Racer’s Edge: Rearview Mirrors & Significant Consequences

Posted On 16 Jun, 2014 by

By Chris Beaufait

Welcome back to another edition of the Racer’s Edge.  I am writing following rounds 3 and 4 of the Mazda MX-5 Cup and Skip Barber Pro Challenge, presented by BFGoodrich.  The race was run at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of my most experienced and comfortable tracks.  Looking in the rearview mirror, you might expect a much better result than my first professional races (rounds 1 & 2) at Sebring International Raceway.  Unfortunately, that was not the case as this month’s pictures demonstrate.  However, let’s look back a bit before getting to this month’s lessons learned from hard hits, bumps and bruises…

I departed Beijing on a relatively clear Wednesday afternoon, landing in San Francisco early on Wednesday morning (15 hour time difference.)  California is beautiful this time year, perfect for racing.  After a long day, which included a visit to Pisoni vineyards (business, no wine for the driver), a sponsorship related event, and a call with the CEO and CFO of my employer, I turned in to get a reasonable night’s rest.  On Thursday, I was up early and headed to the track for a day of testing.  I had not been in a race car or even my usual simulation practice since the race at Sebring as a result of the move to Beijing and the new job.  The previous month was 110% focused on my “day-job.”  Thus, I was happy to be back on track…  As is usually the case, my learning curve was steep and I dropped many seconds from the first to the second testing session.  As I was testing, I managed to push just beyond my limit and had a hair-raising spin down turns 8 and 9, which includes a 10-story drop as a feature of the track.  As a result, I learned to widen my approach, better apply acceleration and pick up a few seconds per lap.  I ended the day feeling prepared for Friday.

Friday had quite the schedule…  Two practice sessions in the morning, qualifying in the afternoon and our first race early evening.  The practice sessions went well, having dropped another 2+ seconds after another turn 9 “lesson”.  I also closed the gap to two of my racing colleagues and headed into qualifying confident.  Qualifying consists of about 18 minutes of track time to put in your two best laps.  I had new tires (racing slicks) for the session and after ‘scrubbing’ them in to bring up the temperature and improve grip, started my qualifying runs.  I cut my session short after completing a total of 5 laps and a minor 2nd gear shifting problem to save my tires for the race as I tend to race better than I qualify.  Between qualifying and the race, I reviewed racing videos, got some coaching and spent a little time with my wife and one of my sponsors…  The #69 Blackmore Partners, xBorder Foods & Wines MX-5 was set for the races!

Race 1, round 3 of the Mazda MX-5 Cup and Skip Barber Pro Challenge, started with a standing start of approximately 30 cars.  I gridded at the rear of the field and waited for the signal for the start…  I revved my engine to 3500rpm and at the signal, popped the clutch and got an excellent start!  I passed 2, almost 3 cars, before the first turn.  We approached turn 2 with heavy traffic and I was keeping pace with the field.  I downshifted from 4th to 3rd and executed a near 180 degree turn, and headed into turn 3.  The track looked like a battlefield as the cars ahead of me tested the limits of the track and kicked up sand, dust and a few cosmetic auto parts.  I took turn 3 at pace and headed into turn 4 confident and ready to close some positions…  Up ahead I could see more sand and, this time, bigger parts flying.  I approached turn 5 with a touch of caution and noticed hard contact between three cars and saw my teammate, Bryan, get turned around.  I managed to weave between the three cars at a quick and steady pace as cars around me where doing the same…  Some on track, others off.  I had just gained between 3 and 5 positions on the first half of the first lap!  Feeling good but recognizing that I needed to remain calm and focus on the racing line.

Following the mayhem in turn 5, the field around me started to regroup, steady out and get back to racing.  I was running in a pack of four cars, with two in front and one behind me.  We completed the first lap with #94, Sarah Montgomery, close on my rear.  The longest and fastest part of the track is from turn 11 until turn 2, where we reach speeds of approximately 100 mph (161 kph).  Turn 2 is my strongest turn and as usual, I closed the gap to the two cars in front of me.  I got a good run through turn 3, as did Sarah…  She was right on my rear.  Into turn 4, I made a crucial rookie mistake.  In racing, there are some accepted rules of racing for passing.  The passing car is responsible for making a safe pass and “presenting” themselves before the turn.  Sarah was close but had not presented herself.  However, I entered the turn fast and left her room at the apex.  This “courtesy” was the first in a series of events which would follow.  As I reached the exit of the turn, I dropped two tires off the track into the sand.  My second mistake then ensued, when I went to pull the car back onto the track at speed.  Upon doing so, I “hooked” the car and started a spin to the right.  Unfortunately, although I would have most likely been able to save the car, there was a car wrecked ahead on the track in my “correction zone”.  I had to make a split second (<0.1s) decision between a car, another competitor, and a tire wall.  I let off the gas, applied the brake and headed into a forward-sideways slide into the wall, hitting at most likely around 60mph (96 kph).  It is amazing how fast the mind can work and what occurred in less than 0.5 seconds; I remember as if it was a minute.  The car hit hard, car parts and sand went flying and, thankfully, I felt fine (adrenaline.)  I got the car going again and drove it off track not far from the accident.  I was happy to see the other driver was out of his car and safe.  The track workers cleaned up the wreckage and the race resumed without me and three others.

Race 2 faired slightly better from a personal liability perspective.  I got a good start again, closing on the cars ahead of me.  I was running in a pack of three cars and we were all at speed with the rest of the field.  Unfortunately, I was in a back-up car which had not been tested due to the prior day’s accident.  In turn 11, as I closed on the cars ahead of me, I shifted into 2nd gear, pressed the accelerator and…  Nothing, no power.  I shifted to 3rd intent to race without 2nd.  I ran another lap at pace and then 3rd gear started to have problems.  I stayed out managing the car with limited gearing until the leaders got close, at which point, I pulled the car into the pits.  I had to drive the car to the garage in 5th gear, one of two gears left.  A disappointing race but part of the experience.

My teammate Bryan was an unfortunate victim of the lap 1 wreck in the first race.  A car spun in front of him, which he hit, and putting his car out the race.  He faired better in the second race in a back-up car, coming in 4th after an early race off track excursion due to a little “help” from another competitor.

In closing, I reflect on the comparison between racing and business.  Just as in the example above, driving or competing while remaining too focused on the rearview mirror can have significant consequences.  Most companies have a rich history which should not be ignored, my new employer included.  However, the markets and competitors around us continually evolve.  The successful activities that got us to our success may not keep us there.  We must look in the rearview mirror only as reference, and look firmly ahead through the windshield.  Only then, can we continue to advance and win.

Racer’s Edge: Focus And Balance

Posted On 10 Jun, 2014 by

By Chris Beaufait

This is the first in what is expected to become series of articles on my and my teammate’s journey as professional racecar drivers. My name is Chris Beaufait and my teammate is Bryan Hixon. Our race team is xBorders Racing.

In this first article, I will introduce myself and the journey I have been on since November of 2012. I will also talk about the personal transformation and journey to becoming a gentleman racecar driver. Finally, I will finish with an introduction to Bryan. Bryan and I will regularly contribute to arti- cles in the coming months.

My journey starts in November of 2012. My wife Bernice and I joined friends of ours for Thanksgiv- ing dinner in Japan. We had all worked together previously in China and were in Asia during the US holiday. During the dinner our hosts recommend- ed the video workout series called “Insanity.

In January of 2013, I made a conscious decision to change my focus and make health, family and well-being as important as I had made work over the previous 20 years. Thus, I started the Insanity workout, changed my diet, made plans to start auto racing and bring better balance to my life. Twelve weeks later I had lost 35+ lbs (16 kg), registered for the Skip Barber Racing School (SBRS) and found more time for family and friends. By October I had lost a total of 53+ lbs (24kg) and am currently back to my college day weight.

The next hurdle I had to overcome was how to practice while in China for both the racing school in August and subsequent races. As a foreign national working in China, I needed a way to prepare and practice. I have long been a student of the latest in computer technology and applied this knowledge to build a simulator. Although requiring an initial investment, the simulator allows a lower cost way to practice, as the most expensive item in racing is the car seat and track time. Thus, the simulator solved both problems of a lack of availability and provided a lower cost means to practice.

