Bentley - Building Future Champions
© Andrew S. Hartwell
dailysportscar, we like to keep in touch with our
friends in the sportscar game – especially those we don’t
see on the track as often as we would like. Ross Bentley is one
of those friends.
to the readers of dailysportscar, having raced
in just about everything from LMP 900 Prototypes down to karts,
Bentley is one of those multi-talented people who can do as well
as teach. A veteran sportscar driver and instructor, he has been
a busy man of late. He has authored three books on the subject of
driving racecars ("Speed Secrets - Professional Race Driving
Techniques", "Inner Speed Secrets - Race Driving Skills"
and his latest, “Speed Secrets 2”) and he runs the Speed
Secrets Development Camp, a place for new talent to show itself
We managed to
pull him out of the classroom long enough for him to give us this
update on his activities of late. It seems he has recently taken
on yet another role as a mentor to tomorrow's racing champions.
You can almost 'hear' the pride he feels in his young charges in
the words that follow.
to coaching the Quantum Autosports drivers in the Fran-Am series,
I'm way too busy! A while ago we started the Speed Secrets Driver
Development Camps, and that was a dream come true for me. Prior
to the very first program in April, I had a pretty good idea of
what it was going to be like to work with the young drivers - how
much fun it would be, how well the program would work for the drivers,
how our coaches would work together, and so on. Man, was I off!
It was better than I expected - way better.
we've had so far this year - all but one under the age of 18 - are
an absolute delight to work with. They soak up everything we have
for them. Their abilities in the car (for some, the very first time
they've driven a car) are better than I expected. The cars are perfect
for what we're doing, and the team (coaches and mechanics) I have
the first camp, I realized I had at least five days worth of material,
and only three days to cover it all! I decided I would just move
through the material over the course of the first camp as I felt
the drivers wanted and needed it. My goal for the camps are to pass
on my experience to the young drivers - without them having to spend
25 years to gain it. That's why I had so much material.
"What's come out of it is this: No two camps will ever be exactly
the same. Another goal of mine has always been to personalize the
program to the drivers, but it has turned out even better than I
thought it would in this area. It's like we have a menu of things
to cover, and we just pull up whatever the drivers seem to want
or need at any one moment. So, the program is even more personalized
than I had ever expected. This is one of the reasons we are so different
from the racing schools.
"One challenge we're facing is that some drivers who've been
through the program don't want to talk about it - it's their secret,
their competitive advantage that they don't want their competition
to have. So, the word of mouth marketing is a bit slower than I'd
hoped for, but I know that will turn around soon.
it's my turn to brag about a couple of drivers who don't mind talking
about their participation. You will hear a lot over the next few
years about Colin Braun (with Ross, right, and below). He came through
one of our Inner Speed Secrets seminars last year, and then he had
the best racing season of his young career (he was only 13 at the
time!) in karting. He won the SKUSA 80cc JR Championship, and was
the only American invited by Yamaha to go to the annual All Japan
Karting Championships event in Japan.
many people commented on how all of a sudden he seemed to be winning.
Thankfully (for us), Colin gave most of the credit for the step-up
in his performance to the training he received from us.
next came through our first Speed Secrets Driver Development Camp
in April. I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of young,
talented drivers in the past, but no one has impressed me more than
this kid (he's now 14 - although he has the maturity level of a
us were blown away by his ability behind the wheel, his technical
knowledge, his understanding of the business of racing (although
his father, Jeff Braun the engineer, deserves most of the credit
for this), his personal presentation, and his commitment and desire.
We believed, and we told anyone that would listen at the time, that
it wouldn't be long before he made a big impact on the racing world.
"We were right. Five weeks later, at Willow Springs, he made
his car-racing debut at the age of 14 years, 8 months. It was a
Fran-Am 1600 race. There would be two races that weekend. For the
first race on Saturday, he took the pole by 0.5 seconds. In the
race, he diced it up with four other drivers (all with much more
experience than he), and came out the winner. First race ever -
first victory. The youngest driver in U.S. history to win a professional
open-wheel car race!
and on Sunday he took the pole by over a second and led from flag-to-flag
to take his second win! Perhaps as impressive as his on-track performance,
his comments on the podium and after the race proved how valuable
he will be to his sponsors.
his budget and age will limit how many races he can compete in
this year, keep an eye out for Colin in the future. All
of the scholarship and shoot-out programs that various people are
offering these days are a great way to discover young talent,
maybe the natural selection process will still provide the real
champions of the future - guys like Colin.
"By the way, his next race is in a Formula Renault 1600 (same
as the Fran-Am 1600 here in North America) event at Dijon, France
on August 16-17. It's part of a program where the top young driver
in Europe, Maxime (Max) Hodencq will race at Thunderhill, California
on September 6-7 - kind of an "exchange student" program.
Max will be driving one of our Speed Secrets Driver Development
Camp cars - a good opportunity for us to prove that our "training" cars
are every bit as competitive as the cars racing. And, it's a great
chance for us to help prepare Colin for a race overseas.
"I could also tell you about how well Chris Wehrheim (above),
a strong competitor in the Stars of Tomorrow ICA karting world did
in his very first time behind the wheel of a car at our June camp;
or even how well our eCoaching (where we coach drivers by email
and phone with fantastic results) has worked with John Olsen, one
of the contenders for the Star Mazda Championship, or Lou Larimer,
one of the top GT-1 SCCA racers in the country; or about my upcoming
work with some Formula Ford drivers in Australia; or…"
get the picture Ross! You love being an instructor and guide
these talented young people. It shows, Ross, it shows. Now get
back in class and keep churning out those future champions!
Ross Bentley's website at: www.speed-secrets.com