Formula Dodge Eastern Regional racer Tim Traver recently shared his thoughts with us leading up to his race at Watkins Glen. Traver, 12th in points standings entering the weekend, is in his second full season of competition in the Skip Barber Race...
Formula Dodge Eastern Regional racer Tim Traver recently shared his thoughts with us leading up to his race at Watkins Glen. Traver, 12th in points standings entering the weekend, is in his second full season of competition in the Skip Barber Race Series. Based in San Diego, California, Traver participated in the Formula Dodge Western Regional Series last year, took on the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Series for 2000 and will tackle the West again in 2000-2001. Here's his account of a late season race weekend at the historic 'Glen' with the Skip Barber Race Series.
It's a bit chilly as summer fades in New England. As in most small towns, old houses line the roads, and many are beaten by seasonal changes. The grass is still green, but the trees on the verge of turning, waiting for the just right moment. drive up the small state road towards Watkins Glen, a small town located on a finger lake jutting down from one of the Great Lakes. From my point in the road, I can see the backs of the track grandstands that are generally filled with thousands of spectators. I check in and a lady comes out with morning greetings and a liability waiver. While just a routine morning on my way to a Skip Barber race event, I was excited to be at this famous track.
These are the 13th and 14th rounds of the Eastern Regional Series championship which are run in Formula Dodge R/T 2000 race cars. I've made almost every race, and have done well in many, putting me in 12th place in the overall standings. I have mixed feelings on how I want to perform this weekend. In the last race of the season, they will put the top 15 guys in one race to "duke it out" for the final standings. If I maintain my standings, that will make me one of the slower guys in the fast group, instead of a fast guy in one of the slow groups.
I proceed though a tunnel to the inner part of the 3.34 mile road course. It will be the largest track that I have raced on. The 'Glen' is known for its high speeds, beautiful scenery, and tight powder blue railings. It seems to have its own little town in the middle, with stop signs and huge open areas for spectators. I follow the signs to the paddock area and look for the big white Skip Barber trailers. The mechanics are doing an awesome job prepping the vehicles for this race weekend, given the short turnaround between race events. I know some of them and stop by to say hello.
I gather up my racing garb and head over to a smaller meeting in which we choose cars and get a final word before we venture on to the track. I choose car #68, a white over blue racer. All of the cars are continuously tested to ensure equal performance throughout the weekend. This ensures that the winners win by virtue of their skill, not a better car. Car #68 would have its idiosyncrasies, but it would do just fine.
I adjust the seat, put in my seat padding and jump in. I go through my normal routine; belt sequence; head sock on; helmet; gloves; check the pedals and mirrors, and start the car up to warm up its innards.
Todd Snyder (former Barber Dodge Pro Series racer and currently with Dayton Indy Lights) gives us the 2 minute sign and waits for the track to be called "green." Then, one by one, with a good size gap in between, we head out for the first practice session. Tomorrow will be qualifying and Race #1. On Sunday, Race #2 will follow. Today is all about practice. Nothing helps to get faster than seat time, and I was going to get plenty of it.
The first lap around is spent getting temperatures up in the tires and brakes, as well as getting used to the site pictures at each turn, preparing myself for the higher speeds coming in the laps ahead. When I pass the start/finish line and the game will be on. The game essentially consists of getting as close to the limits of the car as you can. Of course, it also requires that you not exceed your own limits. Either could bring damage to the car, your wallet, or yourself.
At the end of the first straight is a right hand turn that slopes down hill. From fourth gear, heavy braking and two downshifts leave you in second gear as you turn in, get a little slide, and get back to power. The shift to third comes quick as you head down to the "esses". Full throttle leads you into the bottom of the gentle right hand turn, and fourth gear arrives in the depression before you head back up the hill to the gentle left and right that lead onto the long back straight.
A short stab at the brakes leads you into a chicane. One downshift leaves you in third for the long sweeping downhill turn called "the carousel." You now lead to a section known as "the boot." It starts with travelling down "the laces", which consist of a decreasing radius down hill off camber left hand turn taken in third gear. A short straight brings you to "the toe," a U-turn type corner with a slow uphill grade. Of course, you then travel along the arch to "the heel", which is a second gear right hander. Along with the following straight, this completes "the boot" section of the course.
Into the left handed turn 9. A downshift to second gear and 200 degrees later you are headed for the high speed combo of turns 10 and 11. Taken in third gear, turn 10 is just about full throttle all the way through, or at least it is supposed to be. I forego the fear and tell myself it will stick, and it does. Turn 11 is the last turn, leading on to the front straight, so it's an important one. It too is a high speed third gear turn, Most drivers brake too much, only realizing it after they hit the apex. This brings me back to the start, somewhere around two minutes and twelve seconds ago...
Another 10 laps, and the session is done. Getting the instructors feedback is next. I feel good after getting the timing sheet. My times for that session were fifth best, and the instructors feedback confirm my thoughts of where there is more speed to be had.
My feelings are no longer mixed about this weekend. Every bone in my body says "go faster!" which is why I have to give it all I've got, no matter where it puts me in the standings. I guess If I'm in the fast group, I'll just have to go faster, right?