In addition to the hardware, I use a service called iRacing (www.iracing.com). iRacing is a motor- sports simulation software that models the car as well as the traction developed between the driving surface and the tire. After getting the equipment and software to China, I started practicing a few hours a week while maintaining my workouts, diet and normal day-to-day activities.

In August, I attended the SBRS, located at Lime Rock Park (a race track) in Connecticut, USA and two friends from work joined me. SBRS was com- posed of 20% classroom time and 80% track time, although not all of the track time is in the racecar. SBRS is a nationally recognized racing school with locations throughout the US. In addition to the school, they run a multi-tiered racing series for amateurs to professional drivers. One in three pro- fessional racecar drivers have participated in SBRS and have won races in every major professional race series. SBRS has been a tremendous opportu- nity for personal growth and learning.

Since starting at the school, I have had an oppor- tunity to run 17 races at some of the most famous race tracks in the US; Road Atlanta, Sebring In- ternational, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Homestead Miami. In early March, I received my professional racing license and, as such, am now a professional racecar driver, although I still have much to learn and develop. I have had a chance to rekindle the cooperative and competitive spirit I had while at the US Naval Academy and in Subma- rines and make some great new friends. However, these adventures will be covered in future articles.

One of these new friends is my xBorders Racing teammate, Bryan Hixon. Bryan hails from the US State of Texas, has been racing as a professional for the past few years and won his first professional racing series in 2012. Together, we are running the Skip Barber MazdaSpeed Pro Challenge series with the SCCA Pro Mazda MX-5 Cup, presented by BF- Goodrich. He has been a true friend and coach as I have traversed the racing landscape from amateur to professional racing. He will join me in writing future articles as we share our thoughts through a racer’s viewpoint, the Racer’s Edge. We would like to thank our family and friends for the love and support, as well as our season spon- sors, Blackmore Partners and xBorder Foods & Wine.

History in Scirocco R-Cup

Posted On 12 Dec, 2013 by

car imageI can’t believe that 2013 is almost over, and that the European racing is done for the winter! I had the incredible opportunity to race the 2013 Volkswagen motorsports Scirocco R-Cup in Germany in the #21 Autostadt cars as pro driver! The season did not go as planned. We had many ups and downs, starting off with some car trouble and ending in some penalties, but I am proud to have finished in the top 4 in the championship! I also made history as the first American to win a Volkswagen Race in Europe.

The world’s most environmentally friend race series had 9 races this season, at 5 different tracks with drivers from all over the world. I got to meet tons of amazing drivers and celebrities that were guest and legend drivers! Being a support series for DTM guaranteed tons of TV time in of 160 countries and line online streaming. The push-to-pass button adds HP and competition, all the while driving on amazing Dunlop tires.

I am incredibly proud and thankful for the opportunity provided by Volkswagen Motorsports, Autostadt, Uwe Alzen, and Trebing Tile to race this season, and I learned a lot in the Scirocco R-Cup! Volkswagen Motorsports has some of the best hospitality and mechanics in the racing industry, and we are always impressed.

SCCA: Overachievement in Sebring

Posted On 10 Dec, 2013 by

This weekend was a learning experience with great results for me with Old Dogs Racing at Sebring International Raceway. I was fortunate enough to be there racing this weekend because Old Dogs supplied me with great equipment to run with the best in the Mazda Miata class on late notice by me. This weekend there were sixty plus drivers in each of the two classes that I was entered in (ITS, Spec Miata) and a number of the best in the nation’s drivers were competing in it.

Going down to Sebring, my new driver Coach Chris Vallee from Speed Syndicate, had helped me decide that my main goal over the whole weekend was to work on my blipping skills (“Heel and Toe”. When as you downshift you match the rev’s of the engine by quickly tapping the throttle while braking with one foot). In the past, I have just road the clutch longer before engaging it instead of blipping. I was told that in the bigger cars, you have to blip for many reasons, so why not practice it and start using it as the normal way I drive. On my first practice session, I did not think it would be easy to do and when I tried it, it felt really awkward and unnatural. I would lock up the brakes while trying to do it my first day of practice until I started to really finesse it with thanks to Chris.

On Saturday (race day 1) I decided to stay on old tires for the qualifying for the Spec Miata race, since we had developed our set up based on old tires. The team and I had agreed upon a strategy for qualifying. Out of a pack of three, whoever was the fastest would lead the bump draft. The plan kind of worked. I ended up pulling away from them setting the second fastest laps by myself for most of the session until the last couple of laps putting me in sixth setting a 2:39.1. Then for the ITS qualifying, as we lined up on grid to qualify for the ITS race, it started to sprinkle consistently and knowing myself, I grew a grin as it slowly turned into rain. Then when I got onto the track, I noticed that it started to sprinkle just enough to get you loose and that it rained at different parts of the track each lap. All of the other cars were just putting around the track cautiously while I was busy whipping out laps that put me in third place for most of the session! Traffic was everywhere and I was blowing by people, pulling outside passes, inside passes, left and right, here and there! I knew I could do this through experience (Karting skills) and by being quick to adapt to the changing (and improving) track conditions. Then finally on the last lap, I blazed by the checkered line with the fastest lap for qualifying by 1.5 seconds with all the odds against me, car class wise, out of 60+ cars.

Now for the first race…Spec Miata, the track has now dried up perfectly and I’m starting 6th. My driver coach Chris, had reminded me that I’m in a little bit of an underpowered car, so it’s not likely that I will be able to pull an outside move into turn one and to not pass on the first lap into the Hairpin. So at the start going into turn one, I tried to pull an outside pass and just before going halfway into the corner I realized that it would not have been a beneficial move. So I pulled back into 4th place. Then I had the opportunity to pass two people going into the hairpin, though I remembered what Chris had told me and stayed conservative and did not pass. On the same lap I had another opportunity to pass going into turn 9 so I went to the inside and he did as well taking away that opportunity. Now I’ve decided to set him up for turn 14 (first corner in the S’s) and by the time we get there, I move to the inside to pass! We both locked up our brakes blowing the turn, but I was still able to pull off the pass taking 3rd place! Next was 2nd place. Slowly but surely I caught up to him each lap until sadly… The checkered flag had flew with me right behind him. Still, a podium finish in a big huge field at Sebring and I got down to a 2:38.7!

On Sunday (race day 2), we had no practice sessions, only races. We slapped on better used tires and I decided I was going to use this race as a “learning” race It was raining when we reached grid, which would come to my advantage. I knew heading into this race that I was sitting on pole position in front of ITA, ITS and ITR (which are three car classes above mine) when I was in a Spec Miata. So now we started the race, me and this ITR class car start going at. He had ALL the straightaway power in the world though I knew I was a better driver in the rain and corners. So I tried to take advantage of that by passing him in every corner then nicely blocking him on every straight! One time I passed him on the outside of turn one. Then all of the sudden the track was quickly drying and I knew that that was my only alley. I was still able to keep up with the ITR though it was difficult. We must have passed each other six or seven times on the first lap. Eventually the other higher class cars were catching back up – now if only I could keep this podium spot is what I thought. With three laps to go a dreaded caution came out to bunch the field and with the track drying out, I knew the bigger cars were going to be able to outrun me on the restart with one lap to go. I head into turn one and the 1st place ITR blocked me on the inside of turn 1, so I try to pass him on the outside! *BAM! I found the cars limit! I pushed the car so hard that I whipped it around (there you go Uncle Keith)! ON THE LAST LAP TOO! I got passed by eighteen cars. Undeterred, I made my seven passes on the last lap and got back to 14th as the checkered flag flew! That race was a lot of fun even though I didn’t get the podium finish.

The next race is the second Spec Miata race. Apparently they did not start the race by finishing position in the first race, they do it by qualifying position for both races. So, I’m starting sixth again. So now the green flag is about to drop… GREEN, GREEN, GREEN!!! We took off like a bat out of h*&(! Going into turn one, I try to see if I can pull off that outside pass one more time. Nope, so I pulled back again into 5th. Anytime I tried to pass 4th or 3rd place, they would try to run me off the track. By about lap two to three, I passed 4th place and was on a mission for 3rd . That is when I noticed the clutch started to slip so I was losing power. Now 5th place was catching back up to me and I was only able to hold him off for about four laps or so then he got by me. Fortunately, out of 60 cars and a slipping clutch we held on to finish in 5th.

