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Bertil Roos Racing School - A Hidden Gem
 

Standout driver Bertil Roos formed the Bertil Roos Racing School and focused on European style teaching (Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)
Standout driver Bertil Roos formed the Bertil Roos Racing School and focused on European style teaching
(Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)

As anyone who’s been involved in racing for any length of time will tell you, one the most common questions from newcomers is ‘how do I get started?’. While the answer inevitably includes being a racing fan or through karting as a child or teenager, the discussion often turns to attending a racing school to get the mandatory race license.

Nearly every driver that you’ve seen on-track, be it at the top ranks of the sport like IndyCar or NASCAR, or at the entry level stage such as a amateur club racing, at one point attended a racing school to not only learn the skills to succeed, but to complete the necessary requirements to gain a racing license.

In North America, there are a variety of schools available for would-be racers at which to enroll. While some are pretty well-known thanks to marketing campaigns and famous alumni, others rely on word-of-mouth within the industry and a proven track record of training drivers. One such program is the Bertil Roos Racing School.

Located in Eastern Pennsylvania with its base of operations not far from the Pocono International race track, the school was formed in 1975 by standout race car driver Bertil Roos. For those unfamiliar with Roos, the Swedish native captured the US National Formula Super Vee title in 1973 and made one career Formula One start with the Shadow team in 1974 prior to opening the school. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Roos continued to race while operating his school, winning the Can-Am Championship 2-liter class title in 1982 and 1983.
 

Located in Pennsylvania the school has helped train several top drivers in motorsports (Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)
Located in Pennsylvania the school has helped train several top drivers in motorsports
(Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)

Since first opening its doors, the Bertil Roos Racing School has taken a slightly different approach than most schools in the USA and Canada, utilizing a European style of teaching. This primarily entails an emphasis on ocular driving techniques – setting positive targets with your eyes – and car control via real time action on-track. With this in mind, students spend a great deal of time not in the classroom learning the fundamentals of racing, but rather behind the wheel of a race car. Taking this approach one step forward, unlike the vast majority of racing schools, the students do not spend large amounts on-track following an instructor around the course at a pre-determined speed. Rather, Bertil Roos Racing School students begin almost immediately by learning via open lapping. Highly talented instructors – who are accomplished racers in their own right and have previously included the likes of Grand Am Champion Andy Lally, sports car racer Guy Cosmo and Indy Lights driver Andrew Prendeville - keep a very close eye on the students’ performances, and continually offer insight and tips. As a result, the students learn at their own pace, with no hard limits on speed or passing. While some might believe this be less safe, that has not been the case, with no insurance claims in over a decade.

“The main concept of the Bertil Roos Racing School since day one has been not only to teach drivers enough to gain a racing license, but to help them become a quality race car pilot,” said current school owner Dennis Macchio. “We firmly believe that the format and techniques used at the Bertil Roos Racing School help reduce the gap that all drivers experience between the end of school driving and their first real race.”

The results, in fact, speak for themselves, with the Bertil Roos Racing School having a very high ratio of graduating students excelling in both the pro and amateur ranks. Some alumni of note include former IndyCar racers Michael and Jeff Andretti, NASCAR driver Jeff Burton, Star Mazda Championship pilot Conor Daly, F2000 Championship Series driver Jonathan Scarallo and the previous mentioned Lally, Cosmo and Prendeville.
 

Dennis Macchio has expanded the school's reach and programs since becoming owner in the late 1990s (Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)
Dennis Macchio has expanded the school's reach and programs since becoming owner in the late 1990s
(Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)

From 1975 to 1998, under the watchful eye of Roos, the Bertil Roos Racing School changed very little, attracting just enough students to keep afloat. A new era commenced in 1999, when Dennis Macchio became the new Owner and President of the Bertil Roos Racing School. While Macchio, an accomplished racer, did not wish to drastically alter the schools core teaching system, he realized changes needed to be made in order for the Bertil Roos Racing School to survive and prosper.

First and foremost on Macchio’s to-do list was to increase the availability of the school to potential customers. Rather than relying on both young up-and-comers and middle-aged race aspirants to come to the Pocono International track in eastern Pennsylvania. – the school’s home facility – he began offering programs at selected tracks around the nation. Venturing as far away as Texas and Florida, Bertil Roos Racing School programs reached a whole new group of people, with multiple programs at Pocono, Virginia International Raceway and New Jersey Motorsports Park becoming the norm.

At the same time, more variety was offered to the students via different programs. For those wishing to merely experience what its like to drive a proper a race car and get a true feeling of speed, half-day and one-day programs were available. Those wishing to take the first step towards racing, be it as a career or as a hobby, found themselves enrolled in the three-day program or the more intensive five-day program, which not only gave you a good base from which to succeed behind the wheel, but also met the requirements to earn an SCCA Club Racing license. For those with already some race experience, the two-day advanced program provided a great tool to becoming a better racer. Over the past few years, further additions have been made via programs such as two-day Precision Highway Driving School and the Performance Driving Clinic, which allows students to learn in their own high performance car.
 

The Bertil Roos Race Series is part of the schools long-term approach to driver training (Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)
The Bertil Roos Race Series is part of the schools long-term approach to driver training
(Photo: Bertil Roos Racing School)

As is the case at a good number of racing schools, the on-track action is not limited to the various school programs at Bertil Roos. For over 20 years, the school has conducted an internal race series. While the initial goal was to merely offer graduating students a low-cost arena in which to race, it has developed into yet another tool to further train and develop the future stars of motorsports.

“I’ve always believed the best way to learn and develop as a race driver is to race,” stated Macchio. “For that reason, we’ve continually looked at ways to make the Race Series more competitive and challenging as part of a long-term approach to driver training and development.”

With that in mind, the series has progressed under Macchio’s guidance. Utilizing the fast and reliable F2000 series cars, which allows the drivers to make significant setup changes to – unlike most school race series - the Bertil Roos Race Series no longer races solely at the Pocono race facility. Providing the race pilots with greater challenges and better opportunities to learn and develop, the series now features a 16-race campaign at Pocono, VIR and NJMP, using a variety of course configurations. In addition, a Rookie clinic and Rookie Runoffs have been added, further enhancing to the learning experience.

So what does the future hold for the Bertil Roos Racing School? Given its approach to driver training, combined with the desire and passion of those running things, one thing is for sure, it will continue to be at the forefront of teaching and developing some of the future stars of motorsports.
Pacific Mountain Central Eastern International



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