RRDC/FIA Young Drivers Symposium boosts young racers
The Road Racing Drivers Club held its inaugural RRDC/FIA Young Drivers Symposium at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Orlando, in front of an audience of more than 150 young drivers, parents, media and RRDC members. Drivers from a wide variety of motorsports disciplines, including karting, Skip Barber, Jim Russell, Star Mazda, drag racing, SCCA club racing, Legends racing, Late Models and professional sports car racing, participated in the four-hour workshop, featuring industry experts Townsend Bell (sponsorship/branding), Jacques Dallaire, Ph.D. (mental preparation), Jim Leo, C.S.C.S. (physical fitness), Stephen Olvey, M.D. (safety), and Michael Zimicki (integrated driving).
Indy 500 champion and RRDC president Bobby Rahal was the moderator of the workshop, made possible through a grant from the FIA Motor Sport Safety Development Fund, lending his professional racing expertise to the group. Between speakers, Rahal introduced "Rev" video features (courtesy of Mazda and OnCars.com), covering pertinent subjects of performance, safety and training. Each participant took home a comprehensive workbook, which expanded upon the points made by each speaker.
"I'm extremely pleased with the RRDC's first effort in organizing this symposium," said Rahal. "The lecturers were absolutely the best and are true leaders in this industry. The information was concise, and having the workbook to take home just cements what the young drivers heard here. The fact that everybody was very attentive for four hours, didn't move and didn't fall asleep speaks a lot to the quality of the symposium and I'm very proud of the efforts of (event organizers) Tamy Valkosky and Jeremy Shaw and numerous RRDC members who helped make this first symposium a success."
"I thought it was very beneficial," said 18-year-old Brett Smrz, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a Jim Russell and Skip Barber series racer who also received an RRDC-supported Team USA Scholarship this year. "What I learned about safety and mental preparation in the four hours I was here will help me step up in my career."
Said Nathaniel Steele, 21, of Syracuse, N.Y., an FRCCA (Formula Race Car Club of America) racer and a marketing/communications college major, "I learned a lot from Dr. Dallaire. He had a lot of good mental tips, which are very important. It was great to learn so much about safety as well as getting advice from the experts."
Fourteen-year-old Natalie Fenaroli, of Kansas City, Mo., a Mazda Miata racer at Hallett (Okla.) Motor Racing Circuit, impressed the crowd when she performed over 30 push-ups at the request of Jim Leo. "I learned so much," she said. "The PitFit presentation (Leo) was really interesting. I'll have to keep up with that. And I learned a couple of new exercises that are going to help me. I thought Mr. Zimicki's presentation was really important, as well as Townsend Bell's. We do mainly cold calls (seeking sponsorship). It will be interesting to try his techniques. I think it could yield much better results."
Two additional RRDC/FIA symposiums are planned: in April, in conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and in May, around the Indianapolis 500.
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety, and has evolved to serve the future of road racing by mentoring new drivers on both amateur and professional levels. The Club now has more than 150 active members, including leading industry professionals, race officials and motorsports journalists, in addition to prominent racing names.
President Bobby Rahal is the 1986 Indy 500 winner and is co-owner, with David Letterman, of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winning Rahal Letterman Racing team. Six-time SCCA National Champion John Fergus is the Club's Vice President/Treasurer, and five-time Formula Super Vee champion Tom Davey is the Secretary. In addition to RRDC members lending their expertise to up-and-coming drivers, the Club presents three annual awards: the Phil Hill Award for rendering outstanding service to road racing; the Mark Donohue Award for personal spirit and performance at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs; and the Bob Akin Award for speed with style, passion, sportsmanship and contribution to motorsports. The RRDC also supports the Team USA Scholarship, which has been assisting young Americans in the early stages of their careers since 1990. Membership in the RRDC is by invitation only.