There was one more race to go, but with the slipping clutch and not sure what else it might be affecting, I decided not to race the car in the last race to save the equipment and avoid any further damage.

In the end, I had a very successful weekend, accomplished what I needed to accomplish and better! I can’t thank Old Dogs Racing enough for giving me a fantastic running car, Rossini Engines, Jeff and Mike our mechanics for keeping the wheels on while I drive and of course K&M Logistics and Spirit Bands for their financial support and my awesome driver coach Chris Vallee at Speed Syndicate!

It is off to Road Atlanta this Friday to drive a four hour enduro with Drive Gear in their BMW Spec E30 Series car in Santa’s Toy Run in the NASA series. Yes, I’m going to drive four hours straight in a race. Most have told me I am crazy to try and go that long – I cant wait for the challenge!


Skip Barber Race Series at Road Atlanta

Posted On 3 Dec, 2013 by

The 2013-14 Skip Barber Winter Race Series opened at Road Atlanta November 14-17, 2013. With 2 groups racing Skip Barber Formula and another group racing MAZDASPEED MX-5 race cars.



Skip Barber Racing School instructor Travis Washay (red jacket) goes over the rules for an upcoming race in a driver’s meeting.


Running 3 races on the weekend, the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge featured competitive racing that pitted past champions and master’s champions against each other.  


Three staples at Skip Barber Race Series events, Keith Dalton (left), R.B. Stiewing (center) and Jeff Lail (right) spend a lot of time on the road together. This is a good example of the fun they have together.


MX-5 test drivers joke with MX-5 crew chief Hank Narrison (center with the beard).


After an exciting 5 races at Road Atlanta, the Skip Barber Winter Race Series will travel to Homestead-Miami Speedway Road Course, the 2nd stop on the 6-weekend series.



Blazing Guns at Championship Shootout

Posted On 3 Dec, 2013 by

It has been just over a week since the completion of the 2013 Skip Barber Championship Shootout.  With the top five drivers from both the Skip Barber Winter Series (where I finished 3rd) and the Summer Series in addition to one of the top Formula Ford racers in Canada participating, the competition was probably some of the best I have faced yet.

Monday marked the start of the Skip Barber Championship Shootout at Road Atlanta where a $200,000 Mazdaspeed scholarship to the USF2000 Series was on the line.  The first day started off with an interview with Formula 1 commentator Bob Varsha.  We then had a seminar with Mr. Varsha about handling the media which was very insightful.  After the lunch break, we had two practice sessions where I was P1 by half a second and P4 respectively.  Qualifying was set to take place right after practice, and was quite different than what I am used to.  We were given a warm up lap, and then “flier” three laps, similar to NASCAR qualifying.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great run, and I qualified 11th.

I woke up on Tuesday feeling relaxed as I wasn’t too worried about my starting position.  Before the racing commenced, we had a seminar from Dave Despain on what it takes to make it in racing as a professional driver. After a new car draw for Race 1, I was able to drive my way up from 11th to 1st to win the race!  Race 2 was a tough race as I felt I had trouble keeping up with people in the draft, and with the long back straight, it was difficult to draft past people.  I had to really fight for a 5th place finish. Race 3 didn’t go very well as going into Turn 1, someone tried to make a really late “dive bomb” pass on me and I spun. I ended up 8th which fortunately was the race that would not count toward my final points score.  After the first day, I was sitting 3rd overall – just 4.5 points out of the lead.

The final day hosted Races 4 and 5 and a seminar from Kelly Jones who is an expert in racing simulation. Race 4 kept me in the hunt for the scholarship as I managed a 4th place finish in what was probably the craziest race of my life.  Cars, body work, and gravel were flying the whole race.  Race 5 wasn’t any less crazy considering it was everyone’s last chance to win the scholarship.  Throughout the race, we went three wide almost every lap.  On the last lap, going into the last turn, I was able to pass three people to finish 3rd.

After all the scores were totaled, I ended up 4th.  It wasn’t the result I wanted, but I felt that I got the best results I could have gotten with the cards I was dealt.

Congrats to Aaron on the win!

The Skip Barber INDYCAR Academy Field, Pt. II

Posted On 21 Nov, 2013 by

Juan Moncada, 26, Greenville, South Carolina

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: I have always loved racing from since I can remember. I started racing Karts when I became 13 years old and have since dreamed of going to the famous Skip Barber Racing School. I have always followed Formula 1, Indy Car and Le’ Mans racing. I wake up thinking about racing cars and go to bed with the same thought in my mind. I like to relax sometimes by just closing my eyes and doing laps in my mind. It helps me to prepare for races and is a good relaxing method for me. Racing is a passion I have known and felt since I was a child and there is nothing I want more in life than to make a career out of it.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: I always had the dream and the goal to race professionally but as it is the case with most drivers money was always a big factor in that dream becoming a reality. I always hoped I would have the chance to go pro and I knew I had the talent but never thought it would be a reality. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I will do everything I can to succeed.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: The one thing I took away from the 3 Day racing school is that racing is not a sport about the bravest driver, its about the one that learns from their mistakes and makes good judgment calls. Being brave is part of the formula to be the best driver. However, bravery without a plan will lead to inconsistent results. The key to becoming a good driver is not to just go fast on one lap but to be consistent with your marks, your lap times and your focus.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: I felt like I was finally where I was meant to be. Everything I have worked for so hard in the past 12 years made sense and my passion has now grown even more. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to drive a Formula car and even more to be part of the Skip Barber Indy Car Shoot out. Racing is my passion and it’s what I dream of doing as my career. Seating in that car in August just confirmed even more that my office should be my racecar.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: I work for Verizon Wireless. I am a technical Analyst and my job consists of monitoring the network performance and reporting outages. I like to wake up pretty early in the morning at around 530am to 6am and I always like to end my day by going to the Gym. I work out 5 times a week and it’s the best way to relax. I like to go outdoors on my spare time and I have the privilege of living in a beautiful place like Greenville SC. I also enjoy racing Karts so whenever there is an opportunity I jump to it.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I heard about the school over 10 years ago through a cousin of mine who shares the same passion as I do. I then heard about Juan Pablo Montoya having gone to the school as well as all the other great drivers that have come through Skip Barber racing school. I always admired the reputation the school has and was an easy choice to make when I was able to get the funds to come to Skip Barber Racing School.


Kaleb Hinton, 20, Kimberly, Idaho

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: My passion for motorsports began a long time ago. I grew up racing motocross and that sport developed my inner fire for racing. I got my first bike when I was three years old, and raced my first time when I was just seven. Unfortunately with that,  lots of injuries resulted. So when I turned sixteen and had received my driver’s license I did a basic driving school through Ron Fellows program at Spring Mountain, I was instantly hooked and that fire I had for motorcross all those years, was instantly ignited once again for auto racing.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: In the beginning, it was just a far-fetched dream and I never really knew where I would go. Everything was brand new for me and I didn’t know where to even start to get the opportunity. But one thing about it, you have to chase your dreams at any cost. I am very thankful for the opportunity that I now have to take one step closer to achieving that dream and opportunity to go pro.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: I took a lot away with me from the three day racing school. Confidence is what I’d say I took away with me from the three day school, with all the various techniques and skills that I picked up on, thanks to the coaches, really made me feel confident, not only in the formula car but more confident in any car on a racing track.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: Remember how it felt when you were a little kid, waking up on Christmas morning, that burning, eager, and energetic feeling you’d get inside to go over and rip open all your presents? That is the feeling I had when I first got into the car!

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: My everyday life is never the same, always something different every day, which is pretty nice. I work for my father as a broker, buying and selling things for his company, most days I travel with him to do that, others I may get stuck in the office doing paper work, which isn’t ideal but it works! My mom, Lisa, is a stay at home mom; she takes car of the animals and the house, along with my younger brother. Kolton, my younger brother, is 14 and now in 8th grade in Middle School. He has the same passion and desire for motorsports as I do, and now that he is getting older, he wants to do Auto racing. Mainly cause he says he can beat me or something like that!

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I heard about Skip Barber Racing School’s when I was at Spring Mountain Motorsports, through another gentleman I had been talking to. He was telling me about his son racing the formula cars, and that it’d be a good thing for me to look into doing.


