Wednesday, February 27, 2008

(3) And then there was one

I got some news from Jim Russell's that as of tonight (Wednesday) I am the only person signed up for the "beginners course" on Friday. That means, I won't have to share track time and I'll be able to stay out all day. That's important, because as a racing driver you don't actually get to drive as much as you think. Professional drivers only get to do laps in either testing, which happens when the team makes a change to the car (so once a month, every other month if they make a change after every race), and in qualifying, which is all of 30 minutes to an hour depending on the series you're in. So I'll have a lot more track time to play with without having to give it up for another driver. Plus I'll have one-on-one with the instructor.

Then, for Saturday, which will be the "advanced course", there are only a few other guys signed up. That's even better, because the advanced course is all about sharing the track with other cars, passing, drafting, etiquette etc.

I just can't believe how the circumstances have presented themselves. It's completely ideal for me to learn how to do this. Now all I have to do is make sure I learn as much as I can to be the best I can be. Normally I'm quite non-committal, but I really, really want to go through with this.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

(2) The beginning of the start of the rest of my life

So I want to be a racing driver. Where do I start? Who do I talk to? What kind of money is involved? Where do you actually learn this stuff, anyway?

These were some of the first questions I had in October last year. Truth be told, I was a clueless idiot and I had no idea what racing is (I still don't). The only thing I knew about cars was that the right pedal made it louder and the left one made you go through the windshield if you pressed it too hard.

Lucky for me, November was right around the corner and that meant that Thanksgiving was coming up, a time when all the family got together and made our waistlines bigger (not that it had much affect on me, skinny as I am). I knew my Uncle did a little bit of racing a long time ago. So I asked him about it while we were sitting around the table, "how do I start racing?" My Uncle is very, very opinionated. And he was adamant that I go see someone called "Jim Russell". I, of course, had no idea who this was. Wikipedia to the rescue!

... or not. There is literally nothing about this man to be had on the internet. All I can scrounge up is a paragraph:

Jim Russell - Racing Champion 1957-1990

Some men make history. Others make their dreams come true. And a fortunate few accomplish both.

In 1957, British racing champion Jim Russell founded the racing school industry and realized his dream of teaching people from all walks of life the fine art of motor racing. His school was the world’s first training facility for racing drivers. The School, now called the Jim Russell Racing Schools, graduates thousands of motoring enthusiasts each year, taking with them the experience of a lifetime.


Sounds like a real cool guy. So. Lets check out the website for this place: www.jimrussellusa.com

Nice. Nice. I like all this stuff. Sounds great. A few months ago, I could barely make sense of this. All I knew is that they had a really awesome car on the front page and I wanted to drive it.

"Aha!" my Uncle said (not a literal quote), "but you won't be driving that! You'll start with go-karts!".

"Cool," I said. I knew he wasn't just talking about any old 4 horsepower carnival kart. These karts are super lightweight, 200 pound, 30 horsepower, 125cc acceleration machines capable of 80 miles an hour and 0 to 60 in about 6 seconds. That is blazingly quick when your butt is only half an inch off the ground (and it's quite a bit quicker than your average family 4-door). It's like driving a rollerskate. They're just about ideal to learn on, because they aren't too forgiving, but they won't kill you if you step over the line; you just get a little dizzy.

So, with my beginner karting date set up for the 29th, and possibly an advanced course the day after if I don't turn out to be a complete numbskull at the wheel, I've been doing my best to prepare myself.

Even driving just a go-kart is demanding. It's an all day thing and it's going to leave me tired. The strains on your body aren't that far from driving a Formula 1600 car. There will be close to 1 lateral G in the corners and another 1 G on acceleration. It doesn't sound like much, but after about 2 hours of that while trying to hit the apex and fight understeer and oversteer and manage your throttle and braking, it gets to you if you're not used to it. And I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most physically fit person in the world. So I've been working out for my stamina and also working on my mind. I want to get the most out of this class as possible, partly because I don't want to disappoint my parents (who've very, very kindly paid for the course. Millions of thanks to them), but also because I want to possibly be recognized.

