RIDING THE CUSHION
And so we started off by going out and
doing a couple of slow runs, just to get
the feel for the world that is dirt-track
racing in a 360 non-wing car.”
In these circumstances, Dyson’s humility
works in his favor; he’s not overstepping
the mark, just piecing together the
various novel elements in this experience
in order to hone his technique.
Sure enough, his times start coming
down and, from trackside, you can
literally close your eyes and take in the
mechanical music of a driver letting it
hang out a little bit more every lap. As his
mental data bank builds, so does his
confidence and, consequently, his speed.
“One thing that really helped was Cory’s
explanation of how this works,” says Chris.
“He described keeping the car loaded as
being like swinging a pot of water. To work
successfully, it’s up to you to create the loads.
“But you’ve also got to factor in the
track conditions,” he continues, noting
some common ground with his more
familiar form of racecar. “It’s just like
driving on asphalt in drying conditions –
the track is changing every single lap.”
Changing quite fundamentally between
sessions, too. In intermissions, a water
truck plods by and two things alter. In one
section, the inside lines seem to become
harder, while on the banked outside lines,
the dirt turns slicker than snot. There, just
shy of where the cushion builds, there
appear to be piles of mud chunks. It looks
a treacherous combo – time for a novice
to receive further advice from an expert.
“When we had a couple of sessions
under our belt, we started working on
cornering lines,” says Chris. “We went out
in the truck and studied the way the track
develops over the course of the day, how
you’re supposed to work the cushion as it
builds up and how you can use that as the
guidepoint for where grip can be found.
“Once you find that grip, the turns arrive
quickly because you have so much torque
so you approach them at 80 or 90mph.
Mentally, it’s really an interesting exercise.”
While the overall experience is alien to
Dyson, he doesn’t overplay the “fish out of
Sprint Car and
School, based in
states its purpose
as “to give the fan
or racecar driver
some safe seat time
and instruction in a
sprint car or Ford
There are four
levels – Basic ($450),
– so students can
decide how far
they want to take it
There are height/
but the major
warning is that it
could turn you into
a sprint car addict.
water” theme. For one thing, the cornering
technique in a sprint car strikes a chord –
“I ran a 125cc tag kart a lot and to
drive it quickly you flick it on corner
entry, just like in this.” And his mission
on corner exits is even more familiar.
“It’s the same in every form of racing;
you need to get to the power as soon and
as hard as possible,” he says. “It’s just that,
in a sprint car, optimally you’re doing it
with the rear wheel about six inches ahead
of the right-front! ` That’s a little bit different
than driving a prototype sports car…”
The precious laps reel off and before
anyone wants to quit, the time’s up. My
pics are done, the video footage complete,
and the happy rookie has passed verdict on
driving a sprint car: “Tremendous and quite
addictive,” he grins. But it’s his follow-up
comment that reveals that Mr Dyson is
more than a driver; he’s a red-blooded fan.
“Wouldn’t it be great,” he muses, “if
they still made sprint car racing part of
the IndyCar championship?”
Yes, Chris. Yes it would...
“Once you find that grip, the
turns arrive quickly because
you have so much torque”
When playing in the dirt becomes educational...
The mix of surface texture is astonishing enough,
but anticipating and reacting to its constant
changes throws up even more of a challenge.