Want to race? A newbie’s first look at Time Attack

Photo: Giancarlo Pawelec, AutoMotoFoto.net

Photo: Giancarlo Pawelec, AutoMotoFoto.net

I woke up Sunday morning to the rumble of butterflies in my stomach and a skip in my heart. My first thought of the day as the beeping of my alarm chirped away was “I can’t believe I’m actually racing today.”

Almost two years ago, I bought my first car – a 1995 Honda Del Sol that had more drama going on under the hood than the Kardashians. I knew I wanted to drive and I knew I loved my car, but to be honest I didn’t know much else. If someone had told me that in less than two years I’d be racing competitively, I probably would have laughed in disbelief, and driven off in my overheating wreck of a “race car”.

A few months later, I joined Team SGR. Girls on the team connected me with a mechanic who convinced my troubled Del Sol to start behaving itself. I also came on board as a student of the advanced driver training program and a volunteer with the organization.

A year later, here I sat. Pulling up to the front gates of the Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga for the season opener of the Canadian Sport Compact Series (CSCS), enthusiastically answering “Yes – my very first Time Attack!” when asked if I was competing or spectating.

I got in the lineup to register, sandwiched between an M3 and a suped-up Scion, and had a brief moment of doubt that sounded a lot like “girl, what do you think you are doing here – are you serious?”

I hushed the voice in my head, made it through registration, the drivers meeting, and went and parked my now well-behaved race car next to my miracle mechanic at ART Motorsports.

Enter the brief moments of chaos. Empty my car. Where is my helmet? Check the oil. How is my tire pressure? Amidst the hustle, before my brain even had a chance to freak out, I was lining up for lapping sessions, seconds away from hitting the track.

With the help of SGR instructor extraordinaire Anna He in my passenger seat, guiding me and helping me smooth my movements I made great strides throughout the day.

My movements become more coordinated as I was braking and shifting into my corners, my heel-toe technique started to come together for the first time, and throughout the day I got faster and faster.

Pro-tip for the noobs: lap times are on the computer under the tech/registration tent. I was on my third lapping session before I figured that out. From my fourth to fifth lapping session, I got my lap time down to 1:36.0 from 1:39.3.

The tight schedule of 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off to rest driver and car started to wear on me early in the day. To my fellow newbies out there – I can’t tell you enough the importance of managing your energy throughout the day.

The day moved on, and before I knew it, I was back under the tech tent, making friends with my fellow drivers and awaiting the second drivers meeting of the day that laid out the rules for the Time Attack competition.

We were broken up into just over a dozen run groups, and even though I was in the first (read: slowest) bracket, I was at the head of the pack, setting the pace for my group!

A brief break, and back into the pit lanes I went.

Alone in my car, at the front of the line, about to be the first car our on to the track, and the only girl competing, my brain had the time it had been looking for all day and my nerves finally caught up to me.

Then, I was being told to pull over, to let the group I was setting pace for go ahead. I was “too fast” and being moved up into the second group with lappers who I was more closely matched with based on the times I had set in practice.

In the quiet of my purring car, away from the crowds, away from my coaches, friends and family, the butterflies were back.

Butterflies in tow, out I went to lay down my very first competition lap.

My nerves ate at my stomach as I tried to put together everything I had been working on throughout the day. Brake later at corner one, tip my weight forward into turns three and four, settle the car into the chicane, eyes up at the exit of the last corner back onto the front straight and do it all over again 3 more times.

It all came together, but my nerves cost me. My final time sat at 1:38.0 – a full 2 seconds slower than my best time in practice.

I have a long way to go and a lot to learn still, but I know that my amazing teammates, talented coaches and superstar mechanic all have my back.

To learn more about the SGR advanced driving school and how you can compete in your first time attack, check out our schedule.


Suze first joined Team SGR as an advanced driving student in 2012. She volunteers for Team SGR supporting communications, social media, and events. Suze drives a ’95 Honda Del Sol and currently hails from London, Ontario.

Team SGR featured in the Toronto Star

Check out Lorraine’s recount of the day with Sarah in the Mazda 3.

An excerpt from Lorraine:

Who benefits from advanced driver training courses?

Everyone, actually. If you’re a seasoned driver who knows it all, a day learning from the perspective of the pros will show you bad habits you may have formed without realizing it, as well as changes in technology that can really create a whole new way to treat your car.

For new drivers, it’s a chance to create good driving habits before bad ones can form, and to provide a forum to ask questions and replicate dangerous situations they might encounter years down the road — or tomorrow. More >>


[Read more…]

SGR takes on Alan Nursall in the Discovery Channel!

Team Sweetie Girl Racing kicking butt with Alan Nursall

As a high school student, math and science were some of the subjects that I excelled in. Though I LOVED art, english and history, every test, every quiz and every question in math and sciences had one correct answer only – and made life seem easy to me. With university on the horizon, I was on-track to become an engineer and obtained all the necessary marks to get accepted into the prestigious University of Toronto and Waterloo Engineering programs.