Keith Ori, 44, Orlando, Florida
Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: I’m very clear on this; Speed Racer cartoon reruns, age 6, 1975.

Q: Yes. When I was 18, I was sure of it. Of course, I had no experience, no money, no family interest, and the internet hadn’t been invented yet. Somehow that didn’t dampen my optimism.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: That the brief time spent between corner entry and corner exit really is worth all of the time, money, risk, and sacrifice required to get there.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: I was 18, at Lime Rock with Skip Barber in 1987, and thought I was having a waking dream. I remember it like yesterday. I could take you there.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: I’m a real estate investor and a writer. I have friends in racing and I keep up with the industry as a hobby of sorts. This doesn’t pay any bills, but it’s a lot more fun than real estate. With that said, I’m a lucky guy because I get to work from home and be around my wife Kelty, and three kids, Ayrton (9), Conan (6), and Caroline (4), full time.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: Probably from an ad in Autoweek back when it was printed on newsprint. The Skip Barber school sounded so cool that I’m pretty sure I thought it was fictional for a while!


Lawrence Richard, 25, Goose Creek, South Carolina

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: I’d like to say I’ve always had a passion for cars and racing…  Really anything motorsport related.  I remember when I was little, aside from playing with hot wheels cars, my friends and I were always racing our bikes around the neighborhood to see who was quickest.  And every so often my dad and I would go to the local fun park and ride the go-karts around and even though they weren’t anything special nor fast, I always had a blast just driving.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: When I was much younger, maybe.  But as you get older you really start putting the numbers together and realize that racing is by no means a cheap sport, and without a ton of money and/or having a spectacular karting or other racing resume under your belt, the chances of going pro are slim at best.  Just being selected to be a part of this year’s Indycar Academy field of drivers is a real privilege.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: I remember one of the last things we heard from the instructors at the end of our third day was, “Don’t get a ticket on the way home!” In all seriousness though it’s really hard to put a finger on any one thing in particular. The experience overall was unforgettable, it was really cool to drive something completely different than your everyday street car.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: Honestly the first thing that came to mind was, “Man this thing is tight!” Initially my dad and I talked about doing the racing school together, but it was immediately apparent once we arrived that it was good thing we didn’t.  My dad’s 6’4″ and there’s no way his shoulders would have fit between those cross bars, we’d need a saw-zaw to get him out! After that though all I could think about was how much fun it was going to be getting out on track in these things, the formula cars are like big go karts, you can’t have a bad time in one.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: Well, I’m a real estate agent in Charleston, SC and work for a company called Carolina One Real Estate.  I have a wonderful girlfriend, an older sister, two nieces and a nephew, and the best parents anyone could ever hope for.  I love traveling and cars are obviously a big hobby as well, plus more recently, supermoto, after a good friend and I decided it was time to try out something on two wheels.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I’m not sure how I initially heard about Skip Barber, but being a car guy it’s inevitable that talk about racing schools would come up in conversation at some point or another.  Plus with Skippy being one of the big names in the industry I’m sure I’ve passed over at least one or two of their ads in car magazines over the years.


Logan Wolfe, 27, Edgewater, Maryland

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: Big wheel days at 5 years old.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Not really… I was told I was too old.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: How to compartmentalize my thoughts on the track.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: Exhilarating, too good to be true, memorable.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: Busy… running a family business 9-7 sometimes 8-8, week in and week out. Always forecasting demand and minimizing unit per average cost to help fund my racing career.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: My uncle teased me with the idea on Christmas Day a decade ago this Christmas.


Matt Widner, 20, Torrance, California

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: My passion for racing began around 10 years ago when my mom and her friend took me to my first NASCAR race at Autoclub Speedway. I knew right away that racing was something that I wanted to do professionally in the future.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Yes, I have always believed that there was a chance for me to go pro. I know that if I give my 100% effort in anything I do, anything is possible.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: One of the many things I took away from my 3 Day Racing School was probably most obvious, the feedback I received from my instructors. They were full of knowledge and information that I was able to apply to the racecar on track and improve myself.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: I will never forget the first time I sat in a Skip Barber Formula car. It was so exhilarating. I did not want to get out. My seat belt fastened as tight as possible, my feet on the pedals, my hands on the steering wheel. That moment helped solidify the fact that I want to do nothing else but race!

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: My life is all about school, work, family and friends. I go to school at California State University Fullerton, where I am working towards a degree in business management. After going to school I am a kitchen team leader at Chick-fil-a of South bay. I have some of the most caring and supportive co-workers that have had my back throughout my racing journey. I have the best parents in the world! They too have been by my side in anything I do and I cannot thank them enough. My twin brother as well has been nothing but supportive. I can say the same about my friends as well; they know how much this means to me and are very encouraging.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A:I heard about Skip Barber through the internet.


Max Dignan, 18, Hillard, Ohio

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: As long as I can remember, I’ve loved driving. My parents tell that when I was a toddler, i would drive the little electric toy-car down the driveway as fast as I could. When I got to the bottom of the driveway, I would lift and turn, rotating the car back toward the top of the driveway. I would do it over and over and laugh every time I turned the car at the bottom of the driveway. Driving has always been at the heart of me.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: I have always believed I would become a professional race car driver. Though, there’s still a long road ahead to becoming a professional driver, but I’m giving it my all and know it’ll happen in time.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: Really the main thing I took away, was looking as far ahead as possible. The coaches really hammered that one in, and it turns out they’re right! I’ve noticed a big improvement in consistency when implanting this.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: Honestly, it was a very emotional moment. My family’s not financially positioned to be able to send me racing, and even doing these schools were a far-stretch. So I really felt a, “I’m finally here” emotion that you might get after a very trying, challenging situation works out for you.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: My typical day includes going to Hilliard Darby High School. At school I take three AP, or college-level, courses. After school I do homework and every other day go work out with a trainer who used to train Rahal drivers. Everyday I practice on iRacing for at least an hour to hone the mental aspect of driving.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I heard about it online a while ago. Just sort of stumbled upon it while looking up racing-related content on google.


Michai Stephens, 22, Evanston, Illinois

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: After receiving my first set of “Hot Wheels”, the race was on!

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Yes. One of the first steps in pursuing a great passion is to believe you are capable of doing so.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: A better understanding for the relationship between instructor and student.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: My heart beat so strong it seemed to drown out the surrounding environment. For the first time in my life, nerves were coupled with excitement; tightening the lap and shoulder belts only intensified the moment.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: Refining my craft has become the major part of my life. Finding new and creative ways to become the best racing driver I can be continues to be my key focus. I spend most of my spare time with family. Being a part of my younger brothers lives as they grow and pursue their own dreams has been a learning process. With a multitude of exciting things going on in all of our lives, growing as a family will be forever remembered.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: Through online research.


Nick Contessa, 24, Tampa, Florida

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: Like most gearheads, my passion for cars and racing started when I was born. My family always tells me that I would carry around Hot Wheels cars when I was little and just move them back and forth on any surface I could find.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Not in this lifetime. I’ve watched racing my entire life and never thought I had the chance to even attempt to become a professional racecar driver. I was brought up playing the traditional sports, which didn’t do much for me, but whenever I would go go-karting with my friends or family, my competitive side came alive.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: How much physical endurance it takes drive a racecar. I couldn’t believe how sore I was! My three day was at Sebring, which is extremely bumpy in turn one and seventeen; driving a formula car around there definitely beats a driver up.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: This is pretty difficult to explain, but the two words that can describe it perfectly would be pure ecstasy.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: I recently graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Economics and a second in Health Science. A week after I graduated, I participated in my three day racing school and that is when I applied for the Skip Barber IndyCar Academy; since then my everyday routine has been mentally and physically preparing myself for the IndyCar Academy. I also concentrate on my personal investments and am a landlord for a couple properties. From January to April of 2013, I was an intern at Green Savoree Racing Promotions for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg working on the operations side of the business. Working for the Grand Prix was a great experience and helped me realize that I wanted to have a career around the great community of motorsports.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I discovered the Skip Barber Racing School when I was doing research for obtaining an SCCA racing license and saw that Skip Barber was an accredited school.


