Pirelli World Challenge competitor Peter Schwartzott, or, “Mr. Schwartzott” as his students at Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOECS) call him, builds his series racecars with the help of his students in a unique program designed to teach the practical application of motorsports principles.
His classroom garage at Southern Westchester BOCES isn’t typical. In it, Mr. Schwartzott and his students have been working for several months on a 2012 Honda Civic Si (Pirelli World Challenge Championship) PWCC TC and a 2012 Mazda 2 PWCC TCB (B-Spec) class car. The body-on-white Honda pictured was basically a car in a box when he and his students started their project, installing its engine, transmission, and suspension and electrical systems. With a little help from local and some not-so-local companies, they had the car partially painted professionally while students in teacher Paul Casagrande’s Auto Body class assisted by painting the bumpers and fenders. Mr. Schwartzott decorated the car with stickers, decals and graphics, and even Pirelli chipped-in with some much-needed supplies for the educational motorsports projects.
The work provides solid hands-on experience for the young, future mechanics who “did an excellent job,” Schwartzott said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to work on a car that races in a series of this caliber. They’re getting to work with state-of-the-art, brand new equipment. Not too many people can build a 2012 vehicle from a box of parts.” The Auto Mechanics teacher at Southern Westchester Center for Career Services has been racing cars since his late teens, a passion he inherited from his pro-race driver Dad – Peter Schwartzott, Sr. Peter Jr. was named an SCCA Northeast Champion, New York State Road Racing Champion and New England Road Racing Champion.
As he tinkered with his dad’s cars, Peter Jr., or “Mr. Scwartzott” discovered that he was a good mechanic and decided to follow that career path. “I grew up in the garage,” he said. “I was groomed to be the mechanic and take care of all of my dad’s cars.” Now he teaches students at Southern Westchester many of the same skills needed to successfully work on a pro-race team.
Student Elsie Marmol, one of two female students in the class, said working on the car made her feel “proud to have accomplished something I never thought I could do.”
The work provides solid hands-on experience for the young, future mechanics who “did an excellent job,” Mr. Schwartzott said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to work on a car that races in a series of this caliber. They’re getting to work with state-of-the-art, brand new equipment. Not too many people can build a 2012 vehicle from a box of parts.”
“I have been an automotive instructor here since 2001” continued Schwartzott. “It is our goal to make our students versatile in terms of employment. We start off with the basics and end up at a very high level; most mechanics never even get to experience the motorsport end of the industry. Why sell the student short? We work to open their eyes to the vast amount of jobs in our industry. It is not enough to merely attend an automotive program in a high school – it is not just a road to work as a base mechanic.”
“We help train these students to be employed as anything from automotive management, sales, engineering, motorsport, design, public relations, – the list goes on and on,” he continued. “We might have one student who is a great people person, articulate but not so strong with the hands on piece, instead of standardized ways dooming the education or saying, ‘this is not for you!’, we find that particular student’s strengths and engage him/her. The racecars add a sense of self worth, pride and a team initiative in our program. For educators, the car has all the same components as a regular car. I use it as our hook to engage and keep the students excited about learning.”