It was an hour before noon, but already the heat rose in low, wiggling waves off the oil-streaked asphalt at Riverside International Raceway, sending the Box Springs Mountains in the background into a shimmering dance under the California sun. On a small bluff overlooking Turn No. 8, four men stood in a group, watching a small, sleek race car with a blue streak down its nose come whining toward them through the straight. As the BMC Formula Junior passed the first cutoff marker, one of the men punched a stopwatch.
The car began to angle into the corner, and the whine lessened as the driver backed off the accelerator. He braked and the car slowed. There was a quick bur-r-r-p as he downshifted into third. Then he was into the turn.
"He looks good," said one of the kibitzers.
"He's too fast," said the man holding the stopwatch.
Pete Brock has watched a lot of cars come into Turn No. 8 at Riverside and, as usual, he was right about this one. The front wheels angled in toward the apex of the curve, but the car refused to follow. It began to slide toward the outside of the turn, toward the flat scrubby grass that lines the road, farther and farther off the intended line. Then the driver, who a moment before might have been Phil Hill, suddenly began to look more like Aunt Minnie in a white crash helmet. In desperation he hit the brakes—and the little car turned into a top. The back tires lost all adhesion and broke away completely. The car spun around once, halfway around again and off the course. There was a large puff of dust, and then silence.
When the dust drifted away, all four men were standing by the car, peering curiously at the driver, who peered back from behind his goggles like a sheepish owl.
"I shouldn't have braked?" he asked.
"Not in the turn," said Brock. "You should have braked harder before the turn." He grinned. "If you had made it around, you'd have set a track record." He checked the car over quickly. "O.K.," he said, "go try it again."
A few basics
The driver and the three others standing with Head Instructor Pete Brock were students at the Carroll Shelby School of High Performance Driving, the first institution of its kind in America and one of the few in the world. Not everyone is fascinated by the problems of taking a precision-engineered automobile through a complicated racecourse at high speed, but if you happen to be one of the afflicted, this is the place to learn. In operation for a year, the school has already produced several outstanding sports car drivers and taught dozens of others enough of the fine points of racing to add a great deal to their appreciation of the sport.