The thrill of racing Formula Fords: ready to give the ultimate executive gift? Looking for a great stress buster? Learn how to cool out at 100 mph.
I'm racing along at 100 mph pursued by another driver who is easily doing 110-115 mph. Should I let him pa me before we get to the 25 [degrees] turn ahead, which abruptly and dangerously slopes downhill? Yes, my instincts answer!
Actually, my driving instincts have been greatly enhanced, thanks to three days of intensive and exhilarating race car driving instruction at the Skip Barber Racing School at Bridge-hampton Race Track on Long Island, Now York.
Nationally recognized as a to school for race car drivers (one-third the qualifying racers at the Indianapolis 500 are Skip Barber graduates), the Barber school also attracts many, like myself, who've always dreamed of doing 125-150 mph in a Formula-type race car. in this case, the cars are Formula Fords. They have 100 horsepower Ford engines, nonsynchronized 4-speed gear boxes, wide 15-inch treaded tires, an open cockpit with rollbar and weigh about 1,000 pounds. They are fast and have no speedometers! The only gauges on the dashboard are the oil pressure, temperature and tachometer, which red-lines at 6,000 rpm's. (Exceeding the 6,000 revolutions-per-minute could cause the engine to stall.)
The ten students attending the session with me were a diverse group, among them a plastic surgeon, two investment brokers, and me, the president of Tucker Hilliard Associates, a marketing communications firm in Millburn, N.J.
What we all have in common is the love of cars and speed. However,we must develop attitude, skills and knowledge if we are to become good race car drivers, our instructors stressed.
The three days began promptly at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m. We were suited up with one-piece fireproof jumpsuits and helmets and introduced to basic laws of physics related to car acceleration, braking and cornering. Before lunch on the first day, we drove through a slalom course (zig-zagging between orange road cones) in second gear only. The shifting is sticky, at first, and there is no "roll" of the car during sharp turns. The car is fast and responsive to the slightest turn of the steering wheel. After my first hour in the car, I am truly charged!
After lunch we have more instruction on approaching turns. We learn to check the tachometer on each "track-out" so that we can gauge if we have exited the turn at the optimum rpm's. The infamous "Heel and Toe" double-clutch shifting technique is explained and later practiced on the track.
All aspects of racing were described in infinite detail. (All three of the instructors are professional and/or competitive racers familiar with a variety of racing formats.) Driving in the rain, racing flag descriptions and uses, types of passing, car draft advantages, etc. were also described, discussed and practiced.
The three days of instruction represent 90% of what we need to know to race competitively. The other 10% is gained through "seat" time, time spent, literally, in a car practicing and actually experiencing the various track layouts and surfaces, driver attitudes, weather changes and even the unexpected. The 2.85-mile course, were told on the last day, is comparatively dangerous. Some of us swallowed hard on hearing this.
The third day easily surpassed our expectations. Graduating from a comfortable 2,500 rpm's (40-50 mph approximately) to a heart-pumping 5,000 rpm's (100 mph) on this last day won't easily be forgotten.
If you love speed and want a visceral and intellectual challenge, give racing a try. You won't be disappointed. The three-day course, held in a variety of locations throughout the country, costs $1,950, food and lodging not included. The school also offers a defensive driving course using BMW automobiles exclusively. Call 203-824-0762. Or write, Skip Barber School, Route 7, Canaan, CT 06018.
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|Author:||Tucker, Roger C., III|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1993|
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