A new adventure

Image by Thomas Outzen

A new adventure

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

A new adventure

By

From classroom to skid pad and an autocross track. Image by Thomas Outzen

My major takeaway on day one was that the most minor elevation changes have a major effect on the car, and taking advantage of the positive or negative camber on the racing surface is key to squeezing out lower lap times.

We finished the day with lead/follow sessions in the Mustangs, putting some of what we had learned into action. (Shout out to Lou and the whole Skip Barber support crew for the immaculately prepared cars!)

Day two began with more classroom instruction, covering downshifting and more technical racing-line talk. Then we all loaded into the Mustangs again to practice heel-and-toe braking.

I knew going in that this particular area would be especially tough for me. I have no feeling in my prosthetic left foot, meaning I don’t really know where it is. In addition, to work the clutch I have to use my hip and knee; I have no ankle joint. While this may seem like it’s a physical hurdle, it affects me more psychologically. Consequently, I am so involved in making sure I downshift correctly that it takes my concentration away from what I should be focusing on. While I’m thinking about the downshift as I approach the corner, I really should be focusing on my braking and turn-in.

Even before going to the school, downshifts were a big area of frustration as I never had a problem with them before my amputation.

But with help from Mike Stillwagon, a lead instructor, I was able to get things under control and found a method that worked for me. I still need some practice, but I definitely am more confident working the clutch with my prosthetic now.

We headed back to the classroom to discuss braking, and then once again hit the track to put the newfound knowledge into action. We had one more classroom session to talk about flags and technical racing lines, then we did some laps around Laguna while receiving feedback from the Skip Barber instructors. The feedback was fantastic — I learned so much in such a short amount of time.

Feedback from the instructors was critical and valuable. Image by Thomas Outzen

The third and final day began with a classroom session on passing and racing lines in the rain. We performed some passing exercises and then moved into more feedback sessions.

The final classroom session was on race starts and restarts — and then we hit the track once more.

I can’t say enough about how the information provided in these sessions has improved my driving skills. The Skip Barber instructors utilized bite-size pieces that allowed me to progressively improve; nothing was overwhelming.

With SCCA Competition Novice Permit now in hand, what’s next for me? I will continue my learning through Skip Barber’s Two-Day Advanced Racing School, where I will earn my full SCCA Competition License. Then on to private coaching sessions with Skip Barber’s instructors, where I can learn the race craft I need to compete in this great sport.

My ultimate goal is to begin sports car endurance racing, but this will require a level of mental and physical toughness I have not experienced since my time in the Army. But I’m up to it, and I can’t wait for this new adventure.

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