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Car Control Clinic-Skip Barber

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Old 03-05-2005, 12:03 PM
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Car Control Clinic-Skip Barber

Took this advanced course at Laguna Seca with my son on Feb 27. An all day program, there were 4 students and three instructors. About 45 minutes of class time, and then in the cars the rest of the time, except for a break for lunch.

You start with sessions in the Dodge Dakota truck on a wetted asphalt oval course. First doing circles around a tight cone course until you start to get understeer or make the car "push", and learn how to control that with just a little bit of throttle lift, then back into the turn. Second you do circles and the instructor yanks on a custom installed brake handle to toss the rear out to give you oversteer or make the car "loose", and you counter steer quickly to get control back. Third you do long ovals where you charge down the straight part, then dip into the turn to toss out the rear, and do a full four wheel slide, regain control, and charge back down the back side of the oval and repeat. When you don't drive, you can ride in the back seat and hang on tight, watching and learning from the other driver, then you swap trucks and go again for another series with a different instructor.

The next session is with a little Dodge Neon front wheel drive car, which behaves rather differently with the way it pulls its way out of difficulty. Since all of the students drove rear wheel drive cars the instructors agreed to cut down on that portion of the lesson, and emphasize the rwd techniques we had come to learn, so I cannot say that we learned tons about the fwd vehicles and driving them aggressively. We did flip them around quite a bit for one session and then jumped out to get into....the Dodge Vipers.

The Viper session was on an autocross type course, sort of an hourglass shaped layout with a big omega type turn at the far end, and a flattened part at the pit area, sort of a mini straight, with two chicane type connectors on both sides, going out and coming back. The two turns at the bottom were tight, and the one at the top of course finished with a diminishing radius. The idea was to get around as fast as one could, so it meant mashing the throttle down the "straight", juking the car through the little chicane, braking into the turn and drifting through it, recovering, and then getting on throttle again. The car has displacement and sounds fabulous, and with 500hp/450 lbsft of torque it launches you, but it weighs a lot and is a handful to sling around in the turns. The heat buildup on your legs through the firewall is oppressive, visibility poor, and the exhaust shield under the rocker panel is not effective, so you can toast your leg getting in and out. The seat is marginal. The adjustability of the pedals is pretty neat. It looks great, but having had the chance to drive one hard on a skid pad situation....I wouldn't buy it. Just not a track type car. Fun for the street, but not on a trip for sure. And ladies in dresses, beware that rocker panel.

The rest of the day was spent in the Formula Dodge cars, first a bit on the hourglass course, then a break for lunch. After, a "supercross" course in which we basically worked to shove the car around more or less in a continuous slide the whole time. We could get to drifting, sliding into, through and out of almost every type of turn, and loading and unloading the springs and balancing the car for the turns, and it made just an unbelievable difference in how fast we get into the turns, and out of them, while still being under control. (a lot of cones got scattered or sacrificed to off track excursions). But at the end of the day we were scooting around at speeds unthinkable at the start. The little Formula cars have first gear speed of about 60-65mph and 0-60 time of about 4.6 seconds, lateral g load of 1.25g, and excellent brakes. There is no power assist on the brakes or steering, so you use forceful and aggressive inputs. But there has to be subtlety and feel as well. The constant tossing in both directions makes your elbows black and blue from crunching against the cage bars, and the shoulder blades and top of your spine that touch the fiberglass shell seat get pretty tender too. They had all four of us on the course at the same time, so by the end of the day, nobody was about to complain that they had not enough seat time. We had tons of it. Whenever you went scuttling off, there was somebody to tell you what you did right and wrong, give you a slap on the helmet and encourage you to go out and do it again.......except FASTER.

This is the type of school course, that no matter how good your skills, you will be better if you do it for a day as a tune up from time to time, even a professional. And it is a total blast of a good time. The instructors were really good and patient. It is an advanced course, so you have to have had a basic course first. I would highly recommend it before taking the two day advanced racing school course, because many of the skills will be useful when you get out on the track and start pushing hard in a race situation.

I don't think I would ever want to push my G this hard, indeed any car that I owned this hard, to learn the lessons that were to be learned from this course. But I am very glad I learned them there, because there is just no substitute for seat time in an aggressive environment, doing it over and over and over again until you get it. Total transition from reactive driving by feel, to proactive setting the car up and forcing it to do what you want through anticipation and knowing how it is going to react in advance. That is perhaps the biggest difference, and it is a very significant one in the approach to driving.

We slept well that night.
Old 03-05-2005, 03:15 PM
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thats great, always wanted to do that.
unfortunately i'm in philly, dont know of any good ones around.
btw...how much was it?
Old 03-05-2005, 06:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aszatk01
thats great, always wanted to do that.
unfortunately i'm in philly, dont know of any good ones around.
btw...how much was it?
Here is the blurb from their site at
You can get to Lime Rock reasonably easily can't you?

Car Control Clinic

Have you ever wanted to exit a corner with a perfect four-wheel drift? Car Control Clinics can familiarize you with the art of sliding, downshifting and "rotating" your racecar using the resources of both the Racing and Driving Schools. These skills are key to mastering advanced handling techniques and maximizing the performance potential of your car. Students drive and learn in a mix of Skip Barber fleet vehicles including the Dodge Dakota pick-up truck, Formula Dodge racecar and Dodge Viper SRT-10, all on an obstacle-free skid pad and autocross course. Unlock your potential as a driver in a safe, controlled environment. Then start putting your newfound skills to the test in your next Skip Barber program. The Car Control Clinic is available at Laguna Seca Raceway, Lime Rock Park, Road America, Daytona International Raceway, and Sebring International Raceway.

$925 - $995
Old 03-17-2005, 05:10 PM
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Gees ... I forget there's a Racing section in this forum

Fabulous review Ed!

Quote:
Total transition from reactive driving by feel, to proactive setting the car up and forcing it to do what you want through anticipation and knowing how it is going to react in advance. That is perhaps the biggest difference, and it is a very significant one in the approach to driving.
Bingo! Your quote above is the epiphany ... for which will allow you to better enjoy tracking your car

Sounds to me like you definitely got your money's worth.
Old 03-17-2005, 09:50 PM
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Eagle1.........I had a grin on my face the whole time i was reading your story....you are very good at painting a picture with your words!
Old 03-17-2005, 10:02 PM
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Another great write up Ed! Thanks again... if you get a chance, the Team is getting together on Sunday for a TV filming session. Check the post in the Transport forum.

Cheers, Ted

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