Nicolas Bakker, 21, White Plains, New York


Patrick Hingston, 37, Chester, Virginia

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: My passion for racing began in 1995 when i first stumbled on a formula 1 race on television, prior to that i had never seen a formula one car or a formula one race. I migrated to america from freetown sierra leone in 1994 and in sierra leone there is no form of motorsport. I knew that i had a big love and passion for cars since i was a little boy, at 5 years old i can tell what car was approaching at night just from the shapes of the headlights .I have always been a car lover, so when i first saw michael schumacher being one with his car it triggered a big passion for motorsport.I love motorsport and it brings me a lot of joy in my life.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: I knew that the chances were slim to none but I would not give up on my dream. Its a huge responsibility taking care of my family both here in the US and in Africa but I tried my best to put myself in every opportunity that came available to me.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: One of the things i took away from my three day school is that the instructors knew more and if you listen and do what they tell you, you will be faster,safer and that you always see improvement in your driving if you applied the instructions they give ,I also took away from the instructors the ability to learn how to learn.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: The first time i first strapped into the race car was a feeling of joy, calmness, peace, felt blessed to be in the position i was in.I felt like i was Lewis Hamilton.Most people from my home country has never been next to a race car so i felt blessed to be sitting in one.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: My everyday life is to maintain peace in my heart. I am a loving father and husband. By being this I am able to go above and beyond in my duties as a registered nurse. I continue daily striving for the betterment of my family and my professional career. In my everyday walk I strive to do unto others as I would have them to do unto me.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I heard about Skip Barber Racing School from the internet.


Ronald Castillo, 24, Ontario, Ontario

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: Back when I was 9, in Colombia (my country of origin), we (the family) would religiously gathered up every Saturday and Sunday (at my grandma’s house) to watch Juan Pablo Montoya qualify and race at the CART Series back in 1999. Little did I know that I was being injected with the drug of racing. When I saw Montoya winning the Indianapolis 500 and then the Cart Series Championship, I knew what I wanted to do, didn’t now how but knew I would.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Yes, I’ve always known that chances are like doors, you just have to knock a lot of them until one opens. I’m a very positive thinker and I let that fuel me to take actions towards the direction I want to go. And here I am.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: Patience. It takes more than a fast driver to win a race…. it takes a smart driver.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: My first time getting into a Skippy was amazing! I couldn’t believe it. I might have shed a tear just because I once dreamed of getting into a race car and there I was, in a real race car, and it wasn’t like a car show or a fake one at a dealership, no, this was the real thing and I was about to go into a real track!!. I felt empowered, I felt determined to make racing my religion and the car my Bible.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A:I did some university at Ryerson University, but quickly realized that my heart was in racing so even though my parents didn’t approved, I dropped out and started a floor restoration company and it was really hard, but I was finally able to make some money and get myself thru the Skip Barber Racing School. So, during the day I’m working and handling business problems, and during the night I’m glued to the sim, racing Grand Turismo and F1. The weekends, oh my, the weekends mean Nascar, Indy and F1 for my family in the living room!

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: When I was about 19 I started to read the biographies of all the great drivers and that’s when I came across the name of ‘skip barber racing school’. Many great drivers who I admire had taken the courses at SB and right there and then I decided that SB was the place to go, that’s why I started my own business, to be able to pay for the racing school. And I made it!


Sam LeAir, 22, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: I’ve been a fan of cars and racing ever since I was a kid. The 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had an impact on me. It made me realize that this is something I want to spend my life doing. Sebastian Vettel’s determination and hard work has been a major inspiration for me.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: That idea seems far fetched from where I am now but with the help of Skip Barber, it feels closer to a possible reality. Being famous has never been a big draw for me. I’m more excited about the possibility to drive the greatest cars and be among the best in the business.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: I was happy to take away all the great feedback I received from these prestigious people. I can’t wait for another opportunity to take that feedback and apply it.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: It was very thrilling to be able to drive a real racecar. Even sporty road cars can’t compare to something that is built for the track.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: I am the second son to two loving parents. I have two brothers and one sister. We are a close family and they are all aware of my goals and support them as I would for them. I am currently working as a porter at a local Dodge dealership. I enjoy my job because I get to be around a lot of cool cars and I like the people I work with. Even though this is a temporary job, it has helped me pay for many of my previous Skip Barber programs. I am also going to Gateway college majoring in business management.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: When I was karting at Chicago Indoor Racing, a few of the guys I was racing with mentioned it as being the next step. So I did some research on how one becomes a racing driver. The Skip Barber program was the best way to accomplish my needs.


Seth Garner, 37, Austin, Texas

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: From an early age I’ve had a passion for speed, whether it be in a racecar or an airplane. Faced with a choice between two expensive pursuits, I became a pilot, earning my commercial and flight instructor licenses. I flew skydivers as a side job in college and started a flight school after I graduated. My motorsports involvement remained as a spectator, attending Formula 1 and other racing events. A defining moment in my excitement for open-wheel road racing came in 1996 when I happened to flip on the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix and witness Michael Schumacher take his first Ferrari victory on a rain-soaked track. It was the first time I saw an F1 race. I was hooked after that.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Realistically I never thought I would have a chance to go pro, as I chose a different path. But racing is always something I wanted to get into as a hobby. The Skip Barber IndyCar Academy is a fantastic chance to break into racing for a wide-spectrum of potential drivers, from us older folks who haven’t had the opportunity to younger talent looking to climb the ladder. It’s amazing to be a part of this group.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: The one thing I took away from the 3 Day Racing School is that I can do this, that I can be competitive and drive a car on the limit. It’s a matter of planning, preparation and honing the craft through experience, constantly pushing the envelope to find that last bit of speed. While skill certainly plays a factor in determining who the best drivers are, being smart, consistent and thorough in your approach are just as vital. What I found to be most crucial is the ability to learn quickly, to translate feedback into improvements, feedback from the car, from the coaches and from your own assessment of your mistakes and areas for improvement.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: The first time I stepped into a Skip Barber racecar, it was the realization of a lifelong dream: to finally be in a racecar, helmet and gloves on, tightly strapped in, firing up the engine and heading out to the skidpad. My first laps around Lime Rock were exhilarating, and confirmed that racing is something that would I truly love to do.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: After founding and running a flight school for a several years, I went on to work for a few startup airlines in various marketing and ecommerce roles. Later, I worked for several leading technology companies in product and program management. Now I’m a marketing and technology consultant, working with various startups and established companies in the travel and ecommerce space. While I am no longer flying as I profession, I do regularly fly for pure enjoyment. I’m still flight instructing part-time, as a hobby. I also enjoy being outdoors, running, cycling, sailing and camping. Having grown up in California and Seattle, and living in a variety of other places, I currently live in Austin with my 3½-year-old yellow lab, who accompanies me on many of my adventures.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I’ve known about Skip Barber for quite a long time, for at least 15 years. They’re the standard in racing schools, and I always knew that’s who I’d call when I got more serious about racing. Now that I’ve decided that it’s time to experience motor racing from the track instead of the grandstands, I came to Skip Barber.


Stephen Palma, 24, Waldorf, Maryland

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: When I was around 3. Cozy Coupe by Fisher Price, like a boss.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Never considered it. But now, I would love to have the chance.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: Average people don’t know how to brake.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: I felt that the seat was rock hard and it made a lot of rickety sounds.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: Work at the Washington Navy Yard, that takes up a lot of my time.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: Google


William Nozadze,35, Brooklyn, New York

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: Since I was about 7 years old…

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: Yes, I think i have what it takes to make it to pros.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?

A: I took away the balance between me , car and the road and I got a feel of the car traction limits in different tire temperatures .

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: The first time i got in to the car i felt like I’m watching a video on Youtube I could not believe I’m actually doing it . I wanted to feel every aspect of the car and could not wait to see what the car is like on the track.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: I wake up, go for a jog on the boardwalk , which is not to far from me , then i have my breakfast and head out on calls i get from different repair shops , solving electrical problems or working on programming issues they might have for me .I get home every night at different time ,depending on how much work i have . Eat dinner with my wife , watch tv and relax.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: internet


Wilson Yang, 31, Rothchild, Wisconsin

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?

A: My passion for racing mostly began when I first started autocrossing in 2008. The first time hearing about it was all the convincing I needed to hit the course. Recently I didn’t think I would have gotten so excited about taking my wife’s Toyota Corolla (all stock) and getting 1st in class against other front wheel drive cars that have twice the power.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?

