Fiat Track Experience
by Zach Maskell
Seat time. Nothing in this world will help you hone in your skills more than a day at the track. Sure, we drool at the opportunity to take a 600 horsepower assault car to its limits… but Zach Maskell is here to prove not even half of that will suffice nicely. Let’s go over the Edge and smile like the Grinch, as we learn from some of the best.
TERRY EARWOOD: What we’re going to do is literally, go play with some cars.
ZACH MASKELL: New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey is our gigantic cubicle for the day. Does Skip Barber Racing School ring a bell?
DAN DEMONTE: Skip Barber was started in 1975 by Skip Barber, who is still very much involved in the racing business. He’s 81 years old. They have created the preeminent, dominant iconic brand in drive and racing school in the U.S.
I think this year in the Indy 500, something above 45% of all participating driver have been instructed in the Skip Barber Racing School.
ZACH MASKELL: Jerry Seinfeld, Al Pacino and Danica Patrick as well. Either for kicks, or to earn your competition racing license… This is step one. On day one.
TERRY EARWOOD: Mark brought this equation to motorsports to tell us how hard we can run a car.
ZACH MASKELL: Mark Donohue. Not only did he race, but he set up his own cars as well. Mark’s Formula? 15 times grip times radius equals speed squared. For the math challenged. Come into a turn too hot and the car will force an even bigger turn.
TERRY EARWOOD: I used to be tall and handsome. Now I’m just handsome. But for years we got to ride with people and see what people do. What their natural reaction is. And we come off the brake and go to power and ask the car to go to power and why it pushes or understeers. And the answer is because the weights on the wrong end of the car. It should really be called under respond.
ZACH MASKELL: The first step in applying this to the real world. Feeling it on the skid pad. We’re equipped with Fiat 124’s.
ERICH HEUSCHELE: The 1.4 turbo is an Italian engine and it’s a small displacement engine that has a lot of boost and you’ve got to spool it up to have an active and involved driving experience.
ZACH MASKELL: Fiat’s Go-Fast nomenclature… Abarth. We take this rear drive car past its limit, and then try to reel in back in. Counter steer and feather off the gas… this skill is invaluable. The pro’s reminded us to keep our eyes up… and look ahead. A perfect warm up for the Auto Cross course… and you better be ready for surprises.
ZACH MASKELL: As he pulls the e-brake on me!
TERRY EARWOOD: You have video of that? Oh you probably do. No that’s fun. And as a teach I’m glad they still retain the hand brake, as so many cars don’t have that anymore.
ZACH MASKELL: Absolutely
TERRY EARWOOD: It helps you with a little rotation, that way it helps your car control, nice job. You have fast hands.
ZACH MASKELL: If you’re serious about learning, they’ll teach.
TERRY EARWOOD: Sweet, sweet.
ZACH MASKELL: Next up, a different animal. The front drive Fiat 500 Abarth. You definitely feel it’s 60% weight distribution up front.
MIKE STILLWAGON: Yes, there’s a lot more weight over the front of this car. Smaller tire too. Almost the same horsepower.
Zach Maskell: Varying instruction, on track explanations, and plenty of hype. We worked on fundamentals, and making each move smooth. I’m not sold on the horsepower wars manufacturers seem to be so keen on these days, because you don’t need to shell out all that cash to have an absolute blast. So what are you waiting for, sign up for a track day already!