IADT..."It's A Driving Thing" (for the acronym-challenged) It's way late, I know, but holidays wreak havoc on my priorities...this account covers my second SCCA driver school experience at Texas World Speedway December 3-4, ...
IADT..."It's A Driving Thing" (for the acronym-challenged)
It's way late, I know, but holidays wreak havoc on my priorities...this account covers my second SCCA driver school experience at Texas World Speedway December 3-4, 1994.
After managing to survive Driver School 101 back in November, I've been talked into grabbing this next chance for school by my car owner Tom Dalrymple, and Gary Green, who I crew for on the Team San Diego ('94 ACRL Champs!) #9. Although no bidness travel has impacted our getting out of town this time around, it's still tough getting everything together in time to head out for TWS. Tom won't be hauling the cars in until early Saturday morning, so our job is to get into the track early and reserve a choice spot next to the Hancocks (John's our new divisional rep on the SCCA Board of Directors). Weather ( a *ton* of rain) slows us down on the trip to TWS, so Jodi and I pull into the drive of Race HQ at 9:00PM sharp...exactly when they said they'd close up shop. They meant it. It took some mournful pleading and begging to get the registration done this night, but they relent and at least *I* get my credentials. There's some confusion on how to do the entry since I'm schooling in the SRF #88 and racing in the SR #57. I end up paying for a double entry, but am promised they'll straighten things out tomorrow when the guy racing the SRF #88 shows up.
Since this isn't my first school, I can forego the classroom session even though it promises to be a good one (as put on by the Houston region). Rick Houston will be our Chief Instructor, which will help me immensely due to his wealth of Spec Racer experience. We head on over to crew Pat Hayes' place for a chat with the rat (yes, the man actually does have a rat for a pet...) before drifting off to dreamland.
This routine is becoming damnably routine..."Credentials everyone?" We have to get Jodi taken care of so we're lined up waiting at the registration tent outside the gate bright and early at 7:00. The workers have managed to pitch the tent right in the middle of fire ant city...the resulting dances add a little levity to such an early hour. ;) We finally get in and grab a spot next to the Hancock's. Tom (our wise and sage Drivemaster) and Terry Bartoli (SuperCrew!) roll in and we set up shop. With the wet track conditions, to say I'm nervous would be quite an understatement. I must pester Tom and Terry a thousand times for some RainX before I finally give up. Tom even asks Scotty for some, only to get an incredulous shake of the head. Derrick Park (who'll drive the SRF #88 in tomorrow's race) arrives to get some time in working a corner. Tom sez, "The plan, Mark, is for you to learn how to go fast, not pass."
Tech goes without a hitch, other than a very patient "Now Mark, make sure to fill out *all* the items on your inspection sheet." At the driver meeting Rick Houston introduces us to our repective instructors. I get hooked up with Rod Dundas, a consistent Nationals winner round these parts (and a heckuva nice guy!). For this race Tom has installed a radio in the car, so he can talk to me, but I have no mike to talk back. Hmmmm, is there a message here? Rod generously agrees to work the radio with me a couple of sessions for some more instantaneous feedback. Turns out we use it more to find holes in traffic to get a fast lap or two in, unobstructed. At this school we will have an on-course instructor (in the GO FAZT car), with whom I get into trouble during the second session...more later.
The other schoolers, Barry Atkins and Mike Hart, jump into the 4Runner with Rod and I to drive the lines real quick (well, as quick as you can in a 4x4). We then go get ready for our first session, which will be completely under a full course yellow. The on-course instructor, Carolyn Wright, will work with each car to show the line, then wave the car by, and follow to see how well they run the line. Again, under the yellow, nobody is to pass except for when waved by by Carolyn. Everything goes just fine, this group seems to be much more knowledgable and under control than a few were at the last school.
I manage to get at the head of the grid for the second session, which starts off under yellow, but goes green after a couple of laps. This is cool! With a clean (and fairly dry) track ahead of me I take off... Whoops, the back end gets around on me when I come into T10 too hot. I gather it back in and still get in a few nice hot laps before I start encountering those slower ones at the back of the group. "Remember Tom said go fast, don't worry about passing." I pull in the pits and wait for a gap to come along. It does and off I go. This gets repeated again. Towards the end of the session, I come up on the GO FAZT car. Remember the on-course instructor? She's slow (very) coming out of T8, so I pass her going through the sweeper. No muss, no fuss. The session ends after another lap. Nobody kept any times due to all the traffic, but I still feel good!...chalk the spin up to cold tires and damp track (and stupid driver for not getting the tires up to temps first). I'm real confident on the T10-12 combo, but need to stay lower on entry to the front stretch.
Lunchtime rolls around, Rod Dundas (my instructor) wanders up, "I'm supposed to tell you not to pass the oncourse instructor." Me, "What do you mean? We were under green, Rick Houston said we could pass under green, she was slow out of 8, I passed." Rod, "Yeah, well, I'm supposed to tell you anyway." Rick Houston walks up, "Carolyn didn't like you passing her back there in the sweeper." Me, "Well what's the rule, I just need to know if we can pass her on the green or have to always wait for a wave by." Rick, "If it were me and a safe pass and it's green, I'd pass." I was still unclear...