A: I didn’t think I would have a chance at going pro because I didn’t grow up go karting, I didn’t have any of the funding and at especially my age.

Q: What is one thing from the 3 Day Racing School that you really took away with you?
A: One thing I took away from the 3 Day Racing School was the feeling of finally being able to belong somewhere, especially being in a “racing situation” especially at Sebring International Raceway. It felt like it was a place that I could call home. I know it might sound funny but that’s really how I felt. When I left, I felt like I really missed being there. I kept picturing myself in pit-lane and feeling good about being there with people who have the same passion as I did.

Q: Describe the feeling the first time you stepped into our racecar and strapped in.

A: It felt a little cramped sitting in the car for the first time with not much elbow room but I got used to it once I started going around corners fast. Although I wasn’t used to being able to see the wheels and the ground directly around me unlike a normal everyday car, I did start to imagine that this is what a formula 1 driver sees out of his helmet when he’s going around the track at speed.

Q: Describe your everyday life; job, school, family?

A: I work as an auto technician for Brickner’s of Wausau, I mainly service Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and SRT but we do service all makes as well. My wife and I have a three year old, 15 pound Pomeranian Shetland Mix. We walk him 4 times a day. We like to watch movies on Netflix. We are looking for ways to be smarter with our money and to better our lives. That is how I got to where I am today in the running for the Indycar Academy Scholarship.

Q: How did you hear about Skip Barber Racing School?

A: I heard about Skip Barber Racing School when I read an article about the Indycar Academy from last year.


What Winning the Championship Shootout Means

Posted On 19 Nov, 2013 by

Winning the shootout means more than just having the opportunity to continue my racing career. It was a chance to prove that I am one of the best up and coming formula car drivers. The $200,000 Mazda Scholarship allows me to focus more on my race craft and driving instead of  figuring out how I’m going to afford my next race. I have to thank everyone at Skip Barber for putting on such a superbly ran shootout.

I came into the week of the shootout feeling extremely confident that I was going to perform at my best and win. It all started with qualifying on pole. My goal for the week was to stay at the front and finish on the podium. In the first race I ended up 3rd, a good start. Race 2 I had to start 8th based on the fastest lap from race one. I was never able to get in a groove and ended up 6th. I regrouped and went out for race 3 starting 5th. I made smart passes and worked my way up to finish 2nd. This put me 2nd in points at the end of the first day of races. I started 4th for race 4. I ran another strong race placing 2nd. This put me .5 points behind the leader going into the final race. It was going to come down to the last race to decide who would take home top honors. I ran a clean race planning my attack on the last lap to take the lead coming into the brake zone for 10a. I held the lead down to the line! It took me a while to process what I had really accomplished.

I look forward to representing Mazda, Skip Barber Racing School, and Rice Lake Weighing Systems as I campaign the 2014 USF2000 Championship Series. Stay tuned for my next blog entry to find out which USF2000 team I’ll be on in 2014!


Shootout Victory: The Parents Perspective

Posted On 18 Nov, 2013 by

Julie and Thomas Telitz, the parents of 2013 Skip Barber Race Series Championship Shootout winner Aaron Telitz, react to their son winning a $200,000 driver development scholarship towards a seat in the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 series powered by Mazda.

The Championship Shootout is the pinnacle of the Skip Barber Racing School Scholarship Ladder, which rewards young racers who are dedicated to their craft and successfully work their way through the proven Skip Barber Racing School system. They are provided with expert coaching both on and off the track, media exposure, scholarship opportunities and vital track time through the process.

Aaron Telitz Wins Championship Shootout

Posted On 15 Nov, 2013 by

After a 3rd place finish in the 2012 Championship Shootout and a 2nd place finish in the 2012-13 Winter Series, Aaron Telitz, 21, Birchwood Wisconsin, won the winner-take-all 2013 Skip Barber Race Series Championship Shootout and the $200,000 driver development scholarship presented by Mazda for use toward a seat in the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Series powered by Mazda.

“It feels really awesome,” said Telitz pictured here with Skip Barber Racing School CEO Michael Culver (left) and Race Series Director Keith Dalton (right). “I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t believe it when I came across the line and won. I kind of knew where the points were and what I had to do. It’s awesome to be sitting here with this gigantic check.”

Telitz was the measure of consistency throughout the shootout. Off track, he earned high marks in his media interview and the subjective instructor scoring. On track, his top-4 race results were all podium finishes including a win in the final race of the shootout.

“I am just elated,” said Julie Telitz, Aaron’s mom. “I was brought to tears when he crossed the line and he had probably succeeded in winning the $200,000. It was very exciting and very emotional. The Skip Barber program, thankfully, is around, or young drivers–like my son–would never get anywhere.”

The shootout featured 5 competitive 12-lap races on the famous Road Atlanta track, 3 seminars from industry experts and famous Skip Barber Racing School instruction. Race by race result sheets are available at skipbarber.com. Photos from the event can be seen here.

“We had absolutely some of the world’s closest racing,” said Michael Culver, Skip Barber Racing School CEO. “The drivers deserve a lot of credit for racing within thousandths of a second of each other without any major incident. We proved today that our system works. We create champions.”

As the pinnacle of the Skip Barber Racing Series ladder, the Race Series Championship Shootout rewards young racers who are dedicated to their craft and successfully work their way through the proven Skip Barber Racing School system. No other developmental race series offers as much opportunity to succeed. The Skip Barber Race Series, using its famous “Arrive & Drive” model provides expert coaching, both on and off the track,, limited liability, replacement cars, media exposure, scholarship opportunities and vital seat time. Skip Barber Racing School is the Gateway to Motorsports.

Final 2013 Skip Barber Race Series Championship Shootout Points
(combines 5 Races dropping the lowest, media interview, business plan evaluation and instructor scores)

1. Aaron Telitz, 21, Birchwood, Wisconsin — 140.9 shootout points
2nd in Championship Points in the 2012-13 Winter Series

2. Jake Eidson, 18, Littleton, Colorado — 135.5 shootout points
2011-12 Winter Series, 2012 Summer Series & 2012-13 Winter Series Champion

3. Jack Mitchell Jr., 17, Clarendon Hills, Illinois — 134 shootout points
2nd in Championship Points in the 2012 Summer Series

4. Skylar Robinson, 18, Augusta, Georgia — 131 shootout points
3rd in Championship Points in the 2012-13 Winter Series

5. Yago Cesario, 18, Goiania, Brazil — 117.9 shootout points
2013 Summer Series Champion; 2012 Karting Scholarship Shootout Winner

6. Adrian Starrantino, 19, Simi Valley, California — 117.8 shootout points
4th in Championship Points in the 2012-13 Winter Series

7. Colton Herta, 14, Valencia, California — 113.5 shootout points
2nd in Championship Points in the 2013 Summer Series

8. Yuri Cesario, 18, Goiania, Brazil – 106.8 shootout points
5th in Championship Points in the 2013 Summer Series

9. Italo Leao, 18, Brasilia, Brazil — 102.3 shootout points
4th in Championship Points in the 2013 Summer Series

10. Jose Armida, 20, Mexico City, Mexico– 98.6 shootout points
5th in Championship Points in the 2012-13 Winter Series

11. Andre Gomes, 26, Nashua, New Hampshire — 98.4 shootout points
3rd in Championship Points in the 2013 Summer Series; 2012 INDYCAR Academy Winner

How to make it to Indy, no experience necessary

Posted On 12 Nov, 2013 by

So you want to be a professional race car driver, but you don’t have actual racing experience, there are no billionaires
in your family and a fracking company didn’t just knock on your door. I’ve got just the thing for you, and it’s not a psychiatric evaluation. It’s called the Skip Barber Racing School Indycar Academy.

The SBRS Indycar Academy is principally a talent search for people of any age without karting or racing experience. If this sounds more like a no-talent search, or if you’re wondering in what altered reality a Walter Mitty could become the next Sebastian Vettel, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. As of this writing the winner of last year’s inaugural Indycar Academy, Andre Gomes, is in a close second place in the 2013 Skip Barber Summer Series with two weekends to go. So much for the 18 y/o kids with 16 years of karting experience.

