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Call them what you will: DE, HPDE, Track Event, Track Days, track whatever, it was time to take the plunge. You see, I have been doing track events since 2002 and figured to have collectively driven, on all the tracks I have been on, hundreds of laps. Two of my friends have been on my case (actually they are always on my case) for some time to just go out there and do it. Go out there and put all the good stuff I have learned to use and become an instructor. Prove that I know how to turn left (Dah!), right, brake, trail brake, throttle steer and all the other elements that a decent driver utilizes out on the twists and turns of a road course and educate folks that like me want to learn what they and their cars are capable of. It’s a daunting challenge, it’s tough enough to string lap after lap together; but to show a neophyte how to do it? This was something else.

So a couple of Saturdays ago I got up at the crack of 5AM (actually I was already awake…how many of you, anxious with the events of the coming day are awake way before the radio blares in your ear) and met my two friends to load up their race cars and head out. It’s always a bit comical, they have full on race cars on trailers, pulled by massive Ford F-250 Power-Stroke Diesels and then there is me in my Cayman S with street tires no less, we make a funny looking caravan. I usually slot myself in between them, that way they do not lose sight of me and it breaks up the monotony of truck - truck - car. We head to the track.

There was a large track event organized by a well know auto manufacturer and our group provided the instructors. These guys (and gals) were beyond “green”, many of them had never even seen a race track, let alone turn a wheel on one. Most did not have helmets and one guy did not even know how to fasten his helmet, he started the session with the straps dangling down thinking he was ready to go. There was another guy in the “intermediate” class (meaning he had track experience) and when the instructor got in the car and asked for an overview of his on track experience, the guy said he had none. But he had played a lot of video games (he must have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express too). The “national” organization actually put him in intermediate class because he had played a lot of video games?! WOW! This was going to be a long day.

While they were in a class room session learning about being on the track, our group of instructors (the veterans and newb’s like me) were given our marching orders for the day. The first two sessions out on the track with our students were at reduced speeds, we did several laps concentrating on driving skills: slalom cones and braking exercises to give them a feeling of what their car feels like out on a track. Then in the second session (without helmets) we drove their car at reduced speeds for the whole session, showing and talking them through the race line. Then we switched places and let the student do the driving. It was eye opening…was I this raw the first time I took a 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera out on the track back in 2002? I hope not…. My first student was fast on the brakes, slow to get on the throttle, then on it too long…. I made constant small corrections smoothing out his driving as we put in lap after lap. All too soon, we were back in the hot pit area, our session over.

My next student was a guy that had done several Auto-Cross (AX) before, but never a track event. Now with helmets on, we picked up the pace. He had some idea of what to do and where to go, but kept waiting until very late to brake for big fast corners. I kept up my mantra brake….brake….brake….look….turn….look to track out….throttle….throttle….throttle. But he was still very late braking, running out of track; he was used to slower AX’s where he could wait until the last second to brake. But out on a road course, where the speeds are much greater, this was going to eventually bite us. We did not have to wait long; we entered one fast albeit 90° turn and I was on him….brake….brake….brake….but he was still on throttle. He ran out of room as he turned in and we did a nice 4-wheel off on the inside part of the turn. I did not say a thing other than to tell him to get the car back on track (once traffic was clear) and head to the hot pit area. Once we got there and had his car checked out (no damage other than to his ego) I asked him what happened. He said that he did not listen to me about when to brake for the corner, thinking he could take it deeper like an AX event. He said I was right, it was better to get the braking done early and back on the throttle to take the corner. We still struggled with that turn, but he was starting to string corners together picking up the pace. It was fun to watch his confidence grow as we started to reel in other cars as he quickened.

When the session was done, I asked him how he thought he had done and he said okay, he had stuff to work on. I asked him if he had fun and a huge grin spread across his face and he said YES, he had a great time. I told him I hoped he came back out as there was a bunch of stuff he could work on together so that he could go faster and I would love to work on those things with him. He was stoked!

The afternoon was set aside for instructors. The temperature was in the mid-70’s so the conditions were perfect; the track starting to get hot. So we all headed out, taking turns out on the track…just getting after it. At one point, the head instructor got in my car and said….let’s go. I should have been ready, but I was terrified! This guy is FAST and now he was in my car watching me go fast. I must admit, I could have been smoother, but we managed to put in several fast laps without me going off or doing anything to really embarrass myself (too much…).

