Wally Pankratz to teach racing lessons at Toyota Speedway Multi-time open wheel racing champion, hall-of-famer, and one of the most respected driving coaches on the west coast, Wally Pankratz, has opened up shop to teach racing technique one-on-one at Toyota Speedway.
Pankratz will concentrate on teaching in USAC midgets, tiny, high-powered, open-wheel, single-seaters that are the perfect tool for speed, set-up, car control, and tire management. "They're the perfect place to train, they just respond so nicely to adjustments, a new driver can make a change and really feel it," said Pankratz. "That's the best kind of instruction there is, it fosters self-confidence and a direct, personal understanding of what's going on under the driver."
Although all skill levels are welcome to enroll for this one-on-one personalized instruction, because of the intensity of the work, Pankratz expects to see drivers who have already done some racing, and who are serious about going forward in a pro career.
"We'll draw our students more from drivers who have raced for a while and who have maybe hit a plateau, or perhaps who need some serious tuning up on their technique," Pankratz told us.
"As one progresses as driver, there are places where a critical eye can spot a small flaw in technique, that once corrected, can yield large gains in performance." And Pankratz has a very well-earned reputation for being able to do just that with drivers of all skill levels.
Pankratz was born into racing, his father and uncle were both drivers and mechanics who worked during the burgeoning post-war racing business in the LA area. Many say that little Wally grew up running on the right rear from his baby carriage on.
"Actually, this is something of a homecoming for me," said Pankratz, who lives in the Nohl Ranch section of Orange County. "I was one of the drivers who was selected to test the track before the final wearing coats of asphalt were laid. We ran laps on the compacted base to get a feel of the banking and the turns. I loved it that first day, and I still do, more than 12 years later. For me this is a near perfect track to coach drivers on."
The list of drivers that Pankratz has formally coached is long and illustrious, an impressive group of young drivers who have talent and who have realized that (like any top pro in any business) they can greatly benefit from the studied eye of a mentor on their work.
"There's really no magic in what I do," said Pankratz. "I understand the basics and try very hard to put myself into the head of my students. To help them help themselves. My real job is to get them to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and then work to maximize the good and to eliminate the stuff that doesn't get them any further down the race track, simple as that."
Yeah . simple, clear, direct, and always honest, Pankratz is not set up for groups or for folks who just want to see "What its like out there." This is a graduate school for serious racers.
This will be intense training on an unforgiving racetrack that is specifically tuned to advance already good drivers to the next level and beyond.
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