I spent the weekend of September 27th and 28th at Sebring Raceway in preparation for the 2014 karts to cars shootout sponsored by Skip Barber Racing. This is the first step in the ladder system for young drivers whose goal is to race professionally in open wheel cars. The scholarship system provides a path all the way up through Indy Cars if successful.
Much of Saturday the 27th was focused on getting familiar with the Sebring track and working on basic car control exercises with the school instructors. These exercises consisted of "stop box" drills where the drivers were allowed to run the full 3.7 miles of Sebring Raceway and make pit stops to receive feedback from instructors who were scattered about the track in strategic corners. They would then relay information to the drivers on how to improve our line, throttle and brake application, and also steering input. The goal of day one is for the instructors to assess all the drivers and gage their skill level in preparation for open track sessions on day 2. A number of the instructors took quick notice of my comfort in the Skip Barber Formula car and my pace and speed came up quickly.
Day 2 began with passing drills with the instructors who were out on track with the actual drivers. After I completed the passing drill, I was able to have an open lapping session. There were only a couple of corners that I needed to correct in order to gain maximum speed on the track.
At mid morning and the remainder of day 2 the drivers were sent out in groups of 8 at full speed and open track lapping. I completed 4 sessions in the afternoon at full pace. I quickly brought my speed up and was immediately under the eye of all the instructors as I clipped off laps with increasing speed and lap times plummeted. I received additional feedback from instructors Bruce, Keith, Don, and Nick who were taking notice of my strong car control. Some later braking pointers and driving line corrections in a couple of turns helped put me 4-5 seconds in front of the remaining drivers which included a number of Indy Car Academy candidates training for their scholarship. The group headed out on the track to complete mock racing conditions and I was clocked on the radar gun in two separate speed traps at 8mph faster than the next quickest driver. I also completed that session with a lap time 2-3 seconds faster than the next fastest driver. The last session of the day brought a welcomed surprise, rain. Rain is the great equalizer in racing that reduces differences in car performance and shifts the balance to driver skill. Within two laps the track was fully wet and drivers quickly had to adjust their driver style and pick up the rain racing line to remain quick. By lap 7 I had completely lapped the entire group of drivers clicking off lap times that were 13-15 seconds faster than the other drivers.
All in all the weekend was a great success. I gained some much needed track time to become familiar with the course as well as built up my confidence. I will add additional preparation by participating in another advanced 2 day school on October 25th and 26th which will serve to increase my confidence. The shootout scholarship will be comprised of 20-30 of the best karting racers from all over the United States, Europe, and South America. The shootout is a three day event held from October 28th through October 30th. The winner of the shootout is awarded a full racing season in the winter or summer series with Skip Barber. My focus and attention is directed towards winning this first step in my professional racing career in cars.