PPI Motorsports driver Daniel Wheldon recently participated in a Skip Barber Racing School Lapping Day at Laguna Seca Raceway. A rookie in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series, the young Briton had never driven the famous undulating road course on the...
PPI Motorsports driver Daniel Wheldon recently participated in a Skip Barber Racing School Lapping Day at Laguna Seca Raceway. A rookie in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series, the young Briton had never driven the famous undulating road course on the Monterey Peninsula. Currently second in the Atlantic title chase, the opening round race winner and his PPI WorldCom team decided Wheldon needed to get some seat time to acquaint himself with the challenging track as the series championship reaches a pivotal point.
"It's getting very close in the last four rounds, and in order to reduce the deficit --Andrew (Bordin) and Buddy (Rice) have a lot of track time at the circuits we go to- I decided to partake in a lapping day at Laguna," said Wheldon
Wheldon found that getting back into the relatively straight forward Formula Dodge with it's H-pattern gear box and treaded tires was just the fundamental sort of refresher that every driver should go through. In many ways, the Skip Barber Racing School racers highlight rather than mask a driver's weak points. Getting away from the technically sophisticated machinery now commonplace in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and Toyota Atlantic Series where the racecar's set-up has a greater affect on a driver's overall performance, the Formula Dodge allows the professional driver to concentrate on the finer points of simply driving.
"It's good to get back into a car that you have to be very smooth and precise with. With these cars (pointing to his WorldCom Atlantic car) you can throw them around a bit and get away with it, but when you do it you lose time and you don't realize it."
Having been an instructor himself at racing schools in England including the Silverstone and Brands Hatch Racing School, Wheldon was somewhat uniquely qualified to give a rating of his experiences.
"They are seen as some of the best racing schools in the world, and Skip Barber Racing School is definitely equal if not better than those," asserted Wheldon. "The way the organization is run; not too big of classes. They told us very simply what we were going to do through the day, allocated us our cars, and the mechanics were very helpful and ready to do what ever they could. The instructors give you good feedback and point you in the right direction. It was the little things that you wouldn't think about that they take the time to tell you."
Wheldon looks forward to the next round at Laguna Seca as he attempts to further reduce the gap to series point leader Rice. The feedback of the Skip Barber instructors will according to Wheldon help him reduce some of the advantages that his competitors have over him when it comes to track knowledge. Of the 11 different tracks that the Atlantic series will race on in 2000, he has visited only Trois-Rivieres in Canada previously. Now he relishes returning to Laguna Seca in his quest to capture the title and continue his rise up the CART ladder.
The Toyota Atlantic Series will join the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the Dayton Indy Lights Series in support of the CART FedEx Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway on Sept. 8-10.
- George Tamayo