Then things got interesting…we reversed direction, taking the track clockwise rather than the normal counterclockwise. Ouch…. I have done 15+ events on this track, but never clockwise. It is a completely different track and I was expected to quickly come up to a fast pace. But I was prepared…I took the first session with another instructor (a fellow Porsche guy) and he showed me the fast way around the track. It was unbelievable; he drifted his 993 through each corner, the tires squealing in protest. It was a blast.

I took my car out by myself for the next session and pushing hard really struggled with one section, so much so that taking it too fast, the Cayman S understeered right off the track coming to a hard stop after rotating 180°. I hit a soft patch and a wall of dirt cascaded into the interior, covering everything with grass, sticks, dirt and clumps of mud. Yes, I put both feet in, but the car still stalled. Spitting out dirt and wiping my glasses, I started the car and took the lap off line to get into the hot pit area. Not my better moment…but here is the deal; unless you push, you never really know how to drive the track, or learn how far you can push yourself and your car. Then you correct your mistake and get back after it.

My fellow hotshoe Porsche instructor got in the car with me and gave me some pointers of how to get around the track in the clockwise direction. We finally got that section figured out and cleaned up a couple of other sections and were really stringing together some good laps when the session was over, the day done. You know, even advanced drivers and instructors need to get in the car with each other, giving and receiving pointers and instructions so we can impart that knowledge and wisdom to our students. I was probably better for it, struggling with the laps in a clockwise direction, I learned a lot about the track, the car and me…. Now I have a good basis to help my students.

If you have not had the chance to get your car on the track, do it. You will be amazed by the capabilities of the Cayman; it is a great car, balanced, fast and has great brakes too. Get it out there! Take the plunge, sign up for an event and learn. Learn about you, your incredible Cayman and about how to drive a car fast on the track. You will be better for it! And you will have fun. I promise…

Sunday was reserved to clean the car. You know…it took me over an hour with my large shop vac (and all the different implements to get into each crack and crevice) to get all the dirt out of the interior. But it is clean and ready for the next track event the next weekend. Oh yeah, I cannot wait to get back out there.

See you all next month.

 

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Great Post!!! Thanks!!!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys for the kind words. I really appreciate it. I love getting the chance to share this stuff with you, and P9 is a GREAT venue! If you have a few minutes be sure to check out my blog too.

Getting closer and closer to getting The Driver published. I will keep you all up to date! Was looking over the final chapter edits just back from my editors. It is really shaping up.
 

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Porschiste
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I sure hope I find a guy like you my first time out on a track...
 

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Built for speed AND comfort.
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Rob, great write-up. It's got me thinking again about getting my instructor's certification from PCA. I enjoy driving with people who ask me, informally, if I'll take (or give) a ride in their car. Giving what knowledge I have, and showing someone what their car is like at (sometimes over) its limits, really adds to my fun at the track. And hopefully theirs, too.

I agree 100% that having an instructor, or just an experienced friend, take a few laps with you is a great way to continuously improve. They'll make observations and suggestions about what you're doing right and what you can do better or try differently. I'm always looking for a ride with someone who's faster/smoother/more experienced than me. Riding along with a PCA racer is also a fun way to learn the race line as opposed to the "DE" line, which aren't always the same.

Kudos for writing this, I enjoyed it. :thanks:
 

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I was at TWS this past week end, for the first time. Also I worked turn 7, also for the first time. I wanted to see what it was like and get some credits for a DE event. So I am now ready to take the plunge on the next DE event and look forward to getting some instruction on the track.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Frank,

Were you at the Track Guys SVTOA Mustang event? I was in the Silver Cayman S with track numbers 313 / 55 (I know it was goofy to have two sets of numbers). I instructed the guy in the white BMW 135 and also did some advanced instruction in with the guy in the Silver 996 Porsche. A great weekend!! Forgot how much I love that track.

I was at TWS this past week end, for the first time. Also I worked turn 7, also for the first time. I wanted to see what it was like and get some credits for a DE event. So I am now ready to take the plunge on the next DE event and look forward to getting some instruction on the track.
 

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No I was at the Texas Two step Lone Star Porsche event the week end of March 18. There was a guy there from the Woodland with a Silver Cayman 2.9, 2009 that just had a turbo installed. Looked like only the GT3's and some pure race car could get by him. I am waiting for a time to track my either at College Station or in Dickenson.
 
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