Yes, yes I know it's just karting and I know it's my first time on-track but there is always the possibility that a team might be in the area. I mean, it is Infineon (Sears Point). Maybe they come over to the trackside patio to have lunch and watch the newbies have a little fun? Maybe they see one particular newbie that they like the look of? You never know. Things can happen quickly in the racing scene.

Earlier I mentioned mental training. I've been doing plenty of that. I've been playing a lot of racing video games. No, not because I think that will improve my skills. I'm not that silly. But I'm practicing analyzing myself. Doing lap after lap after lap and constantly thinking "okay, what can I do next time around to improve what I just did? What did I mess up on?" Obviously that's not consuming my whole consciousness, I still have to remember to, you know, brake. And not crash.

And I'll be trying my utmost not to crash next weekend. You can count on it.

(1) Introduction

So, the beginning. As you may have noticed, I want to be a racing driver, and I'm just now starting out to become one. I leave for my first racing school course in 8 days (that's February 29th). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My name is Gregory Evans. I'm 18 years old. I'm about 5 foot 7 inches. I weigh... not much. I'd be a flyweight in a boxing match. I live in California of Continental United States of America. I'm not going to any college as far as I can tell and probably not in the foreseeable future. I like guns and big explosions and video games and cars and loud bass (no, not the fish) and all those other things that young men my age are in to. And books, too (I'm partial to military non-fiction).

A few months ago, round about Halloween last year, I had a revelation. Until that day, I'd been searching and looking at about anything under the sun that might make me some money while not being a boring old normal job. During that time I learned one thing, well, two things:

A, I wasn't a boring person after all, so help me God.

and B, to get the kind of money I crave, you have to have a boring, safe, secure, daily grind job like being a stock broker or a banker or something like that. How could I have missed that during my pre-teens? Maybe I was too busy larking about. I still am I guess.

But I really didn't care to have money. Not that I hate money, if a million bucks appeared in my lap I wouldn't complain, but it's just not my ultimate goal. I want to have fun. Yes, fun. Remember that? Maybe some of you don't.

And so, in the middle of October 07, I was having some fun after a long stint of looking at careers like Oil Tycoon and Donald Trump Ultimate Real-Estate Wheeler and Dealer. And I realized, this is quite nice. Yes, this would do nicely. I really enjoy this. Yes. Such a simple thing.

What was I doing? I was playing a video game (that's a device used for having fun, if you don't know). More specifically, I was playing a Racing Game. I loved the surge of acceleration. I loved the grace with which you have to take corners. I loved the tingling feeling I got when I turned the wheel and felt the pull of the tires through a tight hairpin. I loved slinging the car's hips around into huge, graceful powerslides and holding them for hundreds of feet with the engine roaring and the tires screaming and spouting smoke. But most importantly, I loved the speed.

There are few things in this world that I feel impassioned enough about to actually put them on my "to do before I die" list. Every single item on that list has to do with cars in some way. Okay, well, I'd really like to meet a national leader, but I'd have to drive a car to get to them, wouldn't I?

I want to go over 220 miles per hour in a car.

I want to break a track time record (in a car).

I want to take a hairpin and actually, truly, 100% know that I pushed the car to it's fullest and went around that corner as fast as was physically possible.

But most importantly, I want to be the best in the world at something. Anything. I want to win it.

Because that's something I have never done; win. Dominate. I've won my fair share of games and things like that, but that's not the point. Anyone can win. Everyone wins. Everyone has won something at one time in their life. But not too many people have been able to say, at one point in their lives, even if just for a fraction of a second: "I have beaten everyone else and I am the best in the world". I don't care if you're the best nose-picker in the world; that is something and no one else has beat you. So you get kudos from me for it.

I understand that victory is temporary. I know that last-year's champion could end up this-year's dropout. I know and embrace the fact that there will always be someone better than you, no matter how many trophies you have in your living room. But they didn't sign up for the competition, did they? You can prove it. They cannot. They have not faced the trial by fire. They may have the skill to pass it and beat you even, but you have passed and that is what sets you apart. When someone else comes along and passes the test, I will gladly pass along the flame. But I ain't going down without a fight.

But all this talk of victory is a bit premature. I'm still just a Chump. But, with a bit of training come the 29th, I might just turn into a Champ.