Formula Experiences founder Peter Heffring is a software developer who always dreamt of being a race car driver. He’s a man who doesn’t settle and has built a racing experience business like no other, offering personalized experiences for those looking to be a race car driver for just an afternoon or all weekend long.
Journey to Virginia International Raceway
My flight from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham was on-time and I was welcomed by Formula Experience’s business manager Heather Satterfield. She picked me up at RDU’s Delta terminal and we were on our way to Alton, VA. Funny thing is, I had just recently moved from Raleigh to Atlanta when Formula invitation came my way. It was nice to be home. Heather was the perfect hostess all weekend long. We made it to track in just over an hour.
Race Car Driving 101
After our dinner at the Oak Tree Tavern we set off to the training center which is just off their main garage. You’re welcomed by a half dozen cars in bright primary colors, black and white. The car numbered “88” is the one I want to drive. After our group stops drooling over the goods, we head back to the classroom and go through the paperwork. Driving a race car on your own, or as a passenger is serious business. There were forms to fill out and a $500 insurance premium, yes per person on top of the overall package, that needed attention.
There was a map of the track we would be driving on in poster format wall. Peter talked us through the drive, curve by curve. Next we were fitted for our suits, shoes and helmets. Now it was time to do a test run on the virtual track.
There were three screens on the simulator and our course was already programmed in. We took turns training in the virtual environment before it was time to suit up and go for our night drive.
It appears I forgot one thing when I was preparing for my personal formula experience, that I’m claustrophobic. The garage is a one mile drive from the track. As the crew was getting me settled in the passenger seat I started to panic. Up to this point I hadn’t realized how snug a driver is nestled inside the vehicle. As Peter pointed out in the class “You have to feel how the car moves and be a part of it.” The guys rolled me outside and the pure darkness became apparent under the Virginia skies. Peter hopped in along side me and that extra breathing room I had vanished. I made it to the track and politely requested to sit out the night drive. By the next morning I was ready to put the pedal to the metal.
Ladies and Gentlemen…Start Your Engines
After breakfast we selected our cars and were ready to get behind the wheel. Once on the track we had a professional driver that escorted us in another vehicle. Safety first. There were about eight people in our group and we all took turns driving their car doing a half dozen laps or so before heading back into the pit. So many emotions. It was nerve racking, exhilarating and dangerous all bundled together. It was also hot. The cars put off a lot of heat and the helmet, suit and fire-retardant shoes just add to it.
Finding the Thrill of the Drive
Do you remember that feeling you had the first time you rode a bike without training wheels? Foot on the gas I raced up the hill, accelerating coming into the curve, then slammed on my breaks just like a professional driver. Boom! There it was. I was one with the car. I got it. This is why people love to drive race cars. It’s fast, it’s fun and if you’re an adrenaline junkie, you’ll get your fix with every lap.