INDIANAPOLIS — A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a three-day Skip Barber Formula Car Racing School at Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway.
For me, it was an experience I had been anticipating for quite some time as I felt the school would help me become a more well-rounded racer by supporting my progress in the cars in which I currently compete, and also potentially aid in furthering my career.
I previously visited Skip Barber 14 years ago. While that may seem like a long time, I still vividly remember the lessons learned and exercises in which I participated. They played significant roles in molding me into the racer I was becoming by expanding my skillset, knowledge and overall race craft.
That experience fueled my desire to return to a Skip Barber school. This time around, I had the goal of being a sponge, learning all that I could, making the most of the opportunity and progressing each time on the track.
Oh, and obviously, being the fastest in the class.
We spent the morning of the first day in the classroom and then participated in various exercises. As a class, we reviewed the Formula car we would be driving; the vehicle dynamics, the track, the proper line and different braking and shifting techniques.
The two different drills we took part in concentrated on car control, braking and cornering. My personal favorite was the skid pad exercise. I thought these were great activities to get the class warmed up and prepped before going on track, especially for those who had never been in a race car.
What some may or may not know is that Skip Barber’s school is open to anyone 15 years or older, with exceptions, not just amateur or professional racers. That creates greater avenues for learning, perspective and networking. The school is also a way to introduce attendees to different forms of motorsports.
After lunch, the class headed to pit lane where we readied ourselves to get on track for lead-follow sessions. The lead-follow sessions consisted of the students driving their respective race cars behind the instructors, who were driving street cars, so they could show us the proper racing line while gradually increasing the pace the more laps we made.
It rained on and off as we were on the track, so we were able to make some rain laps as well, which was awesome to experience.
On the morning of day two, we started in the classroom with an overview of plans for the day and a review what was learned the previous day. After that, we went through a heel-and-toe shifting exercise in the GT cars. Although I was driving one of the Formula cars, which had paddle shifters, this was a valuable exercise, so I could add another tool to my skillset(s) should I need it in the future.
Once we were finished with that, it was time for stop-box lapping sessions on the track. This was where an instructor would stop us on the main straightaway each lap to provide feedback being relayed by other instructors via radio that were standing at different sections of the track.
Each session we were given higher rev limits. By doing this, it allowed the students to continue to get comfortable with the car and the track while progressing lap by lap in a gradual and controlled manner.
Unfortunately, our stop-box sessions were cut short at the end of the day due to rain.
We spent the last day of the school on track, incorporating race craft. In our pre-determined groups of five to six cars, we practiced real racing starts and restarts and completed several passing and drafting exercises.
In between sessions, we would watch other groups practice. By watching and interacting with the instructors off track, we were able to learn from the others and visualize what we needed to do to improve.
At the end of the day, the track was open for lapping sessions where we ran continuously for 15 to 20 minutes. When all the sessions were complete, the staff presented each of us with our own Skip Barber Racing School graduation certificate.
Overall, I thought my time at the Skip Barber Racing School was invaluable. Aside from having a blast wheeling the Formula cars around Sebring, the course structure, instructors and exercises implemented over the course of the three days were beneficial to anyone and everyone in the class, not just for a professional race car driver.
I gained a lot of knowledge and learned lessons that will be crucial for me to apply in the next steps of my racing career. I would highly recommend Skip Barber’s programs to anyone and I’m looking forward to working with them more in the future.
If you want to see more of what I was up to at Skip Barber, check out my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@taylorferns) for videos on my experience or visit www.skipbarber.com for information on their schools and what they have to offer.
This story appeared in the Oct 25, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.