Why I Race...

It is a question I am asked from time to time. I was recently reading an Article written by Tony Kanaan shortly after the fatal crash of Justin Wilson. It got me to thinking why do I race? At first, it seems a simple question. My first reaction is a simple answer, because I enjoy it. But thinking further I wondered a little deeper. Why do I spend a lot of time and energy driving several hours away for a weekend to drive a couple of hours around a track with the goal of shaving tenths of seconds off the time I did it last or get around the guy in front of me. Probably seems silly to some of my friends, coworkers or even an outsider. The truth of it is there are many reasons here are just a few.

The Challenge

Racing is extremely challenging. You are focusing on feeling the car, looking where you want to go and hearing what is happening around you. You do all this while surrounded by other competitors that are all trying to be beat you. Not only is it physically challenging to drive a racecar at the limit but it is extremely mentally taxing.

TOTAL FOCUS

A lot of the hobbies I really enjoy tend to require a large amount of focus. I like activities where I can tune out all of the distractions from daily life and just focus on the task at hand. Things like Scuba diving or riding a motorcycle. Racing requires a lot of focus you are not thinking about whats for dinner as you are trying to keep the tires on the edge of grip and get past the car in front.

Competition

The competition is great. Competition challenges you further as you want to improve yourself and be better than the other racers around you. The great thing about a Spec series like Spec Racer Ford is it provides a reasonably level playing field. Since the cars are the same it is all about the preparation, your race craft and you ability to get the most of the car.

Working on Cars

I also like doing things with my hands and working on the race car gives me a great outlet. During a race weekend I can see direct results. Making sure the car is ready before the weekend and being well prepared has improved my results. In-between sessions doing the trackside checks, looking over the data and setup tweaks helps me see where I can improve. Annual maintenance allows me to learn more about the car and have more confidence on the racetrack. Of course no one wants to be repairing the car at the racetrack but it does happen, getting the car back together in time for the grid can be stressful and a great accomplishment at the same time.

Rewarding

The fantastic part about all these challenges is when you get it right, find new speed in a turn, move up the gird, get a new personal best time or even pass a fellow competitor it is very rewarding. When all the preparation and hard work pays off it is a fantastic feeling. When it doesn't it just pushes you a little bit more to be even better on the next session or weekend.

Community and Friends

The great thing about most racing and Club Racing in particular is the fantastic community that goes along with any event. I have made lots of great friends at the race track, especially in Spec Racer Ford. People help each other out, even if you are fierce competitors on the track, off the track you don't want someone to miss the next session. You will often see other racers helping each other repair a fellow competitors car. 

Once you’ve raced, you never forget it…and you never get over it.
— Richard Childress

James Chartres

San Jose, CA