Racing 102 - Day 1

Racing 102 Day 1 - SCCA Driver's School Phase II at Road Atlanta Getting Ready: We had super-prepped the ...

Racing 102 Day 1 - SCCA Driver's School Phase II at Road Atlanta

Getting Ready: We had super-prepped the #53 Spec Racer Ford in the days following last weekend's SCCA Phase I Drivers School at Roebling Road at Savannah. :) Changed the oil, looked at the brakes, and swapped the tires from left to right to get the smaller ones on the inside.

Thursday night: Loaded most of the stuff into the back of the Ranger. Had to go with James to look at an enclosed trailer to buy for his Kart racing. Back late with trailer in tow.

Friday AM: Loaded the car onto the trailer in the rain. Left about 8 AM for Atlanta. That's two weekends in a row to leave in the rain. We must look a little like the Beverly Hillbillies. Old tired Ford Ranger with three people aboard. The back full of tools, suit-cases, etc pulling a race car on the world's most rusty old trailer. :)

Stopped in Pell City, AL at Pizza Hut for lunch. Discovered that B-B-Q Pizza is now available. Gag. Bad stuff. Back on the road in the rain. Stopped near the Talladega exit for gas and ice cream. The rain just gets harder as we near Atlanta. A couple of minor scares and one major. North of Atlanta on the Interstate spur up to Gainesville we are tooling along about 65 MPH in fairly heavy traffic. All of the sud- den both lanes ahead are full of brake lights. The stopping distance for a Ford Ranger loaded to the gills and pulling a trailer is about 3 foot- ball fields. Hard on the brakes and realize that is not enough to stay out of that Pontiac's trunk and no room on either side so I press harder on the brakes and stop breathing. Locked brakes and hope the trailer does not come around. The ABS unlocks the rears and probably saves us. Too close for comfort. The cause: Young lady in the right lane doing less than 40 MPH in clueless bliss and a Ryder who chose to duck out from behind her and pass just as we started up a hill. Two idiots nearly blitzed about 10 of us. Whew! Get me to the race track where it is safe.

The room search: We normally stay on the outskirts of Atlanta on the NE side but for some reason I decided to stay in Gainesville which is a few miles closer to the track. No room at the inn. We tried Days Inn, Comfort Inn, and a couple of others. No dice. It's 4 PM by now and I am tired of chugging around with this load behind me so Chris suggests we go on to the track, get unloaded, etc and she will get on the cell phone and find a room. When will I learn to let her handle anything requiring logic? :)

At the track at about 4:30. Go through registration, get to meet the face connected to the voice that I called to ask dumb questions of last night - the registrar. Nice lady. She answers more dumb questions about some friends in the Atlanta area that may come by over the week- end. I don't want them to have to buy a ticket and she explains the process for avoiding that.

Drive down into the paddock. The first things we notice are a couple of other Spec Racer Fords. That's good, someone to race this weekend. The next thing that catches my eye in the garages are two of those Baby Grand things. They are sort of a high tech version of the Legend Cars and SCCA is allowing them to run in some class at the Regional level. They look just like 7/8 scale Winston Cup cars. Unlike the Legends they use more real race parts in the suspension and a Franklin quick-change rear end. I think the Legend cars use a lot of Toyota parts in these areas. Both use the same Yamaha bike motor.

The rain is light so James and I quickly get the canopy up. Unload the car and push it over to tech (the line is short). The tech guy wants to see the logbook and asks us to remove the front and rear body sections. Here we go with what I had been warned about the folks in Atlanta. He says "Where are your seals?" I dunno. "You don't know?". No. He was referring to the seals that are installed at Roush on the engine. I knew where two are but had never found the third. He said "well, never mind". "Nice car, it looks familiar". It is. I bought it from an Atlanta driver. He knew the guy as it turned out. "Oh, your logbook is wrong, you have both the current and the old one stapled together". I explained that the tech guy in Savannah did that. "Oh, well that explains everything". "Why are you here, anyway?". To race. "No, I mean here in tech". I answered that I was under the assumption that the tech sheet they gave me at registration meant I should take me and the car to tech inspection. "Oh no", he says, we just need to check your gear, where is it"? I un zip my helmet bag and start digging stuff out and he interrupts "No, I don't want to see it, take it over there and they will check it". Into the scale operators office and get that done and out of there. I wish Jim Burke would explain this annual inspection and tech inspection thing at each race to me. Was this guy just pulling my string?

