Published in the Fall 2013 quattro quarterly
THE FIRST TIME I SAW THE ADAGE “Old age, experience, and treachery will defeat youth and strength” was many years ago on a shirt worn by a veteran on Memorial Day, depicting a P-51 Mustang next to an F-16. Given back then I was more on the youth side, I chuckled and thanked the gentleman for his service.
Fast-forward 20 years to the front straight of Lime Rock Park, one of New England’s most beautiful and exciting racetracks. In a session for instructors and advanced students, me in the 87.5 GT (Roxanne) and my daughter Alex in the Mini Cooper S (Charlie the Hoodlum), after having her trailing me for two laps I finally conceded and gave the point-by. Combined with the invites she received to join the Instructors Candidate program from several car clubs including the Northeast Chapter of ACNA, moments like this make a father proud…and put the game on!
The Skip Barber School at Lime Rock less than two hours from home is a benefit akin to a compulsive gambler living in Las Vegas. The credit of a cancelled lapping day from 2012 and a special discount for graduates of the three-day racing school made the decision to attend the two-day advanced racing school at the end of July very easy.
Unlike high performance schools where you drive your own car with required preparation, inspection, trailering, unloading, and all other related activities, the Skip School was a real treat with our only requisite being to pack up helmet, racing suit, Hans device, and shoes. Formula Dodge cars were waiting for us and if we forgot anything, Skip had helmets and suits for students’ use.
Arriving at the track we were welcomed by Bruce MacInnes, well known for his racing success, colorful expressions, and (alleged) ability to land an ultralight plane on the front straight of Lime Rock. The difference between the three-day racing school and twoday advanced school is that all drivers have previous experience, many are racers, and are looking to hone their speed skills. The 13 students ranged from “locals” like us from CT, MA and NY, to three vintage racing friends from TX, to a couple from Kuwait on a racing school vacation in the U.S.
Day 1 consisted of re-familiarizing students with the Formula Dodge cars on the autocross course and exercises on the track at faster and faster speeds. The emphasis was on the ideal line specific to the formula cars, corner entry techniques, car rotation, and maximizing exit speeds through the earliest possible throttle application in some corners. A great learning day with a few off-road excursions and spins, but no bent metal and only minimally bruised egos. We were warned to get plenty of rest because day two was going to be a real workout—and we were in for a wet treat.
The second day started with passing practice using drafting in the straights and inside line in corners often resulting in two or three cars going in side by side. The objective is to make students aware of traffic and get them used to adjusting the speed based on the different lines. Cars were sent out a few seconds apart; Alex and I were having a lot of fun swapping the lead through late passes into corners, with thumbs up and ear to ear grins. The real excitement started after lunch when the rain dance learned from an old Indian friend finally paid off, making the racing start exercises even more stimulating. Make mental note: in an open wheeler with no windshield, Rainex on the visor is a very good idea.
Alex and I had the unfair advantage of Lime Rock being our home track, driving it many times every year and perfecting our rain line. Racing in the rain consists of straight-line acceleration, braking a few feet off the dry line, sliding for life as you cross the dry turn-in line, rim shots in the corners, then repeat the process while gradually increasing the power application and cornering speeds to test the limits of adhesion. Factors like poor visibility, rooster tails from the cars in front, standing water, and streams on the track make the whole experience very exhilarating.
Instructors joined the students, passing in unexpected places and checking everybody’s driving skills. Alex and I continued the jousting, at times separated by slower vehicles but enjoying the passes, slides, and the quest for traction through corners. Three days later and the grins are still on our faces. As for old age, experience, and treachery passing the torch to youth and strength, we are side by side but probably not for too long!