The Allen Berg Racing School (ABRS), located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is a small but extremely professional race school, and home to a fleet of six Formula Renault 1600 race cars each with an Italian-made, carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. The school's owner, CEO, and chief instructor is former Formula 1 race driver Allen Berg, who competed during the infamous turbo-era of the mid-'80s.
ABRS has been in operation for two years offering streetcar, winter, racing kart, and their flagship formula car programs. The formula car program consists of half-, single-, and two-day courses as well as advanced lapping days for previous graduates. I was invited to experience the one-day course this past summer.
Once you register, don the appropriate equipment, and consume a light breakfast, the day begins with the first of several group classroom sessions on driving theory--vehicle controls, cornering, braking, friction circle, and so on--track exercises and safety protocol explanations. The group is then led to the pit area for orientation of the Formula Renault. Students are split into pairs and personally fitted into an assigned car. Group one goes on track to perform slalom exercises and alternates with group two, which is lectured on vision theory followed by a peripheral vision exercise in the pit area. The groups alternate between additional classroom lectures and in-car, heel-toe downshifting exercises on track.
Next comes a guided tour of the entire road course. Students are then set loose for a lead-follow session in the formula cars. This alternates with touring car lapping with a professional instructor in the passenger seat who provides feedback on driving line and smoothness.
After lunch, it's back on the track for open lapping sessions in the Formula Renaults. This allows controlled passing on the main straightaway for a smooth flow of traffic, while at the same time keeping everyone safe and learning at their own pace.
ABRS uses the MoTeC data and video acquisition system on all the Formula Renaults, allowing full analysis of each student's laps between on-track sessions. Berg himself provides feedback, encouragement, and instruction to each student personally in order to improve their on-track driving performance. The MoTeC system acquires track position, speed, engine revs, lateral, acceleration, and braking force, gear, steering position, throttle position, and brake pedal pressure. Student data can also be compared to pro data for speed, driving line, braking points, shift points, and g-forces. There is no faking or hiding out there--the data never lies! For example, your heel-toe downshifting can be completely critiqued to the last detail, as they can even tell if you lose or gain brake pedal pressure during each heel-toe "blip" operation. The software also tabulates lap and section times, providing hard data that reveals improvements throughout the day, analysis of consistency in each session, and an estimate of a student's theoretical best lap time.
Another excellent selling point rests with the Formula cars themselves. Yes, they're 100 percent European, built in Italy by specialist racing constructor Tatuus in the same factory that produces chassis for a number of Formula 1 teams utilizing similar chassis technology (see www.tatuus.it). The double wishbone monoshock pushrod suspension represents the latest technology currently used in all advanced formula race cars as it reduces both weight and air resistance. Gearboxes are five-speed sequential transmissions with "no lift shift" upshift programming, akin to those used in Champcar, IRL, and Formula Atlantic, while the powerplants are Renault 1600cc, fuel injected, inline four-cylinder engines rated at approximately 140 hp.
Getting in and out of a Formula Renault takes a bit of practice. With the removable steering wheel clipped in place, you'll find the cockpit a very tight place indeed. Once under power, you find that there is actually just enough room to turn the steering wheel and operate the gear shift. The sequential shifting is fast, smooth, and precise, backward for upshifts or forward for downshifts (clutching required). Power comes on strong in these lightweight winged missiles, and upshifts are particularly satisfying with the no-lift programming. The feeling of speed is enhanced by the fact that there is no speedometer, only a simple LCD display with tach, gear position, shift lights, and engine temperature. The braking system is also extremely effective due to the low weights, and provides excellent feedback from the fixed piston calipers. Road feel and handling is where Formula cars excel. You feel completely connected via quick-ratio steering with a seat-of-the-pants feel through all four wheels. Cornering ability is truly exceptional; the ultra-firm suspension tuning and aerodynamic downforce are capable of over 2 g in the hands of professional driver.
ABRS's Formula car program comes highly recommended for the intimate and professional race school experience, modern race technology of the Formula cars and data acquisition, and for face-time and idividual feedback from a former F1 driver. Also, as an extra bonus, each student is provided with a 2GB USB card with their in-car video, GPS data, and a copy of the MoTeC software with full instructions, as well as a variety of photos that were taken during the day. Book your seat now before word gets out.
Car Spec: Formula Renault 1600Chassis
Carbon-fiber monocoque with engine/gearbox stressed member
Monoshock pushrod front, twin shock pushrod rear
1600cc I4, fuel injection, Magnetti Marelli engine management; 140 hp
Five-speed sequential manual
Twin independent circuits, two-piston fixed caliper with solid steel rotors
Wheels and Tires
OZ center locks, Sumitomo HTR200
440 kg (968 lb, ~6.9 lb/hp)
Price as Driven
(including MoTeC I2Pro data/video system): $90,000
What you get at the one-day Allen Berg Racing School program
Use of track-equipped Formula Renault 1600s
Use of driving equipment: Sabelt race suit, gloves, and full-face helmet
Exercises and extensive track time driving the Formula Renault with GPS data logging
Group classroom driving theory, track protocol, and GPS debrief sessions
Gourmet lunch and refreshments
In-car video and GPS telemetry of your laps, MoTeC software, and photos of the day on a USB memory card
Face-time and personal feedback from a former F1 driver
Advanced lapping day: $1,680*CDN
Allen Berg Racing Schools