If you ever have the opportunity to attend a high quality racing school, you will find that the experience is worth more then its weight in gold. While the amount spent could easily buy a few more horse power for your daily driver, in the long run you will be better off being able to squeeze the most out of any vehicle you climb into. Programs like Skip Barber’s allow individuals to push their own limits as well as those of their vehicles in a safe and controlled environment. Skip Barber allows their alumni to hone their skills in everything from “fender cars” like the Lotus Elise and Mazda Miata to a much more visceral open wheel Formula machine. The school usually uses a wingless single seater with a traditional H pattern gearbox to instruct their students, however on the day that we showed up for class we were pleasantly surprised to see that we would be driving the cars that compete in their regional racing series, the Formula 2000.
Like a true racecar, the Formula Skip Barber 2000 is based around a steel space frame chassis much like that of the old Formula Ford racecar, a proven cost effective rigid body that has been lapping track around the world since before most of us were born. Despite the Mazda logos on the winged Reynard designed fiberglass body work and side pods, the engines are carried over from the school’s involvement with Chrysler, so the Formula Skip Barber 2000 is powered by a 2.0 Liter 16 valve four banger that has been modified to withstand the constant full throttle abuse of the track. The oil system has been converted to a hybrid dry sump, the ECU has been retuned to advance the ignition timing a bit in order to get the most out of the old Neon motor while a conical K&N air filter and custom racing headers allow the motor to breathe much easier. Providing a genuine racecar feel, the power plant is mated to a Ricardo 5 speed sequential gearbox meaning that in order to shift up all you have to do is quickly lift off the throttle and pull back on the billet shifter, while downshifts require a bit more heel toe expertise.
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One thing they teach you is that the driver’s main task when on track is tire management, and after snaking your way inside the close confines of the tight fitting jungle gym and find yourself laying down a lot more then you think is that it they have a point. While these cars compete on slicks that provide much more grip, we were learned with a more traditional set of BFGoodrich g-Force radials. The street tires may have provided a bit less traction than the race rubber, but their much wider slip angle made them much more forgivable and thus the perfect tools for teaching.
Another thing that you learn about racecars after everything comes up to temperature is that they can stop better then they can do anything else. While the track tuned suspension made up of custom bits will allow you to take turns at up to 1.4g, when you stomp on the middle pedal with about 200 pounds of force the Formula 2000 will respond with 1.5gs of deceleration, that is as long as you don’t lock them up. Even though most street cars can travel faster in a straight line then our Formula car they will be hard pressed to keep up around the turns. Not to mention that with so much solid steel square tubing so close to your soft fleshy body and the upper half exposed to the elements we promise that you won’t feel too compelled to push beyond the Formula car’s 135 MPH top speed.