by BOB GAETJENS | EDITOR
Streetsboro -- Streetsboro resident Brad Raum had the race of his life this fall to place fifth nationally in his division in the National Auto Sport Association Championships in September.
"My fastest track times I've had were during that national race," said Raum, whose day job is serving as vice president of business development for Robinson Memorial Hospital a board member of the Streetsboro Area Chamber of Commerce. "I pushed the car as hard as I possibly could without being unsafe."
Raum said several of the drivers who finished ahead of him in the national race, which took place Sept. 9 at Mid-Ohio Racetrack near Mansfield, are excellent racers, including a couple of drivers who had won the national race in the past.
"Considering the competition I was running against, I was very happy to get a fifth," he said. "Their cars are very well set up, and they have a lot of experience."
Raum races in the SPEC 944 (as in Porsche 944) division of NASA. He said there were about 10 in his division left in the final race, but he said there were probably around 40 vehicles spread over the 2.4-mile winding course at Mid-Ohio. Several other divisions held their finals in the same heat, he explained.
"We've had times at Mid-Ohio where we've had 65 cars on the track at the same time," he said. "It gets a little hairy when you're out there with 65 other cars. Even though the track is 2.4 miles long, they can still get bottled up in the turns."
The entire competition takes place over several days, with two qualifying runs. Drivers' placement in qualifying runs determine their position at the start of the final, said Raum. And that placement has a direct effect on the finish. Raum said to make up for a bad position at the start "you've got to drive the wheels off, basically," to catch up.
One turn has every driver, no matter how experienced, on edge because they're worried about their car, about getting ahead of the field or both, he said.
"The first turn is always the scariest and most white-knuckled," he said. "I look at the start of the race as just trying to survive sometimes."
Due to nerves, he said he forgot to shift until he was out of the first turn in his first race.
In a sport that relies on cat-quick reflexes and a lot of nerve, Raum said he takes an "analytical" approach to each race.
"My approach to driving is to listen to more experienced people," he said. For instance, he might take someone's advice on how to approach a certain curve during the race.
"You want to carry as much speed through a turn as you can, so you can accelerate through the straight aways," he said.
Raum said he's loved racing and cars "ever since [he] was a kid," but it wasn't until 2003 that he bought his first Porsche, and that wasn't intended for racing.
But he joined a local Porsche Club, which offered high performance driver education track events where Porsche owners could learn their way around a track.
"You ride with an instructor and they teach you how to drive quickly, yet safely around the racetrack," explained Raum.
In 2004, he bought a Porsche 944 which was street legal but included a roll cage.
"I started developing the car more and more, and that year it ended up turning pretty much into a non-street-legal car," he said.
That was when he said he started racing. From 2004 to 2011, his accident record was clean, he said. But then he was struck head on by an out of control car which was in a spin due to an accident ahead of him on the track.
"Of course, you replay that event in your mind, but you realize that it exists just as part of the sport and sometimes it's unavoidable," he said, adding no one was seriously injured in the crash.
Compared to some, Raum said he's a conservative driver. Others have their own mechanic, deep pockets, even sponsors, and to them accidents aren't as big a financial burden.
Since 2006, Raum said he's also been volunteering as an instructor at the same high performance education track events where he learned the basics of fast, safe track driving.
"I really enjoy doing that," he said. "It's great to see a lot of people go out to the race track, sometimes for the first time."
Raum said getting lost in the adrenaline rush of car racing is a great escape for him.
"For me, it's something fun," he said. "It's a good release from the stresses of the day and week, but I do want to come in one piece and want my car to come back in one piece."
He said the season for this year is finished and the schedule for next year hasn't been set yet.