I have been racing Mazdas on the track in wheel-to-wheel competition since 2013 and I have learned quite a bit.
I am nowhere near being the best driver. I have good moments and plenty of “WTF Derrick” things which happen on the track which are masked by good car control.
2 years ago I bought a Spec Miata (SM). Locally the number of B-Spec and Touring 4 classes are smaller. This is not great for me, as I find my racecraft suffers when I get too big events where there are more than 5 cars and the racing is close. I can always fight my way to 2nd or 3rd place but the top step has been elusive. Don’t get me wrong, I can go to events where there are other T4 cars (they are not unicorns) but the travel cost, time away from CorkSport, and fuel gets pricey really quick when constantly towing to southern California.
I took the SM out a few times last year and found I was way off the pace I needed to be to even get into the top 25% of a Ppec Miata field at any events. The Northwest has a really strong group of SM racers who are more than happy to beat the illusion out of you that you can drive fast on the track.
This year I have been working on the car setup and updating the drive train to the best I can get for my car. I worked with Haag Performance to get one of their SM 1.6 engines which have been winning races up and down the west coast. I have been also talking with Joe Jordan on car setup and general SM advice as he has gone down this road before with multiple SM drivers including Joey Jordan and Will Rodgers to get them to the top.
Before the season started I knew I wanted to get some top-level coaching so I looked locally at Pro Drive Racing which offers race school for SCCA certification and high-performance driving classes. After few emails finding which event I should show up with my SM it was determined the June 5th high-performance school would be the best bet and I could get someone on one coaching with Todd Harris the head instructor.
I have struggled with the braking too much in the corners, as past instructors/coaches I have consistently mentioned this to me. I needed to overcome this if I was going to have a chance to match times with the top 25% of the field. With Todd strapped into the “Thrill Seat”, we hit the first session at speed so he could see how/what I doing and work on it.
This was a good news and bad news sort of ride. He found my approach and driving style to corners works but it was not the fastest way through them – I was giving up cornering speed and to be able to get back to the throttle quicker. By simply backing up my braking zones I had more control in the corner which allowed me to stay committed to the throttle without having to modulate it after the steering wheel was turned. This doesn’t seem like a huge thing but the feedback from the SM was drastically different. I was able to roll speed into the corners and carry a few more MPH. Heading onto a straightaway this is huge. I spent the rest of the day fine tuning the changes and making sure they stuck with me.
By the time this blog goes up, I will have raced again at the Oregon Region SCCA event at Portland Intl Raceway and found out how much the school improved my driving technique. If I don’t screw it up too bad I should be able to take a second out of my lap times which in SM is HUGE! The weekend of June 29th I will be at Sonoma racing against 40 other SM drivers to really get a feel for where I am at skill level wise, I am prepared for this to be humbling, lol.
So, my advice to you, if you ever have a chance to take a driving school I really recommend it and specifically Pro Drive if you are in the Portland Oregon area. They run a great program and you get one on one seat time with some of the best local drivers and instructors.
Look for future updates here at the CorkSport the blog on how it went.