What You Need to Know for Your First Racing School

What You Need to Know for Your First Racing School

It’s time to go to school. Driving school that is. No matter your current level of driving skill, there is always a benefit to spending time with professionals to sharpen your abilities behind the wheel. TREMEC partnered with Skip Barber Racing in 2021 to help new drivers learn how to drive manual transmission equipped vehicles. We thought it would be helpful to provide you with what you’ll need to know to get the most of your first driving school experience.

Skip Barber Racing offers multiple levels and lengths of schools to help both novices and professionals. Signing up is easy, and the school holds classes at various tracks across the country. We talked with Skip Barber Racing’s Dan DeMonte to come up with the basics for what a first-time student should bring and be ready to do when attending a session.

ABOVE: To have the best experience and chances of success, the most important thing to bring is an open mind. Go into things with the mindset “Hey, I can improve as a driver and these people are going to help me get better,” which will help you to absorb all the information and teaching given during the course.

What Should You Bring?

This is an easy one: you don’t need to bring anything to a Skip Barber Racing School session. The school provides all the necessary safety gear including helmets. If you have plans to attend tracks days, autocrosses or other open racing events, then investing in your own helmet is a smart decision. Companies like Bell Racing offer a variety of helmets designed to provide maximum safety for various driving/riding activities. Bell even has a section on its website the explains how to take measurements to help find a helmet that fits properly.

Dan from Skip Barber Racing says that bringing an open mind is probably the most critical thing to have a successful school session. A lot of us like to think we’re good drivers, but the reality is that everyone can learn more. Be ready to recognize areas you can improve on. Listen to the instructors’ advice on how to do things.

Professional racers attend Skip Barber sessions to improve their skills, fix issues that have crept into their driving, or learn new ways of doing things that help adjust for age. And they come in with an open mind ready to listen to the instructors who can see things they don’t.

How Should You Prepare?

Before attending your first racing school, it’s a good idea to start preparing yourself mentally and physically. This doesn’t mean going on crash diets or ramping up gym sessions. Dan says that the important thing for physical preparation is to be well rested and well hydrated. Showing up to your class tired and/or hungover will be a major roadblock to success. A typical class session is a total of 8-9 hours, with 5-6 hours of driving time and 3-4 hours of classroom instruction.

Just as much as physical preparedness leads to success, so does mental preparedness. Get your head cleared of distractions, stresses and other outside influences that can hamper your focus. You want to be mentally present for the entire class, the classroom time and when things move to behind the wheel. Be ready to take notes, ask questions, and soak up as much knowledge as you can to be a better driver.

And one last thing…leave your cell phone in your car. This will avoid the temptation to check email or social media during breaks which would distract you from the class you’re paying to attend.

Besides improving your driving skills, attending racing school gives you the chance to do something else…take a break! Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, whatever it is enjoy the chance to unplug and focus on yourself while enjoying the full stimulation you’ve signed up for. Imagine of the excitement of a roller coaster, except you get to drive the coaster!

What to Wear?

Might seem silly, but in today’s world it doesn’t hurt anything to state the obvious. No shorts, tank tops, or boots/heavy-toed/open-toed shoes. You’re going to be making a lot of foot movements between working the clutch, brake, throttle, and two of the three pedals during the school. Some sort of sneaker that allows for easy, quick foot movement is the best choice. Past that, comfortable pants that allow easy leg movements, and a comfortable short- or long-sleeve shirt.

ABOVE: Besides dressing comfortably in long pants and a shirt, the most important thing when it comes to wardrobe for attending a Skip Barber Racing School session is comfortable, lightweight shoes that will allow you easy freedom of movement while working the pedals. No heavy shoes or boots that will make foot movement clumsy and difficult.

Listen to Your Instructors

The last thing is to listen to the instructors. We’re all human, and it’s only natural to recoil a bit when someone points out we’re not as good as we thought. But before you show up for racing school, stop and tell yourself “Hey, they want to see me succeed and improve. Everything they say is meant to help me get better.” Listen closely to what you’re told in the classroom. Listen to the feedback when you’re behind the wheel. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re not fully comprehending a technique the instructor is demonstrating or having trouble understanding feedback, ask the instructor! There’s nothing negative about it. And it shows any instructor you’re focused on what’s being taught and really want to learn it.

ABOVE: The main goal for an instructor is to make you a better driver. And nothing makes an instructor happier than seeing a student who really takes in everything and shows solid improvement by the end of the course. Don’t let constructive criticism impact you negatively – the instructor wants more than anything to make you a better driver.