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
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
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
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.