It was a perfect day to learn how to race, temperatures in the mid 70's and partially cloudy. I was in North Western Connecticut, at Lime Rock specifically.
Lime Rock is as loaded with history as it is with speed. The track is surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, providing a beautiful backdrop for my first experience on a track.
The day started with some time in the classroom to go over the basic physics of a moving car: The weight distribution under breaking, acceleration, and cornering. We then moved on to the geometry of the track: The braking points, the turn in's, the apexes, and the turn exits. We were finally told how it all comes together on the track. We were then taken out and driven around the course in a van with an instructor behind the wheel.
After learning about what we were going to do, we actually did it, we suited up and put our helmets on. With a short introduction, we hopped into our first rides. The number 42 of the auto industry. The Mazda MX-5 Miata. These were stripped out and caged for track duty, basically how all Miata's will end up eventually. The instructors went out first in Mazda Speed 3's and we followed behind as they showed us the way around the track. Starting slowly and then picking up speed with each lap.
The Miata was extremely competent and forgiving. Being able to follow the leader and leapfrog with the other students instilled confidence and ingrained the track layout in my mind. On our second to last lap of the second session with the Miata's, I made a quick glance at the speedo and I was going over 95 mph. 95 mph in a car, and it was completely legal. But, the best was saved for after lunch.
The Formula 2000 Skip Barber cars. 1,300 pound, mid-engine, open wheelers. These cars feature a 2.0L 4 cylinder, a sequential shift manual, no power steering, and no ABS. These were a pure driving experience.
Once again, we followed the instructors around for a few laps. As I grew more confident, the only thing that I wanted to do was go faster. I felt no fear, only the sensation of speed and joy from nailing the apex. Our next two times out, I got my wish. These times, the instructors stayed off the track and we were on our own. For those minutes I was out there, I got to be Senna. I got to be Schumacher. I was Fangio. I was Kimi. I was my heroes. I was a racer. I know that what I was driving wasn't an F1 car, but it didn't matter. The sounds, the smells, the sights, the vibrations and the g forces were responsible for the grin on my face and the determination in my eyes.
In all, I had fun. Serious, ridiculous fun. I'd like to thank the fine folks at Jalopnik and Blipshift for giving me this opportunity. If you ever get the chance to go to a Skip Barber school, do it, it might just be the most fun that you'll ever have.