While waiting for the safety gear check, my old buddy that I had seen in Savannah last week after a period of no contact for about 10 years walks up. He wants to know where we are parked as to get close. I point the area out and hope they join us as Rusty is the kind of guy to have around. Rusty grew up next door to Don Garlits, has raced and wrenched everything from Showroom Stock Pintos to Winston Cup cars. He was a crew member for Digard racing when Allison won the WC title. He is the sort of guy that given a pair of pliers, some duct tape, and a couple of minutes can repair anything. I have not had the pleasure of meeting our CooP in person but I have him pictured as a slightly older version of Rusty. Salt of the earth.

Rusty parks his big enclosed trailer next to our area and we help him unload his Mustang that is rented to a friend of his, Phil. Phil was also at Savannah last weekend. All live in the Charlotte area.

Class: Phil and I have to sit through another class session at the track. Rusty, James, and the girls head back to Atlanta to check in a room and go to dinner. Something's not right here. The drivers miss dinner and the mechanics go out with the girls. :) The class runs late. One funny moment. In the first hour the door flies open and two guys run in yelling for fire bottles. They get a couple from the back of the room somewhere and go flying out. About 60 of us are looking puzzled at each other. In a couple of minutes one of the extinguishers is returned but we still haven't a clue as to what happened. Later, in a question and answer session a guy behind me asks very seriously. "I don't want to be nosy, but, I drove a British car here and I am a little concerned about the fire drill we saw a few minutes ago". The place exploded in laughter.

One guy asked if he could get his license after one school only as he was a Skip Barber grad. The answer: It usually takes the Skippy boys about 4 schools to get up to speed. More laughter.

The girls: There was one female driver at Savannah last week. She was driving some sort of RX-7 and I see she is here again. Someone said she did a good job. But there is a new face. A very young lady is the driver of one of the Baby Grands. She is a cute kid and dressed very nicely. Most of us are old, wet, and in dirty jeans or worse.

The class seemed to drag on forever. After sitting through this twice now in 7 days I think I know how to fill out an entry form and what the flags mean. :) Seriously, I did learn a couple of things.

One thing the chief instructor (a local Sports 2000 driver) and others were very serious about. To paraphrase him and others, "For those of you that attended Phase I at Savannah or have never driven at Road Atlanta - be careful. Savannah is a 2 on the 1-10 difficulty scale and this track is a 10. It is fast and there are lots of things to hit if you go off".

The outright lap record at Road Atlanta is a 1:08 I think held by Davy Jones in an IMSA GTP Jaguar. The current WSC cars are very close to that - somewhere in the 1:10-1:12 range. I can't even imagine going around that fast. Many of the cars/drivers here for this school will not break 2:00. A reference on lap times for this track. Most of this is from memory so forgive me if I am off a second or two in some cases.

Lap record - 1:08 Formula Atlantics - 1:18 Trans-Am cars - 1:22 Winston Cup cars - 1:24 F2000 - 1:24 Formula Fords - 1:27 Motorcycles - 1:28 Spec Racer Fords - 1:37 Formula Vees - 1:38 Most Showroom Stock and Improved Touring cars run from 1:45 to 1:55.

Phil and I get back to the motel about 11:15. No dinner and I'm famished. I wolfed down a bunch of bananas and about half a package of Oreos that Chris had packed and watched some drag racing on ESPN2. Hill and Schumacher were racing in AA Fuelers. What? I must be tired. No, it really is Hill and Schumacher in AA Fuelers. Off to bed.

-rod ashcraft@hiwaay.net

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Don Garlits , Skip Barber