Amidst all the kart practice Jason took a big step into a race car. On April 23rd and 24th he attended the Basic 2 Day Lucas Oil School of Racing Course at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. This class is for the true racing novice and is required for further instruction and race licensing. While he does have lots of race experience he doesn’t have any practical car experience and this is a great way to get started. He prepared for the class by first racing on this track for a few hundred laps over the last two years in his karts, getting some basic passenger manual transmission practice, and a more track practice in iRacing. None of this will actually prepare him with the real life the physicality of a race car but he knows the track and have some manual transmission basics.
Jason had a very special experience, he was the only student. The school wanted to focus on the lapping students and since Jason was registered wanted to try out “Private Lessons” to see if it would work while they thought about possible pricing. He had one on one instruction and the track to himself for two days. Though he did share facility with the advanced and lapping school they were not on the track at the same time. The only disappointment was he did not have a chance to interact with other students, but ultimately he had a better than basic experience and progressed faster than a normal class would have. A private class is a great way for someone to fast track into the these cars.
Day one started off with introductions. His instructor was Gerardo Bonilla. Gerardo was a driver for Mazda during their early days with IMSA and raced Indy Lights and is currently a professional driver, coach, and instructor. He and Jason quickly hit if off as they traded racing stories. The initial class time was a great throwback kid kart days as they went over fundamentals: this is the car, this is how you corner, and these are the flags. All good things to review in a new racing situation and it brings the driver focus in an unfamiliar situation. Some of the pictures were the same ones I used as we prepared for his first race as we started kart racing. I was completely comfortable to hand him off to such and experienced and relatable driver and teacher.
With a smile, Jason stepped into the Ray Race GR-RSC and began getting familiar with the car, adjusting the seat and locating familiar and new controls. He strapped in the 5 point harness and started a race car for the very first time. He quickly felt comfort in the car as he found a new space to dwell. After a quick clutch and shifting drill he eased the car down to the pits and on to the track. For his first laps, Gerardo led him in street car(Dodge Challenger R/T) and Jason in his race car. They started slow but quickly picked the pace up. For the second session he and Gerardo took to the track for more follow the leader but this time both in race cars. The third session was a breaking and segmented track session. Jason had two stopping points on the track first to keep him slowed down but also to give him a pause to think about the segment his just finished and then prepare for the next segment. The day was rounded out by a full on lapping session followed by data analysis and feedback. Throughout the day Jason was able to process new information and instructions as he built his race kart skill set. Each time out he was stepping up and incrementally faster.
The second day started with another braking session but with only one stop point, Jason had to work pretty hard to find the right touch. Race car brakes are much more finely tuned then kart or even passenger car brakes. Eventually, he was able to lock the breaks up. The next two sessions were lapping with on course feedback followed by a data session. The last sessions introduced starts, while he was familiar with starts from sprint karting he had never done it in a car on a big track. Big track kart races are standing starts and his view from a car was very different. The last session of the day he was able to lap the track for a full 30 minutes. This where the lessons of the past two days started to come together and he became more confident in his car and skills. He was able to put together a string of very consistent laps in the 1 minute 42 second rage. This is a shows that he was at a point where he could start the real work of shaving time off to approach the advanced drivers who are running laps 1 minute 40 second laps.
Overall it was a great experience for Jason. He was able to get in to a car and apply his skills. At the end of day 1 he was got a 1:57 in, by the end of the last session he was consistently running 1:42.5 second laps. This is about 2 second off the pass but the consistency is an important step to start refining lap times. We will see what he can make of this and where it takes him. It might be just be a one time event or it could be start of a career.
Bonus, This is Jason(orange) doing a demo of the speed limiter feature with RC Enerson(Red), Gerardo(white)
The next race is Cup Karts of North America Sprint Grand Nationals at Concept Haulers Motor Speedway. We are looking to be in better shape this year having practiced a few times. Hopefully, the recent coaching will be useful and Jason can move toward joining the front pack.
Thanks to Neil, RC, and Rebecca Enerson and the Lucas Oil School of Racing crew for giving Jason this great experience. Thanks Gerardo, an excellent instructor and would highly recommend his to any racing team at any level from karts to Indy Car.
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