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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Senior racer takes driving to the extreme

Senior Christian Kinder remembers being a 3-year-old and watching in awe as his father, decked in a racing suit and tucked snugly in his sports car, whizzed around on the race track.

Since early childhood, Kinder has been attending his father’s racing events and watching from the stands — his family often says that he was “raised in the passenger seat.”

After years of watching his father race and being fascinated with everything about cars, Kinder started kart racing at 12 and later expanded into sports car racing in high school. Since junior year, he has dedicated himself to sports car racing.

Both kart and sports car racing fall in the category of open track racing, where drivers navigate through race tracks filled with steeply-banked, sharp turns and blind, rollercoaster-esque drops.

“A lot of the times, there are corners where it’s steep — I’ve experienced a 10-story drop in one turn,” Kinder said. “It’s so much fun. Other sports don’t give me the same exhilaration that has always intrigued me while racing.”

Recently, Kinder started the process of getting his Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) club license at Bob Bondurant Racing School in Arizona. This designation would allow him to be able to race sports cars competitively.

Although the procedure of obtaining a racing license is similar to that of a regular driving license, he said driving a race car is like trying to maneuver a tractor moving at 200 mph while being strapped back and shaken around forcefully.

“The braking compounds are much more aggressive, allowing you to brake harder,” Kinder said. “Depending on cars, you have a lot of horsepower and a lot of aerodynamic grip.”

In addition, a slight movement in the driver’s seat can impact the movement of the entire car, which does not have suspension. Many experienced drivers are able to take advantage of the car’s sensitivity, pushing themselves to the back of their seats to gain more traction and speed while they make a turn.

This minute detail helps racers improve by a few tenths of a second, which could be the difference between ranking high or low.

Depending on his schedule, Kinder attends racing events at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas and Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, all of which are about two to three hours away. In order to prepare drivers for competitions, each event consists of alternating driving and reviewing sessions, a process similar to that of obtaining a racing license.

“It’s essentially like a driving school,” Kinder said. “I work with my instructor, and after driving for a while, we debrief how to go faster. Then I just keep repeating that over and over again.”

When he is not attending events, Kinder reads books on racing methods and watches online videos of other drivers navigating the same courses — in hopes that in the future, he can “become a faster driver” and be “a force to reckon with.”

At his events, Kinder is able to bond with many other racing enthusiasts over their shared love of cars.  He meets racers who fall in an extremely broad age range — as young as 14, and as old as 80. The members of the racing community, who he says are very friendly and open, chat about different types of cars and exchange speed secrets and tips on how to better execute turns.

“Everyone has the same passion,” he said. “You’re all there for the love of cars, and its universal. There’s this saying: People come for the cars, but they stay for the people.”

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