Skip Barber @ Laguna Seca! [photos]

Discussion in 'Tracking & Driver Education' started by richard, Jul 22, 2004.

  1. richard

    richard Formula 3

    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Full Name:
    Richard Thompson III
    Not much to explain really, we were down at Laguna Seca last weekend for a Skip Barber three day racing program in Formula Dodge cars. Most of the course information is accurately described on Skippy's website, but I will detail several interesting experiences of the weekend...

    This is the type of car we were in. It is a Formula Dodge, which is powered by the motor from a Neon mated to a 4 speed manual transmission in an H configuration. Very different from a road car; the steering wheel was about 7" in diameter and turned maybe 1.8 turns lock to lock, there is no power steering, braking, pedal assist, or ABS. The car makes about 135-140 horsepower, weighs about 1000 pounds, is capable of more than 1.35g on the skidpad, and easily turns better lap times at Laguna Seca than a new Dodge Viper (which Skip Barber also uses for a different course). The combination of an unassisted brake pedal and racing compound brake pads makes braking a very interesting experience.

    One of our instructors, a hilarious guy named Brian. He is standing crouching next to one of the Neons that they use as pace cars. I seriously regret not bringing my video camera as these guys were NUTS in the Neons. Even during pace laps they were entry-drifting into the Andretti hairpin (#2) at ridiculous speeds. For those of you not familiar, this turn is the downhill hairpin at the end of the main straight. Brian here also managed a perfect Scandanavian flick which took him off the race course at turn #5, onto a small service road, and then to a complete stop behind a barricade where he was using a radar gun to time us. I was in complete awe of this guy for the rest of the weekend after bearing witness to that. Talk about knowing how to drive a car!

    Another crazy and insanely talented instructor who (along with some other guys) tried to get me to have some drinks with him just a few hours before we had to wake up for class. I believe the line one of them fed me was, "Sooner or later you have to learn to drive drunk!"

    Me in the brake zone for turn #2, the Andretti hairpin.

    Me tracked out at the entry point to the infamous corkscrew, turns #8 and 8a.

    Not exactly sure about this one...the banking makes me think it is #10, but the angle of the photo indicates it is probably the exit to the corkscrew, #8.

    Wild and krazy guys! The instructor on the left was HILARIOUS. In his hand you can see the radios they used from corner stations to relay critique information to you when you pit. This guy (Tommy) used some of the most creative lingo and terminology I have ever heard used to describe racing form and style ("squashing gerbils," "doing the hat dance," and "steering wheel kung-fu" to name a few). He also sounded exactly like Chris Farley, which made it about 75X as funny. The Dodge Sprinter in the background was used for a few laps when they were explaining things. It goes without saying that they each take turns trying to roll the van in order to make students **** themselves.

    That's about it on the photos as another student I met with a 10D hasn't sent me anything yet. We did have some interesting/curious experiences though, the wierdest of which was....squirrels. Don't ask me why (I can't even hazard a guess) but for some reason squirrels feel compelled to run out on the track (mostly between #4 and #5) and sit there. I'm sure you can guess what happens. Well, a squirrel doesn't make much resistance when you're zipping along way north of 100MPH and you run over it. A fart in the wind, really. Basically like a little sock full of meat. The problem lies in the fact that the squirrels seem to be cannibals. The first time I nailed one of the little buggers (I shed a single tear) I came back around to discover at least 3 other squirrels mourning the loss of their companion. Except by "mourning his loss" I mean "picking at his innards with their mouths." Of course this was gone in the blink of an eye, and it was Squirrels-0, Richard-4. Fortunately the facilities at Laguna Seca are second to none, and track staff was quick to remove the bodies of the little suckers to prevent some sort of gross buildup. I think by the end of the weekend I was up to 9 or 10, but I really lost count after the first incident. I was actually told by one of the instructors the first time I saw one (and swerved to avoid it) that "they would learn sooner or later."

    I also took a few dragonflys to the facemask, and let me tell you those suckers really leave a dent at 120MPH. Definitely pushed me back into the headrest good and hard.

    There were also the obligatory collection of pricks and clowns who show up to every racing school and act like pros, so most of the other students had a good time making fun of them as well.

    This was also the first time I have ever been to California (in general), and I was very surprised at the summer climate and the quality of the food. Of course being from New Orleans I am used to great seafood, but the consistency of great food and low prices between different venues was nothing short of amazing. Any of you who live in or around Monterey, the place I liked the most was a small sort of house on Del Monte, called "Monterey Seafood House" or something similar. They had a killer menu, decent wine selection, and a meal that would have cost 50 dollars in New Orleans was about $25 there. Very unique atmosphere as well.

    Other than that there wasn't much time to do anything as the racing program went from 7:45 to 5:30 every day and we were in the cars for an average of 6 hours per day. This is obviously a pretty tiring activity and so my schedule afterwards was to wolf down some food before passing out.

    Overall I had a great time and plan to make a trip back fairly soon, if not for the racing then definitely for the environment in general. I would appreciate anyone who lives in the area making me some recommendations reguarding food and wine :)
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  3. jordan747_400

    jordan747_400 F1 Veteran
    Lifetime Rossa

    Dec 9, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Full Name:
    Jordan Witherspoon
    Thanks for posting this! I cant wait to go to Skip Barber once I can muster up the dough :)
  4. Tom S

    Tom S Formula Junior

    Jan 2, 2003
    Full Name:
    Thomas Saupe
    I did the 3 day school last May at Lime Rock in CT. Going back for the advanced course with the RT 2000s in a couple of weeks. Great experience and well worth it. It has made a big difference in my technique and confidence in the F car, over and above just being a blast to do.
  5. wfo900

    wfo900 Formula Junior

    Aug 19, 2003
    Full Name:
    Rich C
    I just signed up for the school at the Challenge races in Lime Rock and I have the option of going to any of the courses that Skip Barber operates on. How did you like doing the school at Lime Rock?
  6. redhead

    redhead F1 Rookie

    Dec 26, 2001
    Full Name:

    Great write up. I too have done the SB school at Laguna, as it is about 45 minutes south of my house, it made it real easy! I did it back in 98 though. The instructors were different, but they all had the same attitude as you are describing. One guy was Tommy Forgerty, who's brother was racing in SB race series while I was there. As well, I had Kelly Collins who raced the C5R vette with the Earnhardts at Daytona the following year or so. Just goes to show, they get quality guys out there.

    The greatest thing they did with us, at lunch one day, Fogerty (like the wine as well) and Collins got into a neon and took it to the top of the Corkscrew. Stopped it and then proceded to COAST all the way down all the way into the main classroom, but, they didnt use the pit entry, they went down the straight and then flipped around (barley--almost out of speed) right by the flag stand. Very cool stuff. Collins also tried it on a skateboard, and ended up fracturing his wrist..........

    And the squirles, I hit one at the turn 1, at the top of the hill............


    JORDAN---this was my HS graduation present...go that route!!!!!
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  8. Gilles27

    Gilles27 F1 World Champ

    Mar 16, 2002
    Full Name:
    Sounds fun. I remember my instructor's tour at Road America. I rode along while he was conducting a "follow the leader" type class drill. He used his right hand to shift and point out track marks to me, and with his left he held a walkie talkie in three fingers and steered with the other two! All while controlling the Neon at about 8/10ths.

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