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April 03, 2012

Trying Other Forms of Motorsports

Auto CrossOver the past week I have had the opportunity to try three new forms of motorsports. Having raced cars for over 23 years on oval tracks all over the world, it has been fun yet challenging to try auto cross racing, road course racing and drag racing. I can say this, I have a whole new respect for my fellow racers in these respective forms of racing.

 This past Friday, as part of a private test, I got to make 50 or more passes at the Zmax Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina. Like most things, it looks a lot easier when you watch on television  There is a lot going on in that quarter mile run. From pre-staging to staging your car, to watching the lights and trying to get the best reaction time, to getting your best start off the line, to shifting quickly through the gears efficiently, to lastly slowing down past the finish line in a mannerly fashion. Let’s just say the first 5 or so passes I made weren’t so pretty. I don’t think the transmission was too happy with me!

Zmax DragwayThen on Sunday, as a birthday present from my husband, I got to attend the Skip Barber High Performance Driving School at Road Atlanta for two days where I got to drive Porsche 911s, Lotus Auroras and Lexus IS Fs. And yes I asked for this as my birthday gift over jewelry or shoes.. Crazy I know.. it was a toss up but my love of the automobile won over.. this time!

A lot of the things the instructors covered in the classroom were driving basics that apply to any type of racing so I was familiar with the things we went over, car maintenance, apexing corners, braking techniques etc. Out on the track we spent the majority of the time rotating between different stations.. braking drills, the skid pad and the auto cross track. And in the afternoon on the second day, they finally let us loose on the big 2.54 mile road course.

Skid PadOne of my favorite stations was the skid pad which is a circular area that is covered with a few layers of pavement sealer and then wet down with a sprinkler system that continuously runs. Being a sprint car driver who raced sideways on dirt, this was familiar territory. I had a blast hanging the car out sideways and working on my car control.

The Auto Cross area was also very fun and quite challenging. It is basically a scaled down version of a road course. It only requires you to run in first and second gear but it is very technical. Every corner on the course is different and requires a different amount of brake pressure and different entry line. You run the course on your own and everything is based off your lap time. I really enjoyed trying to carry the right amount of speed through the course without over driving and ending up off in the grass. And I did manage to keep my car on course every time.. Thank goodness!

Road AtlantaGetting to go out on the full road course was my far the biggest thrill for me. It is a completely different world from oval racing. I think the biggest surprise was the elevation changes and blind spots, things I definitely have never had to deal with in my racing career thus far. It was fun to have to shift and brake differently for all of the 12 turns on the track. We got to push the cars a little and run over 130 mph on the back straightaway. I wish we got to run more than the three 20 minute sessions they gave us on the big track but I guess they don’t want us going any faster than we were in their cars!

All in all, it was a great week. I had so much fun trying other forms of motorsports. A few things I learned in conclusion.. I definitely still love a good challenge and I still have the need for speed however, I do not make a good passenger on road courses, I get a bit motion sick.. Yuck!

Erin Evernham Contributor


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