Attending a race school

To begin with you will need to learn some basic skills. I am sorry to be the one to break the news to you but as much as we might like to believe to the contrary, simply owning a fast car and enjoying the drive does not carry with it the necessary skills to compete effectively, wheel to wheel, on a race track. Furthermore any race sanctioning body will require you to provide evidence of some basic high performance car control training as well as some sort of related competition training.

This training can come from several sources. Fortunately we live in a time that the choices available for quality high performance driver training are plentiful. There are several “Brand Name” schools available such as Skip Barber, or Bondurant. While the training offered at these schools can be first rate it is worth pointing out that most race tracks across the country will have a racing school associated with it. Do not overlook these smaller schools. Often they are quite good and possess a lot of knowledge about your local tracks, the tracks you are likely to spend the most time driving, that the larger schools simply won’t have. Additionally they are often more affordable than the Big Boys while, in many cases, offering a more personalized curriculum and an educational environment that is as good or better.

There are also several car clubs that can effectively teach you the basics of high performance driving. Most notable among these are the BMW (BMW CCA) and Porsche (PCA) clubs. These clubs have long standing, and fairly high quality, driving programs available to their members. Keep in mind that these are not Professional schools and the instructors are volunteer club instructors. As such the consistency and quality can vary greatly and will often not be up to the standard set in a “professional” learning environment. None the less this is a viable and reasonably priced alternative for your first track schools.

Regardless of where you begin, before you can qualify for a Competition License you will need to attend a competition specific course of instruction. Training of this nature will have included in its curriculum sections dealing with race starts, flags and flag stations, race officials, race protocols, basic strategies for overtaking and passing other cars during a race, as well as other race specific topics. This is information you absolutely need to know.

Many, if not all, of these schools will have track prepped cars available for their students. This can be important since most of you will not likely have acquired a race car of your own at this point. I will discuss this in more detail in a moment.

 

Where to race

A brief description of the various venues available to the driver might be in order at this point. I am going to limit my discussion to road racing on a closed circuit. There are other venues such as circle track, dirt track and drag racing, to name a few, but these fall outside my area of knowledge even though much of what I have to say will likely apply.

The world of Road Course Racing can be primarily broken down into two categories; Club racing and Pro racing. Club racing is more for the weekend warrior, albeit a serious weekend warrior. There is generally no prize money at the end of the weekend. Except for the SCCA National Run Offs at the end of each season there is no television coverage, no press, and no glory. Club racers race for $5 trophies, bragging rights, and for the sheer love of the sport. None the less the competition is very real and quite intense. Most of the race car drivers in the world are club racers.

Within the Club racing community there is one more distinction that should be made. There is Club racing and there is “no contact” Club racing. In most Club racing there is often car to car contact. Usually this is nothing more than a little fender rubbing and bump drafting with no real consequence. Often however it can be quite a bit more than this with considerable consequence. It’s not so much that the drivers intend for this to happen, or that it is sanctioned or encouraged by the organizers of any given event; quite to the contrary. But it does happen! Not only that but by general agreement among all drivers every driver pays for his or her own race damage no matter the cause or fault. Be clear about this!

If this is unacceptable to you there are race series where contact is simply not tolerated. They will usually subscribe to what is known as the 13-13 rule. The first offense will result in a 13 race or 13 month probation period. A second offense during this probationary period will result in a 13 month suspension of your racing privileges. In other words you no longer have a valid competition license.

Race series sponsored by the Porsche Club of America (PCA), the BMW Car Club of America (BMW CCA) as well as many vintage racing organizations across the country subscribe to this philosophy. There are arguments to be made for both approaches to racing and I am not going to take sides or present those arguments here. But I would advise the beginning racer to give this aspect of racing a great deal of thought before deciding where and with whom they would like to go racing.

 

 

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