SBRS: An executive learns to clear his mind by racing

A profile of the Skip Barber racing student will produce a broad cross section of the population. So we weren't surprised when one of our students turned out to be Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape, Silicon Graphics, Healtheon/WebMD, and founder...

A profile of the Skip Barber racing student will produce a broad cross section of the population. So we weren't surprised when one of our students turned out to be Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape, Silicon Graphics, Healtheon/WebMD, and founder and Chairman of myCFO. We were pleased [if not surprised] that he took time out of his busy schedule to chronicle his experience in a Skip Barber Three Day Racing School at Sebring International Raceway.

Clark, out of Palm Beach, Florida, decided to develop his racing skills after acquiring a new Ferrari Challenge 360. His dealer, Tom Shelton of Shelton Sports Cars in Ft. Lauderdale, highly recommended Skip Barber as a means to the certification required to race it. His only previous race experience was on a motorcycle, a Ducati 996sps. After the inevitable fall, Clark decided to give up two wheels to pursue four.

In addition to racing, he finds time to fly an Extra 300L stunt plane, but not competitively. Said Clark, "I fly aerobatics just to get the lines down and feel the pleasure of flying well."

But at Sebring, Clark was firmly grounded in his Formula Dodge Racing School car.

"The three day class was spectacular," said Clark. "Combined with Carl Lopez' book, 'Going Faster,' it really was a great school. I would recommend the book as required reading prior to the school, because the basics would then be understood before obtaining the practical experience. The last afternoon, where we combined things that had been systematically taught on the first two-and-a-half days, was an absolute blast."

While he enjoys competing, Clark is far more interested in the challenges of learning something new like racing. And consistent with what you'd expect from a very successful entrepreneur, he was fundamental in his analysis of learning a new craft.

"Racing is inherently adrenaline producing," he said. "It's really nice to know that you can reach exceptional skill levels without endangering yourself. That last bit of improvement is an asymptotic process that has dangers, but if systematically approached with lots of thought, it can be great. You can see why race drivers get hooked. You want to be the best at anything you do."

The executive/racer believes there are similarities in running a company and racing.

"Learning to lead a group of people, operate a company, or drive to your fullest potential in a race care have a lot in common," said Clark. "Taken gradually and systematically, you learn to compete at your fullest potential. The biggest difference is that in a race car, you endanger your physical self by being reckless, whereas in a company being reckless has economic consequences for all its employees."

- Andrew Torres

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Jim Clark , Skip Barber , Tom Shelton