Feb18–VIR–NASA–Part2-CompSchool

Hello FastLap followers, it has been a busy spring so far so I apologize for the delay in updates.

Much of the offseason (Dec-Feb) was spent with final race prep to the 2003 BMW M3 #72 I planned to begin racing. Kill switch, Fire Suppression System, Window & Center Net, Motorola 2way Radio setup (for communicating with Crew Chief & Spotter during races), larger switch panel and a few other race required details along with a full refresh of the suspension components, wheel bearings, etc.

Feb 18th was NASA MidAtlantic’s first Competitive Licensing School of the year and upon successful completion you were allowed to participate in your first races that weekend as a Provisionally Licensed driver. Complete 4 races clean and get your official hard card license, complete 8 races clean and clear yourself of rookie status (R’s next to your #’s & a bright orange rookie plate on the rear of the car).

I passed comp school with flying colors, being challenged by but enjoying the discussions and drills associated with the licensing school. NASA’s comp school is more of a long test day than an actual school like other organizations have. There are certain criteria you must meet before you are even allowed to participate in their compschool, including a fair number of days in Advanced DE, a fully prep’d race car (you can rent one) and signoff by the Race Director for the region.

That Friday Feb 18th was an exhausting day. 4 x 40min sessions on track, 4 x 60min class room sessions, and intentionality little to no break. Students were joined by seasoned racers during the track sessions (on track with you, not in car with you) to evaluate you. The seasoned racers while keeping a close eye on all the students for evaluation liberally “mixed it up” with you during the drills… ie basic harassment to ensure each
student could keep a cool head.

I’ve turned a couple laps here and there totally offline during DE sessions and have had quite a few days experience passing in corners in advanced DE sessions but nothing had compared me for what comp school puts you through.

First session instructions were: 40 minute session, 20 minutes using only the left side of the track and 20 minutes using only the right side, drive at 9/10ths the entire time and no cheating in corners as the corner workers were instructed to radio in cars crossing the center line at any time and seasoned racers
were on track with you driving wherever they felt as they watched the students closely. 40 minutes of driving 9/10ths on parts of the track I’ve never seen before, wow – that was exhausting.

Now an hour of classroom, then on track session #2. Instructions, 40 minute session, 20 minutes on the right, side by side with an experienced racer in a similarly performing car, then 20 minutes on the left, side by side with the same racer — oh and if you (as the student) don’t keep up with the racer, black mark
to you! Nervous driving that 9/10ths with someone next to you? Play it safe and leave lots of room between you and your partner … nope, you were warned, if that happens another random racer would join you by sliding in between you and your partner for some 3 abreast action! It was amazing how quickly you become
comfortable with another car right beside you – this drill was fantastic as it built on the first on-track session.

short break for lunch, more class room and on track session #3 – this time leap frog drills with your partner. Instructions were, take turns passing each other going into Turns 1,4,10,OakTree & 14 (this was at VIR). After 40 minutes of passing 5x per lap I was tired, that is a lot of concentration and your experienced
racer partner didn’t make the passes “easy” either, you had to battle for them with increasingly more effort as the session progressed.

More class room, session 4 was race starts, 2 standing, 2 rolling followed by a 20min mock race … yup the experienced racers were out with us during the starts and race to make it more “exciting”.

Pic of additional class and rookie livery while tearing it up during the mock race at CompSchool.

It was now about 5pm, you are mentally and physically drained from the day of class and drills – time for a written test! first page was a bunch of multiple choice questions mostly with flags, passing rules and at-fault incident rules. The second page was essay situation based – for example, if there was a car off track at the
exit of T3 and an emergency vehicle between T2 and T3 what flag or flags would you expect to see at each of the flag stands 1 and 2.

My class of 12, 11 of us passed. We were told that our class was one of the highest % passing rate for many years. Weak on-track performance noted by either your racer partner or any of the track side “judges” or corner workers, or a non-passing score on the written test would be grounds for failure.

All and all, I felt the NASA-MA CompSchool, for being a 1 day school, did an excellent job of preparing and evaluating student readiness to race. Last year there were many people encouraging me to sign of for comp school and start racing, I’m glad I stuck to my original plan and waited until I had nearly 100 track days
under my belt. Had I tried that school after 40 days I think I would have been completely overwhelmed and failed.

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