Easy choice, right? Nope! A 180-degree turn at the last minute meant I chose to venture into graphic design, thinking I had given up any future hope of a technical career. A choice I sometimes reflect upon, knowing NOW how appropriate it would have been for my passion for motorsports. But nevertheless, it’s something I try not to dwell on…

So imagine my surprise to get an email from one of the TV producers from the Discovery Channel to feature SGR in the Alan Nursall experience!

Early morning track walk with Team SGR

The Alan Nursall experience is a segment on the Canadian television series Daily Planet that leans toward technology experiments beyond the lab. He’s frequently found interacting with students and people on the streets – “in the field” – and gets a kick out of getting people excited about whatever topic he’s exploring that week – and this is likely why Sweetie Girl Racing was his next target. We’re an excitable bunch!

Alan Nursall strapped into the go kart and ready to rock

Alan Nursall chasing down Team SGR

So on Friday June 24, the Alan Nursall Experience teamed up with Sweetie Girl Racing to  explore the science and geometry of the perfect racing line. Filming on a weekday proved difficult for a lot of our current Team SGR members, who carry full time jobs during the day. Luckily, summer had just broke out and we were fortunate to round up Katie Cheung, Brooke Trefry, Laura and Lilla Rupert, Varmini Singh and Shelby Grant – past participants and graduates of the Team SGR Kart Racing Experience – to strut our stuff!

Driving exercises while the producer Stephen looks on

Katie and Brooke lay the rubber on the track

The majority of the segment is focused on the central section of the Grand Prix Kartways track, where a combination of quick turns around corners of various lengths make up the most technical part of the track. We laid down pylons and explained the fundamentals of the optimum line – the best combination of arcs through corners and paths down the straights – as a tool to put yourself in a position to post the fastest possible time around the track. There were hits, there were misses, and everyone LOVED it!

Sweetie Girl Racing exploring the science...

Going through the science

and geometry of the perfect racing line...

And again... Thanks to Gary at thegarageblog.com for the awesome pics!

We finished off the segment demonstrating the Brachistochrone theory with two separate ramps and some hot wheel cars. Sounds easy enough, until you’re on the seventh take and the word “Brachistochrone” caused Alan to go into a series of tongue twisting mishaps that had myself and the girls giggling. Who said show business was easy?

Bah-b-b-b-brachistochrone Theory!

Stay tuned for the segment to be aired on the Discovery Channel later this year – follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates!

Alan Nursall with Team SGR

Team Sweetie Girl Racing kicking butt with Alan Nursall

Team SGR featured on NationalPost.com

Photo: Dana Bronsteter

Most driving schools cringe at the sight of rain, thunder clouds and lightning bolts looming the sky on their big day. Throw in a bunch of pylons, press cars and media folks at an advanced driver training event and you have the recipe for a very exciting day at the track.

Despite some waiting for the heavy rain to pass in the morning, our June 4 event got the spring driving season off to a great start. The group of students ranged from young drivers with brand-new driver’s licenses, to those with over 40 years behind the wheel learning, or shall we say unlearning, driving techniques for safer roads.

According to Jodi Lai from The National Post:

The clinic encourages drivers to use their own cars for the exercises, which include a slalom course, emergency stopping, crash avoidance and different weight transfer techniques. Understanding the physics behind your own vehicle and being able to test its limits is important for boosting a driver’s confidence and driving skill. And there is no better time to do it than under the watchful eye of an expert driving instructor so she can explain what you’re doing right and help you correct what you’re doing wrong. When you understand the physics behind your daily driver and know how it feels in different situations, you will be able to react more quickly and make smarter decisions to avoid collisions. More >>

Participants were also given the opportunity to test drive the new 2011 Scion TC in driving exercises, or go for a ride on the track with a racing driver. The Scion had to compete, however, with the delicious pulled-pork sandwiches we served at lunch.

By the end of the day, participants were driving confidently around the track with hands properly on the steering wheel and big smiles on their faces. Mission accomplished!

Our next advanced driver training experience will be on Saturday September 24, 2011 at Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga, Ontario.

Team SGR Advanced Driving Experience powered by Sailun Tires. Photo: Dana Bronsteter

Many thanks to our amazing volunteers and talented instructors. Thanks, as well, to Sailun Tires, Scion Canada, Fast WheelsWoodbine Scion and ABR racing for their support!

Feeling the Need for Speed at SGR’s Intro to Kart Racing

Photo: Jason Wong

Today, we’re at Grand Prix Kartways at Toronto’s Downsview Park for our SGR 1st gear Intro to Kart Racing. Our clinic will be less about getting dirty with our cars and getting behind the wheel of an electric-powered go-kart to build a foundation for safer, faster and smarter drivers!

We start off the day with a quick introduction, schedule breakdown and summary of topics we’ll be covering during the track walk. Most importantly, we cover the importance of vision, smooth inputs and the three components of a corner. Participants quickly realize that these three components – the turn-in point, apex point, and exit point – are critical to understanding the optimal driving line of the karting track.

