A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS
Allen Berg Racing & LA Racing Experience
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Dec 15, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Doug Stokes RACE … He said! In the Los Angeles-Inland Empire area we’re very lucky to have two very cool opportunities to find out what it’s really like to don the gear and drive a real race car, on a real race track … real fast! We’ll talk about them here by distance from L.A., furthest away first. Allen Berg Racing Schools at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana It’s also the newest, having opened this southern California branch just about a year ago. Owner and hands-on chief instructor Allen Berg is a former Formula One driver, a multi-time driving champion all the way back to Karts, and a successful (post-driving) race team manager. He’s the “go to” guy if you want to find out what it’s like to drive a quick, carbon fiber-chassisied, open-wheel, five-speed/sequential-shifting gearboxed, single-seat formula car on a snaking 14-turn road course. The Berg School not only gets one running hard and shifting quickly, it gives each driver a personal view that only a formula car can: You, four wheels, and the road ahead. Looking at the accompanying photos, you might notice that YOU are the windshield in these small bullet-shaped projectiles.
I wore the school-supplied driving uniform, but had brought my own helmet. At about lap three I realized why the school’s helmets all had those neat little duck-butt back wings stuck on. The aero in these machine is not only damn important, and YOU are part of it. All you really need are shorts, t-shirt, and a set of (your narrowest) tennis shoes. ABRS will supply the rest along with a quick ground school and then it’s out and onto the Auto Club infield road course. “4,800 RPM for the first session” sounded slow in ground school, and suddenly 4,200 RPM in fifth gear is whistling in my ears and I’ve still got 600 RPM to go. Wheeeeee! I did some racing (long ago) and think that I’m still a pretty fair driver, but my time in the cockpit at ABRS was something of a real workout. Do 20 or 30 fast laps in one of these and then watch a F1 driver jump out of the cockpit after 80 laps. You’ll get my drift. Best of all, ABRS uses a professional on-board data system (MoTec) system to log every lap, every shift, exact throttle position, every brake application (and precisely how hard you applied them). You really, honestly do not want to see MY traces, they were all immediately marked “Classified” and carefully stored in a large, nearby, cylindrical metal canister which was clearly marked: “_RASH” which, I think stood for: Racing Assessment (of) Stokes Here. But seriously, I recently watched a clutch of young lions do a segment of a national driver search in these cars. Of course they were intensely interested in the driving, but seemed just as interested in the post-drive readout of their laps. Precise is fast, and the sort of precise feed-back from a working IndyCar chief engineer that drivers can get at ABRS is a terrific tool in the right hands. This is a unique experience, the ABRS formula cars are very different animals and the experience is unforgettable for anyone who chooses to takes the challenge. And, just for quick: there are grippy Hankook slicks, exact Eibach springs, and professional quality Lucas Oil products in the engines and gearboxes are all there ensuring top performance every lap.
The LA Racing Experience at the Irwindale Event Center in Irwindale Bigger, noisier, colorful full-bodied and never any more than 15 feet away from a very hard, very unyielding crash wall, you’ll soon deduce that the professional Late Model stockcars at The LA Racing Experience at the Irwindale Event Center in Irwindale are the polar opposite of the above ABRS formula cars. What was your first clue? I think that getting into a racing car through the window should be a very big hint: ATTENTION: You Are Now Entering A Real Racing Car. This no door-slammer. This is a tube-framed, fiberglass-bodied, flat out racing car that is said to somehow resemble a standard street car but that’s really not even close. Those head and taillights are just decals, there’s no heater, no air conditioner, no passenger seat, the trunk has a 30-gallon fuel cell taking up most, if not all of the room, the tires are huge slick gumballs, the enormous disc brakes look like they came off a railroad train (big, serious stoppers), and the deeply-contoured seat and five-way competition harness seem to weld you into the machine. And that’s good because there’s soon going to be about a G and half pulling on you as you circle the Speedway. Oh yeah, there IS a radio, and the earpieces are racer-taped into your ears, but you won’t be hearing Tony Bennett or Coldplay. You’ll be listening to exactly one person, your professional race spotter (just like the big guys) who will talk you through every foot of every lap during your track session.
Listen and learn, because the professionals on the other end of the phone are so tuned in they might as well be riding with you, Listen to them (again, just like the big guys) and you’ll be going fast fast. “28, move up on the track about 10 feet. Better. Now start to squeeze the throttle on two clicks earlier. Right. That’s it. Let it run out. Right. Okay, okay, right. Great! NOW, let’s really roll it deep into the turn. Yeah, right! Okay!” Again, as at Allen Berg Racing School, at LA Racing Experience all essential driving safety gear is provided, there’s also a 30-minute ground school that the student’s guests are welcome to attend along with students. That is encouraged and actually turns out to be a cool way to share the singular experience of driving a big, banging, 500-horsepower stockcar on one of the most storied, most challenging banked half-mile ovals in the country. Two racing experiences. So different, but so alike. Some come to find out if they’ve got what it takes to go on to become a pro. Some come just to find out what it’s like out there for themselves and to perhaps better understand the dynamics involved to better appreciate the driving skills of others. You’ll be surprised how much more interesting a televised car race is when you’ve got some real race laps under your belt. Driving a few miles in the shoes of the pros is something that fans never forget and that always brings a heightened level of understanding and respect. Not for everyone, but then again, something that anyone can try. Both of these establishments of higher learning offer a broad range of curriculum from a few basic laps to highly-advanced competition courses, and on to very specialized one-on-one at track coaching all over the world. ABRS is authorized to recommend students for a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Regional Competition License upon the student's successful completion of the comprehensive Three-Day ABRS race driving program. Either way, in either type of racing machine, if any of what I’ve said above speaks to you somehow: www.allenberacingschools.com and/or www.laracingx.com are the precise numbers to dial. -DS DISCLAIMER: By way of disclosure, staff writer Doug Stokes is associated with both of the above schools. “But I’d say those same things no matter what,” he told us.