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Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 17:52:17 EST
From: "Peter Stuhr" <>
Subject: [E36M3] Derek Daly Academy - JUST GOT BACK!! (Very Long)

I just got back from the Derek Daly Formula Car School this past Monday. I have a tough time trying to tell people what an awesome experience it was, but I'll try and recap the 3 days...

Day 1

  • 1/2 hour Las Vegas Speedway tour. There were four students and two instructors. Jeff Bucknam was at the top of the Formula Mazda championship points for '98 and Jeff Shafer who started with Formula Atlantic last year teaming up with Anthony Lazzaro (he also drove one of the PTG M3's in the Petit LeMans). Great guys and great instructors! Bob Earl himself would work with us on day 3!
  • 1 hour classroom session. The session quickly reviewed the concepts of taking the proper line, trail braking, heel-toe downshifting, car control, etc. Clearly, beginners would get lost immediately. It was quickly apparent that an understanding and practice of these concepts before the school were necessary to get the most out of it (felt sorry for the PCA guys who struggled).
  • Suited up and went out to the infield garage to get fitted into the 4-speed Formula cars where they can adjust the foot pedals and seat/side padding (already starting to feel like Schumacher!).
  • Drive out to a "parking lot track" setup with orange cones. The outside was an oval and the inside was a figure eight. Our first 20 minute session was spent performing single, late apexes around the each end of the oval in 1st gear (1st gear gets you up to 80 mph!) to practice the line and familiarize yourself with the car. The instructors encouraged us to find the limits of the car. It's hard to describe the feeling of a formula car - but if you want to make an M3 feel like the slowest car on the planet with tons of body roll and horrible handling - the formula car will do it (I'm not joking here either!)!!
  • Lunch
  • Split up into 2 groups (1 instructor each group). One group spent a 20-minute session in the skid car (318is on a hydraulic platform around the figure eight) on the figure eight while the other spent time on the oval getting into 2nd gear on the straight and heel-toeing down to 1st before the turn. You didn't use the clutch on upshifts and there ain't no synchros to smooth out the downshifts. These are straight cut racing gears (sounds hard - but it actually made it easier to shift - talk about a short shifter - there's all but 2cm separating first and second). After 20 minutes, the groups switched.
  • Last sessions of the day involved more skidpad training and getting up to 3rd down the straight and heel-toeing twice down to 1st before the turn.

Day 2

  • 1 hour classroom session doing the "line talk" for the infield 1.1 mile road course. Further discussion on the concepts of entry/exit speed and sacrifice corners were discussed in arriving at the fastest line around the track.
  • Suited up and headed out to our cars in the infield.
  • Immediately fired off two 20 minute lapping sessions before lunch. The first was a lead/follow with the instructors brining us up to full speed. The second was a full-out lapping session with passing on the front straight. One instructor remained in his car out on the track while the other watched from various vantage points in the infield. We met up in the garage after the sessions to discuss.
  • Lunch
  • The afternoon consisted of three more 20 minute lapping sessions, each one followed by a pit back into the garage and downloading our data from the car to a laptop for analysis. This was awesome! They would find our best time and compare it to the instructor's best time for analysis. This is where the hunt for lower times begins. You can visually see where you are braking into the turn, how long you're holding on, when you get on the throttle, when you're shifting, etc. compared to the instructor. Another graph shows an accumulation of the time lost as you made your way around the track. I couldn't come close to giving the Stack Data Acquisition System it's fair due here so I won't even try (these charts showed why we were all at least 3 to 4 seconds slower per lap than the instructors!).

Day 3

  • Here's where the racing concepts come into play. A 45-minute classroom discussion reviews the concepts of passing and starting a race. The rules of the SCCA are followed. The morning exercises are explained.
  • Suit up and head out to the track.
  • First exercise is for passing. An instructor follows you down the front straight on the inside line nose-to-nose. As he dives for the apex, you back off and blend in right behind him at track out. The next time down the straight, you dive to the inside and take the line and the instructor blends in behind you at track out. If you weren't working with an instructor, you were open lapping on the track.
  • Next exercise was starting a race. We gridded up two by two with the pole sitter on the front inside spot, next person on the front outside, etc. We headed out on the track single file, but by turn 6 we were in our "grid" configuration with the pole sitter setting a first gear/3500 RPM pace. As we came around turn 9, the instructor gave us the green flag and off we were! Diving for position into turn 1, we had to follow the SCCA rules about passing and giving the proper line to the right person. After positions were set in turn 1 everyone would follow single file in the new positions, grid up by turn 6 and take the green flag down the straight. Everyone was going past the braking cones, locking up, smoking wheels - all trying to gain positions (all of this with Bob Earl at turn 1 observing). What a blast!
  • Lunch
  • The afternoon was where we brought it all together. We had two more twenty-minute open lapping sessions, with our instructors and Bob Earl analyzing the data. They were very critical and wanted to see that the mistakes of the first and second days were being worked on and that the lap times were coming down.
  • Went back to the classroom for our SCCA regional licensing test. That combined with your performance on the track and the passing/starting exercises qualified you for an SCCA regional competition license (3 of us passed, one of the PCA boys failed).

That in a nutshell tries to describe the experience during the day (Las Vegas at night is another story!). I did a lot of research on the other major schools that give you SCCA regional licensing (Skip Barber, Bob Bondurant, Jim Russell) before deciding on Derek Daly. It appeared that the others had outdated cars, Skip didn't give you any track time (no open lapping until the last session of the last day!), while Bob was for beginners and too basic (not really what the bimwads and PCA guys need). A recent article (written after my decision) in Automobile magazine confirmed it when comparing the different schools! It should be noted that all excercises are done at full speed with the exception of the intial lead/follow on the second day. You must be confident in your driving to get the most out the school!

My advice if you're interested in a school and want to get the most bang for the buck - get Skip Barber's "Going Faster" book ($29 instead of $2400 for his school), read it thoroughly, practice the techniques and concepts at various BMW and PCA events until you're pretty darn good (you won't get much practice in at Skip's school). Then, invest in Derek Daly's school and see how far to the limit you can take one of his cars under their careful instruction. You will not be disappointed!!

NOTE: Bob said the school will soon go from 3 to 4 days. This will involve a 2 day GT school with the BMW Z3 and the last two days in the formula cars. Check out his website_at_ for more complete info.

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