I’m in the doghouse at home. Perhaps I deserve it. I convinced the family we needed to subscribe to Netflix because of the streaming movies we could watch on our new DVD player, and also get a steady stream of DVD’s sent to the house to watch at will. Of course I had an ulterior motive – I had learned that Going Faster, the Skip Barber Racing School DVD, was part of the Netflix library and I was eager to study it. Several weeks later it is still in my DVD player and we still haven’t nudged the queue to the next DVD on the family list.
It’s not an addictive disc to watch, and it does cover a lot of the same ground as the iRacing driving school, but there’s a lot of valuable things which are spelled out and demonstrated on the DVD which are useful for anyone trying to learn more about racecraft; so much that I occasionally flip it on to watch a couple of chapters and observe their techniques in the Skip Barber school car (one or two generations removed from our current iRacing version, but still pretty close in size, shape and performance).
The DVD starts by introducing the three fundamentals for novice racers to learn: the proper racing line, car control, and braking. Each of these is explained in detail with diagrams and on track examples. The skidpad demonstrations were particularly interesting when instructor Peter Kuhn showed examples of induced oversteer and understeer and how to recover from them.
The next chapter is a discussion of downshifting by Harry Reynolds. This was what I was most interested in, given the recent change in the iRacing transmission model. Unfortunately, this was the part of the DVD I was least satisfied with, as it was a very cursory discussion on technique and the rationale for the methods and dangers of poor footwork. In my view, this is probably the most difficult thing to master, and perhaps a longer segment on this could have given a clearer walkthrough and slow motion demonstrations, along with advice to cope with common problems students struggle with on downshifting.
Following that is a detailed walk-through of a lap of Lime Rock in the school car, and then chapters discussing the friction circle (graphical depiction of the braking and cornering limits of the car), special techniques for racing front-wheel drive cars, and then an interesting discussion on racing in the rain, followed by an explanation of the signal flags.
At this point, most of the instructional aspects of the DVD are complete, but the best segment is the next one which shows almost a full Skip Barber race at Lime Rock using a camera mounted on Carl Lopez’s car starting from the back of the grid in 16th position.
The first lap reminded me of Ayrton Senna’s drive in the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donnington, since Lopez was in sixth position a little over a lap into the race — and that was with no overtaking going through Turn One at the start!
Granted most of his competitors were mere novices, but still it was exciting to watch him carve through the field in the first couple of laps. Even better were the battles at the front with the faster drivers, who were a bit more of a challenge and had him gasping for breath during his commentary at times. He was even re-passed by the leader once before he eventually put in a couple of fast laps and broke the tow he was using down the main straight.
During the race they also showed the dangers of over aggressive moves and not watching out for each other. In fact, two school cars were shown running into each other under braking for Turn One, resulting in one car flipping and sliding on its roll hoop before flopping back onto its wheels, which left the car in need of some lengthy work in the garage. Let’s hope they had insurance.
In summary, a great DVD. Although it is probably at least 25 years since it was filmed – as evidenced by the cars and the clunky monochrome computer displays, not to mention the unique sense of personal style which is distinctly mid-80’s – it is still informative and entertaining. At least as entertaining as whatever is next in the Netflix queue… The Muted Heart or something.