Learning Curves are Part of the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series

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The USAC Ford Focus Midget Series started in the spring of 2002. Laura Poorter was only 13-years-old in 2002 and learning the Karts Circuit in Europe. The Holland native had no idea she would be competing in the Ford Focus Series only four years later for K&N Engineering.

The Ford Focus Midget Series is designed to fill the niche for affordable entry level racing. It is a competitive venue for young drivers who want to go into the next level of racing. Poorter raced against K&N Engineering Sports Marketing Director Charles Maier at a kart race in Belgium when she was 16. Maier was so impressed with Poorter he asked her to join the K&N family one year later.
17 Year Old Racer Laura Poorter
17 Year Old Racer Laura Poorter
Poorter has done very well in the Ford Focus competition. However, at Madera Speedway in July, there was a problem. “I don’t remember the number on the car that hit her, but I saw the trouble begin about a half lap later,” said Maier. “I thought her rear suspension and her chassis were damaged, but it turns out water was coming out of the radiator and getting on the back tires. We did not realize at the time the radiator was out of water.”

Poorter is part of K&N’s Driver Development Program. “The first lap of these races is just crazy; everyone is going in every direction at once and it’s tough to see who is in what position, who is being passed or attempting to pass and who is in the midst of all the frenzy,” said Maier. “I’ve seen incidents like this before. You are not really sure if that incident will take you out of the race, or if you’ll be able to continue. I’ve seen Laura get up in the air, come back down and drive a couple of laps. Just when I thought we were back on track, we ran out of fuel. At Madera the race was finished for us by a damaged radiator.”

The whole weekend was not easy. There were some challenges with the USAC Officials and the interpretation of rules during the race. There were also communication problems between Poorter and Crew Chief Michael Maier.

“Michael knows a lot about suspensions, but I don’t,” said Poorter. “He drives my car during practice sessions and I drive during practice sessions. We take turns and we talk about what the car does and what needs to change. Currently Michael is teaching me about suspension. He is a good teacher and can explain things very well, but sometimes he uses several English words for one thing. I don’t always know what they are saying until I see it then I understand it.” Poorter speaks four languages, Dutch, German, French and English.

Holland native Laura Poorter
Holland native Laura Poorter
“Michael is educating Laura as a driver, “said Maier. “She is learning about the components of the car and the pieces of the chassis, what those components do and what the chassis pieces do. Anyone can drive a car that’s set up really well. But to drive a car that is not set up well you have to communicate what is wrong to the team.”

Poorter is learning how to make the changes that will increase her probability of doing better at every event.

“She’s a very talented diver, but that talent only goes so far,” said Maier. “If Laura gets into a car that’s not performing well she could drive it to the best of its ability and it can still be a second off because it’s just not working.”

At the end of the day this is all part of the learning experience. Every racing sanctioning body has its challenges, whether it’s NASCAR or the Ford Focus Series. “You don’t get away from it, you learn to roll with the punches,” said Maier. “Whether the thing that sets you back is a judgment call from an official or if a radiator goes bad, it’s how you take those setbacks. You deal with it and go on to the next race and give it your best.”

Poorter is back in the driver’s seat ready for Altamont Raceway Park. “I’m confident and ready to go,” she said. “Things happen.”

Follow Laura Poorter's progress throughout the racing season at the K&N news site.  Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.

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