Astronomy professor shifts gears for the weekend

Doug Patterson (JCCC Instructor) spends the day racing rallycross on Sept. 12, 2015 at the Thunder Valley Sand Drags in Grain Valley, Missouri.

by Sean Hull

Features Editor

Dust is still settling on the track from the last run as Professor Doug Patterson pulls up to the starting line at the Kansas City Sports Car Club of America’s regional rallycross race. A formidable man grips the handle of the green starting flag, awaiting approval. The signal is given, the man waves the flag and Patterson punches on the gas. He disappears behind a cloud of dust, then emerges down the track, careening between bright orange cones.

It’s a stark contrast to a student’s usual view of Professor Patterson. The general tools of the teaching trade, whiteboard and computer, have been replaced with much more exciting elements: a thrashing dirt track and a powerful Ford Fiesta ST. The contrast is not as glaring to Patterson, however. Patience is the key element to good performance in both teaching and rallycross.

“Patience. Patience and reflection. And this is really true for any endeavor, any craft,” Patterson said. “Whether it’s photography, whether it’s racing, whether it’s teaching … the thing you need to do is always reflect on how you’re doing what you’re doing. Are you doing it the best way that it can be?”

According to Patterson, the challenging difference between rallycross and teaching is the time you are allotted to reflect on your performance.

“In racing, this is very abrupt. It’s very fast-paced. You reflect after a run. Did I execute that course well? Where did I make mistakes? … And you try to make those adjustments for your next run, but your next run is in just a few minutes. Of course, in teaching you have the same thing, but it’s a longer cycle … always that introspection and patience.”

From the outsider’s perspective, there is nothing patient about rallycross. Cars, one after another, line up to blast down a dirt track, launching dirt and mud into the air with wildly spinning tires. The outsider’s perspective never tells the true story, though. Behind the wheel, everything is peaceful.

“It’s funny,” said Patterson. “You watch the inboard video of drivers when they’re out on circuit or out on rally stages, and it’s furious. Their hands are all over the place, their heads are all over the place, their feet are just dancing on the pedals. And it looks chaotic … but when you’re in the car, when you’re there at the start line, you’re ready to go, and then you’re off and you’re at speed. It’s a very zen-like moment … everything else in the world just vanishes, fades to black, and the only thing that exists is that course in front of you.”

Patterson does not just race for the thrills. He races with Dare 2 Dream Motorsports, a local collection of racers that attempts to help those with life-changing injuries by engaging in their mutual love for motorsports.

“Dare 2 Dream Motorsports is a group of us within the Kansas City region SCCA that have gotten together to try and raise money for various causes, especially causes central to the mobility-challenged,” said Patterson.

Dare 2 Dream is currently partnered with Go Baby Go KC, a local group that works with students at Rockhurst University to modify electric cars for kids and make them suitable to fit the transportation needs of mobility-challenged kids.

“The last solo event of the year … the Kansas City Region is having our final autocross, final solo event of the year, what we call our Halloweenie event,” said Patterson. “… And we have silent auctions for various charities, and Go Baby Go KC is going to be our charity for this year. So Dare 2 Dream Motorsports is really happy to participate in that, and hopefully we can raise a lot of money for these kids.”

Patterson encourages anyone who is interested in rallycross to come out to an event and get involved with the SCCA.

“Come out to an event. Our events are free and open to spectators. Anyone can come out here and check out what we do. … Find people willing to give you a ride, put on a helmet and ride shotgun with some of our racers. If you want to come out and race, then just bring your car.”

For more information about the Kansas City Sports Car Club of America’s racing events in the area, visit their website.



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