Racing 102 Day 2 (personal view)

Racing 102 Day 2 - SCCA Driver's School - Road Atlanta Up at 5. Rain is over but the streets are wet. Breakfast at 6 at the motel. Rusty and Phil join us. We are early so there is time for another cup of coffee and a few minutes of "bench...

Racing 102 Day 2 - SCCA Driver's School - Road Atlanta

Up at 5. Rain is over but the streets are wet. Breakfast at 6 at the motel. Rusty and Phil join us. We are early so there is time for another cup of coffee and a few minutes of "bench racing".

Leave motel before 7. Stop and purchase gas and other supplies. Arrive at Road Atlanta about 7:30 or so. Rather morbid beginning for the week- end as just as we get the track in sight all we see are emergency vehicles. There has been an accident right outside the gate. A pickup has gone off the road, down a steep embankment, and came to rest in a ditch at the bottom. The front is crunched pretty badly. Soon find out that the guy inside is dead and had been there for hours. Probably a local headed home on Friday night. Sad way to go, out there alone all that time.

Meeting at 8 at the Tower at Start/Finish. Students are assigned to their instructors. The instructors for Group 2 (Formula classes and Sports Racing classes) are Russell Reeves, a top Atlanta area Spec Racer Ford driver and Greg Burns, one of the top Formula Vee guys in the nation.

There are three groups of cars this weekend as the entry is about 60 cars. Group 1 is the slower classes with fenders, Group 2 is the formula car classes and the sports racing classes, and Group 3 is the faster classes with fenders.

Group 2 is made up of 3 Spec Racer Fords, 2 Sports 2000 cars, a Formula Vee, 2 Formula 500 cars, and about 10 Formula Fords. Most are a cut above in prep level that what was at Savannah last week.

For an intro to the track the instructors take their students around in their street cars. Russell tours me around for about three laps pointing out the braking points and apexes for a SRF. He stresses "slow-in" and "fast-out".

The first session in the cars were behind the pace car. Each group was lined up behind one of the Road Atlanta pace cars which are all new Pontiac Firebirds and in the right hands probably would wax at least 1/4 of the cars here this weekend. :)

Group 1 pulls out behind the first pace car. As they go out of sight around turn 2 we in Group 2 follow the second pace car out. I assume the next group behind us did the same. We trundled around for about 5 laps. The pace was slow, but faster than I expected. The pace car drivers were pushing and believe it or not there were a couple of spins. My gosh, there are people/cars here that want to race that can't keep up with the pace car. :)

On the first lap, between turns 5 and 6 sat the cute little girl's Baby Grand - on fire. She had blown the engine in less than half a lap. :) I heard someone say she hit top gear before she got out of pit lane. It seems her dad had put the gears in the quick-change upside down or something and she tried to keep up with the pace car in spite of doing about 15,000 revs at 50 MPH. :) When I went by the first time she was climbing out of the car. On the second lap she was running away from the car with a look of panic. By the third lap the fire truck had arrived.

First practice session: The session began with yellow at all corners that were pulled in at some corners after a few laps. We SRF's all pass and re-pass a few times. I am passed by one of the Sports 2000 cars in Turn 1 under the yellow. We are required to attend a short debriefing after each session by the instructors. Steve Friday and I are warned about too much speed too soon. Steve's family owns 2 SRF's which are normally raced by the dad and older bother.

Second practice: More fun with the other SRF's. The other SRF is driven by Edmund, a young guy from the DC area. The three of us pass and repass some. The Sports 2000 cars are quick and driven by guys with some experience so they are much faster than the SRF's. The Formula Fords are being driven pretty slowly. The Vee is a slug and the F500's are slightly faster than the Vee. Warned again about going too fast too soon.

Road Atlanta in a Spec Racer Ford: Turn 1 is an uphill right- hander that you brake for and shift down into 4th gear. 2 is a left that you brake for and downshift but really use to set up for Turn 3. 3 is a 3rd gear right hander. After putting the wheels on the curbing you move back across the track and stay on the inside of turn 4 grabbing 4th gear somewhere in there. Without lifting (or at least the fast guys don't lift) you turn back right into the esses. If you are lined up correctly at this point, the esses require little turning of the wheel. Brake early for turn 5, the uphill left hander. Get the right side wheels up on the curb and shift backdown to third. Back on the gas as quick as possible to use the revs to climb the hill. Downhill to 4 and upshift to 4th. Brake at the first marker, downshift to 3rd, and turn into turn 6, an uphill banked right turn. Short straight to turn 7, the slowest part of the track. Brake early (slow in, fast out) and track out onto the curbing at the exit. Up and down the hills that make up the back straight. By the time you reach Turn 9 the speed is high enough that you check those mirrors before heading down into the dip. Down the dip and back up toward the bridge. Downshift to fourth, aim for the right side of the bridge and back on the gas. At the apex you feel the road fall away and you can't see directly in front because of the steepness of the hill. Track out all the way to the edge of the track and don't lift. Pucker and head into turn 12. Something is trying to push that foot back off the gas. Shift back into 5th at the exit and head back towards Turn 1.

Lunch break: Grabbed a sandwich at the snack bar. More good track food this weekend. Grilled chicken was delicious. Friends from Atlanta arrived. Jon asked if he could help so I showed him how to soften up the front anti-roll bar. The car is pushing a little in Turn 12.

Next session: More good racing with the other SRF's although it is difficult to stay up with Steve. Times average in the 1:52's. My gosh, I know I can go some quicker but the lap record in this class is 1:37 and change. 15 seconds?

The instructors have moved down to turns 1 and 3 to observe and in the debrief say #9 and #53 both have good lines through those corners. That is Steve and I. If my line is good it is because I am chasing Steve's line. :)

Next session: On about the third lap I am chasing Steve (seemed to do that all weekend and never caught him) thru the esses with Edmund right on my tail. As I turn in for Turn 5 - Blam - I am hit on drivers left. I assume Edmund must have had a brake failure. After the session and walking to the debrief, Edmund starts apologizing and said he thought he could get by. I urged him to forget it as no real damage was done. I tend to give Ed a little more room after this incident. :) I've seen dozens of races at Turn 5 and driven in a few and I have never seen a healthy car passed there so I'm a little concerned about someone who would even attempt it. The instructors never know about any of this as far as I know.

Last session: More chasing Steve but no catching. He is using more revs and going faster in some corners and is running a couple of seconds quicker. Edmund stays right behind me much of the session and pulls alongside on the back stretch but can't get by. Laps in the 1:49 range. Gee, I'm still 12 seconds off the pace. More than a little disappointed in my lack of speed. Gotta go faster tomorrow.

We had planned for a big group to eat together tonight but Phil is sick. Between sessions in Rusty's Mustang he lies in the back of his wife's Explorer. Hope he feels better tomorrow. He has had a hard day with being sick and fighting that big Mustang at Road Atlanta. I ask him what he thinks of the place and he just shakes his head and mumbles something about not having spun at every corner - yet. Rusty says the handling is goofy because the Mustang has no anti-dive at the front and the rules will not allow the mods needed to cure it. Plus, Phil is new and Road Atlanta is well........

The three of us plus the couple from Atlanta eat at our usual "steak place in Atlanta". "Texas Style" pan-fried steaks. Off to bed early.

-rod ashcraft@hiwaay.net

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