Motorsports, Q2 2021
Have you all noticed the days getting longer and the temperatures warming? This can only mean that the driving season is now here.
Our track and tours programs are both starting, so watch for ATS (Around-the-Sound) notifications. It is time for you to think about getting the car ready for the driving season and time to get you as a driver ready. We have some suggestions.
We had our first track day of the year on February 28, a chilly but pleasant Sunday. It was open to only those drivers who had been signed off to drive solo on the track. I received a lot of emails asking how the program works, how to get signed off to go solo, and how to learn to drive on the track. Because of these questions, I thought I would detail the steps you need to drive your Ultimate Driving Machine on the racetrack.
Car Control Clinic – April 16
What is it and what does it teach you as a driver? As the title states, it is a clinic that allows you as the driver to experience the engineering designs of the braking, steering, and handling of your BMW (or whatever car you bring out). There is a large, paved paddock at Pacific Raceways that will have scenarios marked by cones for you to navigate. These scenarios, also called exercises, are designed to demonstrate the handling and braking ability of your car but also will simulate real-life situations that may be encountered on the road. You will spend the day with instructors, in a COVID19-compliant manner, helping you position your car, understand vehicle dynamics, and experience the safety features of your car. Our Jeff Butler is a very energetic and thoughtful lead instructor who will explain the concepts and methods for each exercise. We want you to understand all of the abilities of your Ultimate Driving Machine so that you are better prepared for whatever might confront you on the road. Those BMW engineers know what they are doing, and the Car Control Clinic will help you realize it. Attendance of our Car Control Clinic (or one similar organized by other clubs) is also the required step for you to drive on the racetrack. The next step is to register for a HPDE Day/High Performance Driving Education day.
HPDE – April 16
What is it and what do you need to do? The Puget Sound Chapter BMW CCA has driving on the racetrack as part of its DNA. Historically, the Club got its start by a group of driving enthusiasts driving their 2002s on the track and doing autocross events. That enthusiasm is still very much alive and well today.
What do you need to experience this?
1. Complete the Car Control Clinic.
2. Get a SNELL rated helmet SA2015 or later. The SA2010s will expire at the end of the year.
3. A valid drivers’ license.
4. A car that has passed tech inspection.
5. A positive attitude and a desire to learn something new.
Here is what you DO NOT need
1. A set of race wheels with sticky R-compound tires.
2. A roll bar or cage welded in your car.
3. Five-point harness and a racing seat.
4. A special paint job with a racing stripe.
I think you get the picture. Your streetcar as it came from the factory is perfectly fine to begin the journey of learning how to drive on the racetrack. Novice drivers (D-group) will begin by being paired with an instructor for the entire day. Some programs charge extra; not us. Your instructors are people who have come up through the ranks and been recognized not only for their driving skills but also for their positive attitude and desire to share their knowledge and passion for driving. We use the lead-follow method for instruction now until the pandemic has been officially terminated. Each instructor-driver pair will be in communication using a radio (we provide the radio and ear pieces) or other wireless devices. In this manner, your instructor will be in constant contact with you as a guide around the racetrack.
Throughout the day, you and your instructor will switch off leading and following. At the end of each session, novice groups will gather together, and a lead instructor will ask how you all felt and then discuss driving fundamentals. This is all different from what we had done in the past as you might know. But all car clubs around the country have adopted this lead-follow methodology and it is working. We often get questions along the following lines:
1. Will this hurt my car? No, it will not.
2. Will I use up all of my brakes? No, but you will use some brake pads. After all, you are driving on a racetrack and get to go fast.
3. Will I hurt my tires? No, but they might get a little scuffed on the outsides. Think of it as a badge of courage.
4. Will I have fun? Yes, and more fun than you can imagine, until you do it.
What should I do to prepare for an HPDE?
The best money spent to prepare for an HPDE day is education. Read books about performance driving and explore training online. We are very fortunate to have a world-class coach in our own backyard, Ross Bentley. Go to his website and subscribe to Speed Secrets 101: https://speedsecrets.com.
Here you will find the basics of performance driving. It is worth the time to watch. Also, get his recent book “The Lost Art of Performance Driving” and take some notes. Finally, there is a fun book “You Suck At Racing—A crash course for the novice driver” by Ian Korf. I recommend both books. Finally, there is YouTube and all of the millions of movies out there of people driving, some good and some not so good. I would focus on the ones demonstrating drivers at Pacific Raceways and The Ridge Motorsports complex. Besides these, get a good night’s sleep, make sure your car is ready and be on time.
For those of you who like to work on your car, I am going to lecture about safety. There is a growing number of injuries and fatalities of people working on their cars without properly and securely using jacks. Rather than citing chapter and verse of countless examples, I would implore you all to spend some money on quality lift equipment. I own a QuickJack that is now on sale at Costco for $1,199.99. It is a hydraulic lift that will get the car about 28 inches in the air and does it safely. When you are done, the two pieces fold up and store against a wall. The small hydraulic pump stores separately. Check out the QuickJack website for more information. You have to ask yourself how much are you worth, and can your family afford to be without you? Enough said.
Okay, time to get ready for the driving season. If you have questions about the Car Control Clinic or HPDE programs, please contact me. Do not forget that we also have a great tour schedule for those of you who would like to enjoy your Ultimate Driving Machine at a more relaxed pace. See you on the track!
Senior Instructor Driving Events Coordinator