttle so I closed up too quickly on him, while still having the wheel turned tracking out towards the exit, I completed lifted off the gas, the rear then tried swapping with the front....I tried correcting but I couldn't so before she could spin I went both feet in. She spun on track so I was facing the way I came from, seeing that, I released the brake and the counter steer I put in a half second ago swung the front back around to the way I wanted to go, I immediatly put it in 3rd and continued on. All this happend in less than a second at over 80mph.
Here's a map
So to open lapping. I got a few good laps before running into traffic. I came through the downhill turn a few times with the rear end really stepping out or twitching around. After our first session one instructor said I was the most exciting person to watch in a while come through the downhill. He said there were a few times he thought I was gonna lose it. Nope, just keep your foot in it and eyes up. Another instructor had this to say after I told him my limited racing experience, "I've been doing this for over 30 yrs, I've taught the Andretti's, Jeff Gordon and many other marque racing names, and you are one of the fastest drivers I've ever seen. If you tighten up your lines, which we can help you with, you are going to be extremely fast."
I watch the other group as they do their last open session. To add to the fun, two professional R/T 2000 drivers (Skip Barber Pro Series Cars) go out. They are lapping with the Busch Series driver. I get the Busch guy at 63 and the other two at mid 62s. Not bad for little 130hp cars. When the Busch guy got passed by them, you can see him 'downloading' information as he followed them. He was soon running their times.
They come in and I head out for my final session. Before heading out, I notice my two front tires have flat spots in them. I call a mechanic over to have him check them out, he says they aren't bad, if they had more time they would change them. Seeing as my tires are shot and its the last session of our last day, I'll turn it back a bit so I can go home and type this out.
My first two laps are always warm up laps for me, I'm at about 70%, I like making sure my tires are warm and my brakes are working, I also check the gauges to make sure everything is in check. I open it up and within 1.5laps I have traffic. I get by them and do two good laps but not as hard as before. I'm not hitting the downhill as hard, I'm going a little slower into the uphill trying to get my apex down. But I'm still going deep into turn 1 and getting 2 and 3 really good. I drive through a spin and finally get 4 laps to myself. I play around with my turn in points for west bend and the uphill. I'm just too scared to turn in early for the uphill and west bend scares me cause of how fast it is.
So we come in and get coaching. I got turns 1-4 perfect I'm told, the uphill I'm late, west bend I can carry a little more speed, the downhill is fine I'm told. I told the instructors I slowed down a bit through the last three turns cause it was the end of the day. Thats when John, an instructor says, thats pretty good cause me and Rob had you at 62.6, 62.2, 62.3, 62.4 and 62.2 on laps where you were out in the open. They both agree I am very fast.
So we head up and receive our certificates and permits. Before taking off Phil, the head instructor says he wants to speak with me. I happily oblige and walk with him to the other instructors where they proceed to tell me that between all of them they see hundreds of students a year if not a thousand. And maybe 2 or 3 impress them enough to say something. They then told me they want me to find a way and race with them in the Skip Barber Pro Series. They give me a packet with info on scholarships for the next step (2 day advance school). I say thanks but I only want to do if I would be competitive. They tell me the first time out I would be in the sportsman class (rookie) where they have no doubt I would win. With that, the chief steward would more than likely move me up to the pro class where I would be a top 8 driver. We talk more racing for a bit before I have to leave. I run into the Busch series driver to find out he lives very close to me. We exchange numbers and I ask what his schedule is like. He said he is practicing this weekend with teh Busch car at LRP. I told him I'd love to join him if I could, he smiles and says I actually want you to so I can figure out what I'm doing wrong.
All in all it was a great time. I now have my SCCA regional license, a Skip Barber novice permit and some great new friends. I'm really thinking about going further with this.