After lunch we have another green session where I plan to work on my T1-2 combo. With SRF regular Paul Sonderfan right behind (just getting some practice time in), I get loose and swap ends at the T2 entry. So does Paul. We both recover after our 360s and continue. Later I get hooked up with the other guys in my instructor group, Hart and Atkins. I'm in front of them, and they're pushing real hard from behind. Then we encounter the GO FAZT car again..coming out of T12, she points me by on the inside, which is *real* hard to do since the car is pushing way out to the outside. But I don't want to get her upset again, so I manage to pinch it down. That gets me unsettled enough that I'm not concentrating like I should be when going through 1 and 2 and around I go in another 360. To add insult to injury, I miss spotting a yellow at T1 on the next to last lap of the session and garner a black flag. I am not a happy camper. :( After that session, I go back to Rick and explicitly ask what the deal was on passing her. He says if it was green and a safe pass, do it. Until that comment, there was a lot of confusion over how to deal with her on the track. She said one thing, Rick said another, and Rod was trying to help me with taking lines fast. Tom says not to let slow cars rattle me, I say slow cars don't bother me but instructor cars running with unclear rules do. I'm just glad it's over...the GO FAZT car does not return to the track for the rest of the day.
The next session has no significant events, other than my discovery of capricious "passing under yellow" calls by cornerworkers. I also learn creative driving techniques for when someone spins in front and then blocks the entire track. On that instance, a Mazda IT-class car spins right in front of me in T3 and ends up broadside between T3 and T4. My only out is to let the car roll onto the grass on the outside of T3 and gingerly maneuver around. Successfully get that out of the way and proceed on. Things then get a mite complicated. Seems that when the Mazda spun, another SRF (#73) passed under the yellow in T3, and got blackflagged (which he ignored). A lap or two later, another SRF spun at the T8 exit. As I approach the T8 entry, I see a standing yellow go down, the spun SRF back on the track under control, and the black go up (T8 was the black flag station) with the number 73. With slow traffic moving to the side, I pass them going into the T9 sweeper.
At the flagstand, I see the black displayed with the number 73 (he'd been ignoring his black flag all this time). By the time I get back around to T4, Jodi gets on the radio and says "Make sure to pit, you've been black flagged." Huh? At T8 the black is still out, and all I can see is 73 as a number. I pit anyway. A steward comes over and says I'm being stopped for passing under yellow in T8...I'm incredulous, I distinctly saw the yellow go down before I entered the turn or passed anyone. Oh well... They let me back out and the black flag is *still* being displayed for 73. Going by the T8 station this time, I slow and watch the head flagger *vigorously* shaking/pointing the black flag at 73 (who's behind me again). This time, he pits (it's been about 5 laps now), and then they practice a full course red on us. We all stop, mosey around the field once, and call it checkers. I go back to Rick (again) to humbly inquire why I was black flagged. He relates a story about how he was black flagged once in a different region for "excessive speed under a yellow". He wasn't passing anybody or breaking any other rules, just going faster than that region liked to see. Moral of the story: drivers are at the mercy of cornerworkers.
For our last session we practice starts. The drill calls for three practices, with a five lap race after the third start. Like the last school, we're lined up with the AS Camaros/Corvette and ITs up front slowest to fastest, followed by the SRs slowest to fastest, followed by the SRFs slowest to fastest, and closed up by the rest of the closed wheelers. I'm back in the inside of the eighth row. The first start is waved off due to some backmarkers not getting closed up in the rear. Next time around I get a fantastic start by diving down to the apron and cruising by 3 rows before getting blocked by the ITs turning into T1. Still manage to get by a couple more by the time we get to T8, where we form back up into a grid. I'm inside the fourth row. For some bizarre reason, the silver RX7 I passed going into T3 roars back up to the front and tries to push back down into the outside pole position. Needless to say, this start is waved off too and the RX7 is blackflagged. The second start goes off without a hitch, but then again, I don't gain any positions either. The final start is a screamer. I get by the GT Corvette, the AS Camaro, and one of the SRFs but end up being passed by the Camaro on the last lap (horsepower'll get you every time). School's a wrap with my finish in that last race fifth overall and third in class.
Turns out the silver RX7 thought he could go back to his original position for each start...sorry! His reward? They pulled him out of the car and made him go through a *full* gear inspection. I think he got done in time to get in the final lap of the race...
My times definitely improved *and* got consistent with low and mid 1'20".xxs Fast time was 1'20"24. I'll take it. At the presentation party later that evening, I not only received my schooling sign-off and certificate, I also received a trophy! One I hang on my wall with pride (snicker). I was the proud recipient of The John Deere Trophy for most off-track excursions... Go figure, the only time I went off track was to avoid hitting that Mazda. Guess they liked the on-track spins and recoveries. ;) My first "real" race was Sunday...that account will follow this one on its own.
Lessons Learned ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
- warm your tires and brakes before you start going banzai (again...when am I ever going to learn?) - watch the flag stations, watch the flag stations, watch the flag stations - understand that cornerworkers don't *have* to make sense... - forget the last lap's bad things, remember the good ones - find the envelope just before you start to spin, not after - buy dinner for your crew...every chance you get! ;)
So Terry, we couldn't get any of these puppies rolling without your perfect prepping...thanks! Pat, thanks to you for all your help and hotel! Tom, yes I do listen as much as can, it's the remembering we have to work on. Jodi, it just wouldn't happen without you!
--- Mark A. Breland -- Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) Research Division 3500 West Balcones Center Drive | voice: (512) 338-3509 Austin, Texas 78759-6509 USA NB#51 | FAX: (512) 338-3900