At 9104 Studios, as small as it might be today, we love technology and we love motor sports. To help us develop the best solutions, we spend as much time on a race track and with racers as possible. This enables us to come up with usage scenarios and get feedback from drivers, instructors and racing schools about what we’re working on.
With this in mind, we decided that 2013 was the year we would go feet first into competitive motor sports so we enrolled into the first available SCCA competition racing school available at our local racing school, ProFormance Racing School, based out of Pacific Raceways in Kent, WA.
How to get a competition license?
There are different ways that people go about getting their competition license. Most paths involve some level of an initial day or half day of instruction on vehicle handling and dynamics, followed with lapping at a race track with a driving coach and at some point, you are given the ok to be on a race track on your own, without a coach. The objective at that level is to make sure you are a safe driver for your own and other’s sake. This is generally referred to a stage as having a ‘Sport Driving License’.
Once a track record of knowing how to control a car and be safe on a track, is established, then it becomes easy to know that you want to go after a competition license and be allowed to go after it.
What’s the big difference between a Sport Driving and a Competition Licensing Program?
There are a number of differences but I believe the main difference is the objective. In a sport driving program, the primary objectives are for the participant to have a safe and fun time going around a track, i.e. not necessarily to be as fast as possible. In a competition school, the objective is to train you to be a safe and fast race car driver. Safety and then fast, fast, fast are the objectives. Be faster than anyone else!
Time to go fast!
Having completed the High Performance Driving Education 1 day course at ProFormance and several open track days with the school, the competition license school was the best option to get licensed as early as possible in 2013. ProFormance breaks down their program into two days:
- Classroom instruction about the racing world (club, pro-am and pro levels).
- Drills on braking, slalom while watching for flags and passing.
- Practice with a data collection session.
- Track tour
- Practice pre-gridding, gridding and start of a race
- Track time with instructors working on specific areas from the previous day
- Passing drill
- Medical examination (more of taking blood pressure and heart rates before and after a session)
- Qualifying for a race
- Official race among school participants
The school provides cars to participants for a few reasons; create an even playing field, establish comparison marks so they know what to expect of performances and give people enough power to have fun but not get in to much trouble.
I had the black #11 below.
While the school end to end was invaluable, these were the highlights for me:
- High quality instruction: All the instructors have years and years of racing experience at various levels, in many cases at the pro Grand Am and American Le Mans Series! They know what it is like to go fast and go fast with other fast drivers in VERY fast cars! The quality of feedback that was provided was second to none.
- Using Track Attack to Accelerate Learning: Yes, a little biased but in truth, only a few other people had video going during any of the practice sessions. More people brought out GoPro’s during the final race but what a lost opportunity! I was able to use Track Attack during each practice session to record how I did, review after each session and most importantly, during the first practice session of Day 1, I had my instructor (pro driver and local hot shoe, Ted Anthony Jr) put down a hot reference lap for me to review and compare to my laps.
- What did I learn? First, I wasn’t carrying as much speed as I could into a very complex section of the track where momentum is key. He could carry the speed (entering around 70mph) and that told me the car could easily do it so if I don’t, it’s because of me and not the car. Second, the car can easily carry an extra 5-8mph around a long, fast sweeper coming off the main straight away.
- How did this help? The very next practice session, I was able to get within .25 seconds within his reference lap!
So what’s next?
This certification of completion was money well spent and paves the road for entering competitive racing with NASA, SCCA and ICSCC. Specifically the Track Attack team will be doing two campaigns this year:
- Time Trials Competition with NASA Northwest – look out for future blog postings on this where we’ll give an overview of the car and each event!
- Wheel to wheel racing in a BMW Pro 3 spec car with ICSCC – we’re renting a full on race car and doing racing!
Regardless of what level of motor sports you want to get into, just get out there and start driving. You don’t need a ton of money or a super fast car. Just bring a good attitude, energy and your car to most clubs or sanctioning bodies and you’ll be able to get going soon. See you at the track and don’t forget your mount!