Racing 102 Day 3 (personal view)

Racing 102 Day 3 - SCCA Driver's School - Road Atlanta Breakfast and check out of motel. First practice session is at 8. The instructors for our group are observing in Turns 6 and 7 for this session. They told us that one guy has called it ...

Racing 102 Day 3 - SCCA Driver's School - Road Atlanta

Breakfast and check out of motel. First practice session is at 8. The instructors for our group are observing in Turns 6 and 7 for this session. They told us that one guy has called it quits. One day at Road Atlanta changed his desire to race. Good decision. You should only be doing this stuff if you are sure.

Get out behind Steve and in front of Edmund. The group has lost 2-3 of the Formula Fords since yesterday and one of the Formula 500's was pretty much destroyed after a tire failure in turn 12 and the crash into the tire barrier. That is a nasty place to lose a tire. Don't even want to think about that.

On second lap one of the Formula Fords tries to pass in Turn 1 and spins right in front of me. I hold the line and he spins out of the way. I soon notice that Edmund is no longer in my mirrors. Next time past turn 7 I see why. Waving yellows as Edmund has gone off on the outside of 7. Can't really tell much about the damage but he is out of the car. After the session, Ed's car comes back dangling from the wrecker. Broken control arms on the left front and left rear and body damage of course. He's finished for the day. The instructors sign him off for his regional license as he already has the required 6 hours of school track time over the two weekends.

The instructors are pretty critical of most of the group following this session. It seems most of us took the "slow in and fast out" speech about turn 7 too seriously. :) Go in faster is now the instruction.

2nd practice: Instructors move to the Bridge (Turn 11). Russell urges the SRF guys, Steve and I, to go flat out from entrance to 11 through exit of 12. I try, but each lap something pulls that foot up for a "confidence" lift between 11 and 12. Laps speeds are now in the 1:48's. Man, I've picked up about 4 seconds from yesterday but am still 10 seconds off the top times for a SRF here. More than a little spooked as I know I'm reaching within a few seconds of my limit and I am way off the pace.

After lunch a final class was held - primarily on the actions of the pace car and starting procedures to be used for the 5-lap races held in the afternoon. AUTORACE member and ex-CART picks champ Melissa Rollosson shows up.

Next practice: More encouragement from the teach, Russell, to go flat out through 11 and 12. I get out in front of Steve this time and hold him off for a couple of laps but he passes on the back straight on the first lap after the tires, brakes, and engine are warm. We go into the Turn 11 with me a few lengths behind. He is trying the "flat out" thing I think and spins off to my left on the exit of turn 11. Two laps later I made it through this section flat out. Lap times are now in the 1:45's. No sure how fast this is but am now going through turn 12 at over 5000 revs in 4th gear. Must be a little over 100 MPH. It feels very fast as the car really moves over to that tire lined embankment right under the flagman.

Next Practice: Last practice before the 5 lap race. Determined to get into the 1:44's. On first fast lap I get on the throttle just a micro second too early coming out of turn 7. These cars have quiet a bit of low-speed understeer. The front was pushing straight for the same area that Ed had crashed earlier. I lifted and no, I did not learn my lesson last week at Savannah. The back end snapped around and off I went to the inside. Spinning and waiting for the crunch as I knew one of those big Georgia red clay banks was the next thing after leaving the paved surface. Brakes locked, I almost got it stopped but backed into a tire barrier at a very low speed. Stuck in the clay/mud. Spinning the wheels with very little forward movement. Just as the poor corner worker arrived from turn 7 I got it going and headed off. Everything seemed OK but I went into the pits to let James look it over. He said it looked OK so I took another lap a just to make sure and then headed back to the paddock to survey the body damage.

The rear bodywork is cracked in several places. Nothing major - just a duct tape repair job.

The 5 Lap Race - Gridded 7th behind the 2 Sports 2000 cars, 3 Formula Fords and one Spec Racer Ford. Beside me is another Formula Ford and the row behind is the Vee and a Formula 500. The plan is similar to the procedures used last week in Savannah. There will be 2 practice starts with racing up to the turn 3 area where the yellow will come out and we are to form back up in what ever order we are now in.

First start. Tightly bunched, 2nd gear start from about 50 MPH. I get inside the Ford in front of me by revving the engine well over 6000. We are three abreast and turn 1 is nearing. I brake later than both, move up to 5th place but blow it by spinning in turn 4 just as we all see the yellows to re-form for another start. Off the track but stop short of hitting anything and get going pretty quickly. Catch the field on the backstretch as they are behind the pace car. I line up at the back. I had hopes of finishing 4th but that's pretty much dashed now.

Strange view from back here behind all the Formula Fords. All the suspension pieces and spinning half-shafts remind me of the views from the movie 'Grand Prix' when they were using the cobbled up F3 cars for the staged portions of that movie.

Next start was a wave-off.

Last start - Pass a couple and move into 6th place by turn 1. Going up the backstretch on lap 2 are the 2 Sports 2000 cars pulling away followed but Steve in his Spec Racer Ford and then two Formula Fords and then me and the others. On coming out from under the bridge I see the red FF that was in 4th place spinning down the hill. The guy in the white Van Dieman that was behind him almost misses him but catches him on one corner. The white Ford ends up in the tire wall and three corners are ripped off the car. Waving yellows, and we drone around for 3 laps and end under caution. No one was hurt but both Fords are damaged and one is a big mess.

Chief Steward signs me off so I can get my regional license. We load up and get home by 10.

Conclusions:

1) The car: The Spec Racer Ford class is great. The car ran two weekends with track time that equaled several race weekends without missing a beat. I would not advise anyone to consider anything else for an entry level road racing class. The initial investment is not cheap but the operational costs are as low as you can find. SCCA, Roush and Ford have my thanks. Performance is more than adequate for this level. Field sizes at races average about 25 cars.

2) The SCCA's schools: Cheap track time and some good instruction. The weaknesses: With so much track time the mechanical side can be a problem for some. Do not enter these schools with an unreliable car or without a good crew member that can handle most problems.

3) The driver: Pleased at Savannah (4 seconds off the lap record). Disappointed at Atlanta (7.5 seconds off the lap record). More than a little puzzled over how quickly the car spins if you are already over your head and lift the throttle. Not sure what to do about it, if anything. I suspect the tires are toast may be my best excuse for the slow times and spins at Atlanta. :) The tires had two race weekends on them and I think about three weekends are the max most people use them. With two race weekends and two schools these tires have the equal of 5-6 race weekends on them. With no experience yet with new tires, I'm not able to really evaluate this situation.

First race: Likely the Double Regional at Roebling Road in Savannah in April. Can't wait to see what it will be like with fresh tires and 25-30 other Spec Racer Fords to race against.

-rod ashcraft@hiwaay.net

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