[Read more…]

Testimonial: first time at the track!

Photo: Dana Young

My dad is the driving columnist for the Globe and Mail – when he told me I should go out to the racetrack to take advanced driver training with Team SGR I thought he was crazy.

At 25, I hold a G1 license. Living downtown my whole life I never really needed a car: everything was central to me and I biked and walked everywhere. While this was great for my health and for the environment, I realized I needed to be able to drive.

[Read more…]

First Gear – Intro to Advanced Driving

Team SGR at the Youth In Policing “Take It to the Track” Road Safety Event

Grand Prix Kartways (GPK) is proud to be a partner in the SGR – First Gear Advanced Driver Training Series

At a Glance

  • No previous karting, driving or racing experience required
  • Go karts are provided – no vehicle required
  • Clinics are run monthly from September to May
  • Clinics are held on either Saturday or Sunday from 9:00am – 1:00pm
  • Cost includes the use of the GPK go karts, helmets, 3 track sessions and a balaclava (head sock) to keep
  • Participants ages 10 & up and a minimum height of 50″ (122cm) tall are permitted
  • Spaces are limited and are reserved on a first come, first serve basis
  • Birthday parties, junior groups, corporate groups and expert level clinics for men and women are available upon request

About the Go Karting Clinic

The go karting clinic caters to the participants needs in a fun and pressure free atmosphere – just ladies …just driving. Topics of the clinic include

  • Collision avoidance
  • Cornering and passing techniques
  • Kart/vehicle control
  • Weight transfer theorum
  • Importance of proper vision
  • Personal handbook and on-track evaluation with personal observance of each driver

Each clinic will include classroom instruction, track walks and on-track evaluation with personal observance of each driver. Our goal is to make you faster by increasing your skills and your confidence. The specific topics and techniques learned will depend on the skill level of the participants.

About the Venue
Grand Prix Kartways is a state of the art karting facility that has the highest quality state-of-the-art electric go-karts for its racers. Not only are these race team stylized go-karts fast, they are safe, and environmentally friendly with no noxious fumes. They also have a track-side Café and VIP Lounge, welcomes guests to stay and enjoy live racing and other sporting events on big screen TV’s. For more info on their facility, check out www.gpkartways.com

Second Gear – Skidpad & Slalom Clinic

Our 2013 SGR Car Control Clinic will be held at Toronto Motorsports Park on Sunday May 12 in conjunction with a SGR track day.

About the SGR 2nd gear Car Control Skidpad & Slalom Clinic

The SGR Skidpad and Slalom clinic caters to the participants needs in a fun and pressure free atmosphere – just ladies …just driving. Topics of the clinic include:

  • crash avoidance
  • cornering and passing techniques
  • kart/vehicle control
  • weight transfer theorum
  • the importance of proper vision
  • personal handbook and on-track evaluation with personal observance of each driver

Each clinic will include classroom instruction, track walks and on-track evaluation with personal observance of each driver. Our goal is to make you faster by increasing your skills and your confidence. The specific topics and techniques learned will depend on the skill level of the participants.

Track & Open Lapping Days

Toronto Motorsport Park (TMP) is proud to be a partner in the SGR Ladies Driving Clinic Series – Third Gear!

At a Glance

  • Participants must be legally licensed with a valid Canadian drivers license
  • Vehicle required – vehicle must belong to the driver or includes a consent form from the owner to be used for this event
  • Cost: $349/person with a 15% discount for team SGR members and team affiliates
  • Spaces are limited and are reserved on a first come, first serve basis.

For our updated schedule, please click here.

About the Track & Open Lapping Days

The SGR Track & Open Lapping Day caters to the participants needs in a fun and pressure free atmosphere – just ladies …just driving. Topics of the clinic include

  • Importance of proper vision
  • Collision avoidance
  • Cornering and passing techniques
  • Vehicle control
  • Weight transfer theorum
  • personal handbook and on-track evaluation with personal observance of each driver

Drivers must be legally licensed with a valid Canadian drivers license
Participants are expected to bring their own vehicle for driving portion of the event.
Street vehicles & daily drivers welcomed!
Helmets: Snell 2000, Snell M2000 or SA 2000 or later certification. Loaner helmets will also be available.
The SGR Driving Clinics are set up to let you experience the thrill of driving your car without the perils of street driving including narrow roads, oncoming traffic and speeding tickets. Each clinic will include classroom instruction and on-track evaluation with personal observance of each driver. Our goal is to make you faster by increasing your skills and your confidence. This is the perfect place to safely experience the potential of your car and improve your driving skillset.

About the Venue
Toronto Motorsport Park is Ontario’s Premier motorsport facility that includes a road course and the infamous drag strip which is host to many popular events through out the year including CSCS and Pinks All Out Arm Drop. TMP is the official birthplace and home of drag racing in Ontario for over 50 years. It is the site of world class International competition and all things auto racing. For more info on their facility, check out http://www.torontomotorsportspark.com/