Sometimes it seems harder to put a foot in the door than on the pedal. For Aston Martin GT4 Challenge victor Rob Nimkoff – and second overall finisher at the Britcar 24-hour – the most tactical moves a driver can make happen before even getting behind the wheel.
For his 40th birthday, Nimkoff treated himself to a Skip Barber Racing School at Sebring.
“That’s really when the bug hit me,” he said. “I started with the racing school, then did a couple of Skip Barber races, then started with smaller club racing in BMW, PDA and SCCA, companies like that.”
Nimkoff continued this pattern for three or four years until becoming a BMW instructor. He joined the club at Lime Rock and thought, what the heck, he wanted to give racing a shot.
He spent that first summer at the club driving a lot of Spec Miatas, just to get a feel for how a track car felt. What he missed, however, was having a roof and cage over his head. It was time to go vehicle hunting.
“I’d never driven a Porsche before, so I knew I didn’t want an engine in the back,” he said. “I wanted an engine in the front, so that pointed me towards BMW, which I bought and started racing.”
A lot of people with no racing experience and no track experience will just jump into racing, and to Nimkoff, that’s both a difficult and dangerous choice. Instead, he advises doing as he did:
Join a club and get involved with their club base.
Get some instruction and start from that point.
Get out there. Nine times out of ten your instructor will be a racer or an ex-racer, which makes for a great opportunity to ask a lot of questions. Ask about what they do and how they race and what they think about it.
Do your homework. There’s a great book out there by Dave Gran called Go Ahead, Take the Wheel, and it’s a great, simple book (and now an acclaimed website: http://www.goaheadtakethewheel.com/) for people looking to get into racing, and it really debunks a lot of the mythology. Racing doesn’t have to be expensive; it doesn’t have to be dangerous. Research things, read, talk to people, ask questions. Start off doing club driving events and networking one step at a time, get out there and meet people.
“That’s what’s great about clubs like Lime Rock – it’s the perfect environment for networking with all kinds of cars. Drivers there have made a transition into racing, and they’re happy and doing well because they did their homework.
Finishing a race like the Aston Martin brings drivers a sense of relief and elation all at the same time. Crossing the finish line is a professional celebration, Nimkoff notes, but no matter the prestige of a course, each race has something in common with his first one.
“I was nervous as hell!” he laughed. “At my very first race, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to let myself down or make any mistakes, and it’s the same thing when you’re racing for another team when it’s not your car. The main difference between pro races and every other one was the scale and the level of sophistication in the equipment.”
Nimkoff’s goal this year is to make it to runoff championships in September. He also plans on going back to England for a series over there called Fun Cup.
If you’ve heard of Spec Racer Ford, well, this is Volkswagon Beetles that they modify and turn into race cars, and it’s supposed to be a blast. I’m going over with one of my other teammates from Connecticut and we’re going to be doing a US vs. UK driver competition. Other than that, I’m just focusing on the nationals and maybe doing a Grand Am race or two.”
From Stephanie: Thanks Mr Aston for your continued support and for your insightful primer on getting involved in this sport. Best wishes, dear friend and outstanding driver. Here’s to a lifetime of success . . . finding your line!
Please check our Rob’s site at: http://www.facebook.com/nimrodracing