However, more than proving that God has a sense of humor, it reinforces Bernie Ecclestone’s suggestion that the fastest driver in the world is probably an unknown kid in Siberia. Which is pretty much the same thing.

As with all talent searches, it’s not for nothing as the top prize is a full season in the Skip Barber Race Series worth in the neighborhood of $50K, with 2nd and 3rd place each earning enough ‘Skippy Bucks’ for a partial season.

The ‘Indycar’ part of the Academy is what comes next. The top five finishers in the SBRS Winter and Summer Series receive invitations to the Championship Shootout at the end of the year where the winner receives a scholarship of $200,000.00 to compete in the USF2000series. In turn, The USF2000 champion wins a Pro Mazda ride the next year, and the Pro Mazda champion receives an Indy Lights ride.

You can probably see where this is going; the Indy Lights champion receives a good portion of an Indycar budget and so far six of the last seven Lights winners, including Jalopnik’s own Alex Lloyd, have made their mark in Indycars. This ladder system is known as the Mazda Road to Indy, and it’s unique in the entire world of racing. It’s possible for anyone, with very little money, to make it to Indycar on talent alone. You just have to win everything in sight for four years. In a row.

The Mazda Road to Indy has existed for a few years now, so it’s not exactly new. However, the creation of the SBRS Indycar Academy means that now your average Joe or Jolene doesn’t have to find $50K to get on the first rung of the ladder.

If the Indycar Academy sounds intriguing, you’re not alone. After consulting my sponsor, excuse me, my spouse, I threw my helmet into the ring for this year’s academy.

I found the “What if?” factor a bit much to avoid. I grew up wanting to be a racecar driver. As a teen I worked in a race shop alongside a guy who’s now a Grand-Am team owner. I’ve taken the Skip Barber 3-Day school more times than college algebra, as well as an SCCA school, and even won my class in the One Lap of America (which fortunately didn’t disqualify me from the Indycar academy because it’s not wheel-to-wheel racing). So in this regard I’m a bit like a college professor; lots of education but with very little job experience.

Then there’s the pathological component; as a clinical addiction, racing makes heroin look like Ben & Jerry’s. It’s a disease, and I’ve been a carrier my whole life. Full disclosure; I admit to infecting others. A One-Lap co-driver that I got involved now owns more Time-Attack championships personally than most manufacturers, but it’s cost him two well-paying professional jobs.

I think I have a few things going for me; when I attended my first Skip Barber school at Lime Rock, at age 18, I discovered I was the fastest driver on earth. Or at least I was pretty sure. I never really got to prove this, but legendary instructor Bruce MacInnes told me I was going way too fast for my level of experience and that I was going to crash. Naturally, I took this as a high compliment. A few minutes later, on The Lap of the Gods, I went off at the bottom of the downhill, completely defoliating the runoff area. As Bill Murray said in Caddyshack, “So I got that going for me, which is nice.”

What I don’t have going for me, is time. That Lime Rock school was in 1988, which for those of you keeping score at home means I’m forty-four years old.

Forty-four is a funny age; on Facebook half of my high school class look like senior citizens, and the other half don’t appear to have aged much at all. I’ll settle for calling myself young at heart, though my wife might say underdeveloped. I guess I’ve always been a late bloomer, and as much as this sucked in high school (and it sucked a lot), I’m pretty grateful at this age.

Fortunately I’m still in shape, and at 5’7”, 150 lbs I’m pretty much prototypical race car driver size. Of course, there are a lot of people my size that can’t drive a golf cart, so I’m not sure how much this really helps.

It’s a little difficult to have long term racing expectations at this point (hell, it’s hard to have short term racing expectations), so I’ve limited my focus to just trying to win the Indycar Academy. This won’t be easy as I’ll be competing against 32 other drivers (Indycar academy, 33 drivers, get it?), so on the face of it I have a 3% chance. Which sounds nuts.

This is where rationalizations really help. Or statistical analysis. Again, pretty much the same thing. Here’s my logic; in order to enter any racing contest a person must believe they have a shot at winning, and I do.

Factor in the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule which dictates that 80% of the productivity in a competitive endeavor is accounted for by the top 20% of participants) which is one of the truest things I’ve come across in my life (I’m sure Fibonacci is awesome too, but damned if I can ever figure out an occasion to use it) and it means that in reality only about 7 people have a legitimate shot. By believing I have a shot it makes me one of the seven. I have no idea if this has any statistical value, but one out of seven makes me feel a whole lot better than one out of thirty-three.

First though, I have to qualify. In order to be considered for the Indycar Academy you have to start with a Skip Barber 3-Day Racing School and a 2-Day Advanced Racing School. From there your performance is evaluated and you either get an invitation or you don’t.

I have my work cut out for me. I start by scheduling yet another 3-Day School, which will be my third (I took one on a lark in 2005, and somehow MacInnes was my instructor again, 17 years, and a number of home-made airplane crashes later), and explain to the wonderfully helpful SBRS customer service rep, Scott, that I have ambitions toward the Indycar Academy.

Scott gets me scheduled for a 3-Day School on the Sebring short course, which not coincidentally is the course SBRS will use to evaluate the Indycar Academy field in November of this year.

This is particularly fortunate as I live in Orlando. I’ve been to the 12 Hours of Sebring (and boy have I), as a spectator, reporter, and even as a minor sponsor, but I haven’t spent any quality time on the track. The whole thing should be a hell of an adventure.

And that’s the point; when evaluating the Indycar Academy and trying to make sense of it in the context of my life, a quote from Hunter S. Thompson came to mind: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Next- the 3-Day Racing School, the 2-Day Advanced School, and the phone call.


How you get to the INDYCAR Academy Shootout

Posted On 6 Nov, 2013 by

I’d like to say I entered Sebring International Raceway for the Skip Barber 3-Day Racing School with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas morning, but that isn’t be strictly true. I’ve never woken up on Christmas wondering if I’d forgotten how to drive fast, and if so, how much discovering this fact might cost me.

Make no mistake; I’ve done this before, a couple of times in fact, but I hadn’t sat in a Skip Barber formula car in eight years, and this is Sebring.

There are tracks where leaving the racing surface isn’t necessarily expensive or painful, but Sebring isn’t one of them. If you go off track at Sebring you are going to hit something. That something is made of concrete and will shorten and/or narrow your car. Its as my friend Robert Dubler, the completely mad Swiss chocolatier/race car driver, said after viewing Summit Point’s Shenandoah Circuit- “I sink zey got ze very good deal on za concrete.”

I made a mental note of the Baghdad-embassy quantities of concrete as I migrated to the classroom where I met my fellow students. Our instructors Casey Carden, Nick Andries, Don Kutschell and Ray Scott introduced themselves and student introductions followed. It quickly became apparent that we had a pretty varied bunch: At one end was Michai Stephens who placed 5th in last year’s Indycar Academy (ICA), a mid-20s Florida police officer named Clint Scherb, and a young Canadian karting champ named Olivier Cote. At the other end were a couple of guys I couldn’t imagine fitting in the car, a late teen who’s never raced but intended to ‘find sponsorship’ after the school (making him inexplicably as naïve as I was at 18 despite the subsequent invention of the internet), and a guy so completely indifferent that his entire introduction was a terse “I got the school as a gift, so I’m here”. I (mentally) nicknamed him ‘Psycho’ after the Stripes character even though he didn’t actually threaten to kill anyone that called him Francis.

Carden started with a chalk talk in the classroom where we were introduced to the Skip Barber formula car and the Sebring track. The largest change to the cars since I last drove them is the welcome switch from an H-pattern shifter to a manual sequential gearbox. This has the dual benefit of being more relevant and making it a lot harder to spontaneously increase the number of moving parts in the motor.

Carden talked at length about the track, the texture of the different surfaces, the bumps, and the fact that we would be utilizing the Sebring Modified layout which makes a hard right between turns 1 and 3, rejoining the classic layout at Bishop Bend. Rather fortuitously this will be the same layout that will be used for the Indycar Academy.

As a parting shot he adds this fun fact: “When it rains we’ve had cars crash at start/finish because the track owners have painted a large logo onto the track which, when wet, has the friction coefficient of ice.” A flaming hoop on the backstretch wouldn’t be any dumber, but Skip Barber doesn’t have any say in the matter.

The class migrates to an autocross track set on the concrete pad (Again, Sebring doesn’t lack for these) between the pits and the back straight to get used to the car.

