January 8, 2012

Skip Barber Racing School

Yeah, this happened today.

A huge thanks to our friends D&K who got me the intro to racing class as a birthday gift.

Oh, man.

So fun.

As E, D&K suspected, I'm hooked.

D, however, may not let me drive his lemons car.

Turns out, in an interesting contrast to my professional life, I'm very risk-tolerant on the track.

This resulted in me spinning out to the inside of turn 9 on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the end of my first session.

Sand bags were displaced. Body damage occurred. And I learned that it's amazing how fast a Formula 1 car going full throttle and spinning out with BT in tow will stop when brakes and clutch are applied full force.

When I finally made it back to the pit (embarrassed to keep the rest of the class waiting), one of the instructors pointed me to a new car, and then asked the head instructor and my pace card driver (rather reasonably, in my opinion) "Do you want to move her to a different group?"

My pace car driver said, "No. She should stay with this group. She's fast."

And there you have it. On a race track, I am much less risk averse than anywhere else I've been in a long time.

The rush of driving fast and trying to keep up was awesome. My group was (i) a 35-yr-old U.S. Marshall who has 15 yrs of motorcycle experience and acts as a flag man at Laguna Seca MotoGP races; (ii) a 20-yr-old self-professed street and canyon racer with ridiculous quick-twitch muscle control; and (iii) me.

I did my best to keep up and they kept speeding up. At some point, something had to give and, clearly, it was my lack of high-speed road-racing experience and skill at managing sharp turns at scarily high speeds in a vehicle (albeit a ridiculously stable and forgiving one).

Within 30 seconds of starting I was grinning from ear to ear and whooping with joy. After 20 minutes of driving in one session, my heart was happily beating along at a nice 60% of it's max (yeah, I took my pulse while I waited for the tow-truck. What?), and I was drenched with sweat. The instructors had consistently referred to racing as a "Sport" and I could now completely understand why and agree. I was exhausted from the mental focus, aerobically challenged during the entire session, and now, weird muscles are sore from shifting, braking, and accelerating from the flat L-shaped seat and bracing myself in the car (unlike the larger folks, even with the 5-point restraint and foam they added, I still slid around a little bit and have to prop myself up so I could see and steer and manage the pedals and gears on fast turns).

I haven't had that level of pleasure coupled with in-the-moment focus since collegiate athletics.

So, I suspect I'll be going back.

(Oh, and also, a huge thanks to E for driving to Carmel and back and joining me on an awesome date night stay (complete with ocean-view hot-tub, balcony, and in-room fireplace) at the Highlands Inn with a delicious dinner at Pacific Edge (the sommelier's willingness to let us order Vieux Telegraph 2008 Chateuneuf du Pape by the glass since it was on the tasting menu pairing list despite our lack of tasting menu? Awesome. We have a new value wine to add to the cellar!)


DJC said...

Wow, that is incredible! What an amazing gift!

Thanks for sharing your experience, I am very jealous! Also glad to hear that the safety equipment did it's job during the spin out.

It must have been quite the thrill to be able to race on a track like Laguna Seca!

bt said...

DJC -- It was aweseome. And, yes, it was a thrill. One of the most thrilling things I've ever done. I highly recommend it.

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