In the two-seater instructional...
In the two-seater instructional car, the instructor rides along as the students spin and squeal through figure-eights to demonstrate how to control under- and oversteer.
Day Two: Students squealed through figure-eight exercises to learn how to harness over- and understeer. They then zoomed down to Turn 11 to practice smooth brake release before spending the remainder of the afternoon in lead-follow and open lapping sessions.
Day Three: The last day, students drove tons of open lapping with instructor feedback. The day wrapped up with students hopping into a two-seater car with an instructor at the wheel for one final, high-speed lap to show you how it's done.
"The limits of the car are so great that just trying to approach them is difficult," said Kerry Babinksi, a class participant who flew in from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The instructors are accomplished racers and industry heavyweights. McCormick started at Jim Russell in 1990 as a mechanic in the training program. He landed a couple rides, got into Sprint Car, then landed the gig as a full-time instructor. "Here, we teach the ground-up basics of racing," said McCormick. "These are skills that apply in oval track too."
The Jim Russell success-story poster boy, though, is instructor and alumni Dane Cameron, who came up through the karting program. He won the 2005 championship, got a partial scholarship with the graduate run-offs, moved into open-wheel cars, and has been competing nationally ever since. (Grand Am Rolex series)
Through the esses after Turn...
Through the esses after Turn 7B at Infineon Raceway, home of the Jim Russell School. The berms are painted blue and gold in honor of Track President Steve Page's alma matter, Berkeley.
"Jim Russell was a huge step for me to get into racing," said Cameron. "It was definitely what got me to the next level."
Scott's Two Cents
"Don't injure your tailbone before you go," says Scott. And he's not joking-try to be in tip-top shape for the school. This is a physically demanding experience. Honing reaction time, adjusting to different cars and learning the nuances of reading a track are all things you can take back to the short track. Come in with an open mind and listen to the instructors. No matter who you are or what you drive, you can improve your game.
You Should Go To Jim Russell If...
You're interested in driving an incredibly dynamic race car around one of the country's most famous racetracks. But also, it's for anyone who's serious about getting professional instruction to move your racing career forward. Because of the seriousness of these cars, a level of experience will better position you if you want to drive here-but a person with no experience will still learn a ton and have a great time doing it.
But Aren't These Schools Only For Road Racers?
No. The skills learned are very similar to those used by circle track drivers. "Most formula car drivers have gone through Skip Barber at some point," said Skip Barber's Kris Wilson. "But the same goes for IndyCar drivers and Stock Car drivers, such as the Jeff Gordons and the Jimmy Johnsons."
McCormick, with Jim Russell, said that circle track drivers get a huge benefit from attending racing school. "A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, they'd drive anything to improve their skill," he said. "They were well-rounded drivers. Road racing will make you work with its left and right turns. You can improve reaction times, adapt to new situations and challenges quicker, and analyze the track surfaces better through road racing."
Fellow instructor Cameron added, "Road racing has become more and more important to NASCAR and other major sanctions. There's a lot to learn just in general car control and basic techniques."