There’s not much to hit, unlike every subsequent time we’ll be in the car, so off the bat I turn it up to 11 and drive full Brazilian, searching for the limit of the car. I’m quick, but I also spin a couple of times. I’m not the only one spinning, but I’m definitely spinning the fastest. To my surprise I’m almost as fast as Cote when I’m not perpendicular to the intended path of travel. At this point I would characterize myself as exciting to watch.

You might expect the instructors to admonish my behavior, but they don’t- they stop me to explain how I can improve my technique and go even faster. This is what makes it a racing school and not a septuagenarian heart attack trigger like the Richard Petty ‘experience’. Going faster is the entire point of the exercise.

After three sessions we turn the cars over to the other half of our class, but almost immediately rain comes down. Natural disaster movie rain.

With racing postponed, most of the class piled into a 15 (16, 17..) passenger van for a ‘van-around’ tour of the track. Despite the pedestrian name, Skip Barber van-arounds are legendary.

Imagine being a passenger in a fully loaded van as the (race car) driver sets a lap time on a wet track while simultaneously explaining the nuances of every corner as well as orating the history of the track. They could sell tickets for this.

I had been vanned around Lime Rock by Bruce MacInnes way back before common sense was invented, so as opposed to being startled I was merely perplexed as to how the tradition survived into the 21st century. I did see a couple of my classmates who hadn’t done this before actually cross themselves, and I’m pretty sure a third was talking to dead relatives.

Back on track our group took part in a braking exercise on the back straight. This was particularly interesting because while a Skip Barber formula car won’t out accelerate a Corvette, and owing to the use of street tires it’s lateral acceleration doesn’t exceed 2g, the damn thing stops like a jumper hitting a sidewalk. Huge brakes, light weight and good grip is a hell of a cocktail. Threshold braking a Formula car makes you want to celebrate physics.

When we finally got to run the full racing circuit we’re given an RPM limit to adhere to which is increased over the three days until finally being eliminated for the final sessions on the last day. RPM limits are how SBRS ensures that students aren’t, immediately at least, exceeding their ability; physically, mentally and financially.

Michai, with his experience, is visibly fastest in the other run group. Clint and some others are getting up to speed (I want to ask Clint if he feels naked driving that fast without red and blue lights flashing), while one or two others curiously appear to be looking for a parking spot. The speed differential, even in the beginning, is startling.

Stopping for an institutional quality lunch at the Chateau Elan hotel on the Sebring grounds I had a chance to speak with Michai and Clint a bit more. Both are gunning for the Indycar Academy themselves so it was refreshing to share our peculiar ambition. Michai’s story is straightforward; a 21 year-old wanting to be a race car driver is the least strange thing in the world to me, but Michai has a maturity and calm that I couldn’t have imagined at his age.

Clint’s story is a bit more unusual; a local police officer from South Florida who wants to be a race car driver. I’m perhaps a bit immature in my view of law enforcement (it’s all Super Troopers to me), but we bond over the fact that we’ve both been in the service. Clint has been to the desert whereas I have not, so regardless of my feelings about local Florida cops he has my respect.

Also, he told a hysterical story about how his 1994 Viper recently got totaled, Ferris Bueller style, by a valet.

Back at the track, and over the course of the next three days we continue to improve our lines, shorten our braking distances and carry more speed through the corners. Our RPM limits are raised and some of my classmates really start pushing themselves and each other.

A couple of students push a little too hard and wind up taking a fully depreciated nose cone and/or rear wing assembly home with them.

Through the course Michai turns out to be a good benchmark. Because he finished fifth in last year’s ICA he gives me an idea what sort of speed would be required. While we weren’t on the track at the same time I nevertheless felt reasonably good about my pace, but I lacked the consistency I wanted.

I spoke to Andries, a former kart champ and current Indy Lights driver, about this and he gave me some pointers. Andries himself is product of the Mazda Road to Indy and was racing these very cars not that long ago so his insight proved particularly valuable.

The last two sessions of the course are run without the ‘Stop-box’ where we previously stopped once each lap to receive verbal instruction/exasperation/disbelief from the instructors over a walkie-talkie and I feel like I’ve finally found a rhythm. Apparently, not having to stop once per lap does wonders for one’s consistency.

Even after taking it a third time, the Skip Barber 3-Day Racing School remains one of those rare experiences that I wish I could universalize. It’s so much fun, so rewarding, and so educational that I wish everyone could/would take it. When I was 18 it was life changing, and at 44 it’s life affirming.

As a postscript on the 3-Day school, it did rain enough that I had a chance to test out the slick painted patch at start finish. Sure as hell I got wheelspin in 4th gear. Wow.

The Skip Barber 2-Day advanced school in early September is my last opportunity to make my case for inclusion to the 2013 Indycar Academy.

Entering the classroom my first impression is that the students in the 2-Day Advanced School look, perhaps predictably, a lot more like race car drivers than in the 3-Day school. Lots of people with their own Nomex, painted helmets, and embroidered blood types.

Several more Canadian karting champions show up, leading me to believe either that I’d now met all of them, or every karter in Canada is champion of something. They are preparing for the Skip Barber Karting Shootout, as is 19 year old American karting star Sabre Cook. Indycar Academy aspirants are also well represented.

Our instructors again include Carden and Andries, but the venue is changed slightly. This school is to take place on the iconic 3.7 mile 12 Hours of Sebring track configuration. The track is exactly as I remember from my visits as a spectator except that a chicane of sorts has been installed in place of the turn 7 hairpin. According to Carden, in some intervening year a sports car lost it’s brakes, went through the tire wall and landed on the highway in front of the track. I bet that was exciting.

Starting again with the autocross, I wind up chasing speedy Sabre Cook. Her website says she’s been racing for 10 years, has two world kart championships, and carries a 4.1 GPA. She also makes Danica Patrick look like James Hinchliffe. She ought to be easier to market than air, but she’s back for the karting shootout which she previously contested in 2011, because it’s just that hard to get a ride.

From the autocross we do some lapping sessions before taking part in the signature component of the 2-Day Advanced School; lead/follow sessions with instructors in the Skip Barber formula cars. Yes, the instructors are professional racers, and yes they probably have hundreds, if not thousands of laps on the Sebring track in these cars, but watching them pull away in front of you is still an odd experience; it’s galling and at the same time a bit satisfying knowing that theydo every bit as well as they teach.

It’s also worth noting at this point that despite their prodigious driving and education skills, there isn’t a trace of egoism or condescension from any instructor in either school. You might be saying, “And for what I’m paying there sure as hell better not be”, but ask yourself this; have you ever taken a SCUBA/firearms/skydiving class where the instructor didn’t think he was a Navy SEAL? I rest my case.

After the lead/follow, the rest of the course involves an awful lot of lapping with the primary difference between the schools being that we’re allowed to pass almost anywhere on the track including the approach to braking zones, but just not actually at the one and two markers.

This adds a great deal of realism to the racing experience, as if driving at 130 mph with your helmet wanting to lift up over your head isn’t real enough already.

By the end of the second day I’m pretty spent; we lost time on the first day due to rain which added a couple of sessions to an already full day. I’m exhausted in fact, but thrilled. I learned, listened, focused and drove my ass off without bending anything. Now it was time to wait.

THE CALL came out of the blue one afternoon from the now familiar 678 (Atlanta) area code, with my SBRS advisor Scott Hartinger on the other end- I was selected for the 2013 Skip Barber Indycar Academy and will be going to Sebring for the shootout! Not that I was expecting Publisher’s Clearinghouse, or even a singing Telegram, but I received the phone call with as much relief as joy. I made it to the show. Now the real work begins.

If you are interested in learning more about the Indycar Academy, click the link. If you want to follow along in real time, you’re in luck because the 2013 Skip Barber Indycar Academy starts TODAY, November 5, 2013.

I will be posting on Twitter (@keithori) in real time from the track for the next 3 days.

I also recommend following @skipbarberRS for official results, photos and information in real time, as well as the Skip Barber Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SkipBarberRaci…

Finally, if you want to geek out to real time, lap by lap results of the Indycar Academy, or pretty much any racing series short of Formula 1, get the RaceMonitor app for iOS and Android phones here: http://www.race-monitor.com/