House Spouse goes fast!
They call us gear heads in the United States or petrol heads in the United Kingdom. Either way, we are addicted to cars of all types, whether it’s antiques, sports cars, muscle cars, kit cars, or just strange and different cars. If it has wheels, we want to play with it.
My kind of gear-headedness has to do with sports cars. I have been a Porsche person since the mid-eighties, and buying my first used Porsche was the start of a long and winding
road. I now hold a national racing license from the Sports Car Club or America and have raced Porsches of my own hand at such places at Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway. But this weekend is a little different – High-Performance Driver Education, or HPDE.
HPDE events are held at race tracks almost every weekend all over the world. On TV they are known more generically as “track days.” This is where you pay a fee, bring your sports car to the track and drive it like you stole it. Sounds dangerous, no?
Well, these kinds of events are actually run in such a way as to be as safe as possible, and the number of “issues” that you see occurring are actually very small. Drivers are separated into groups by skill level and experience, so those with little experience are not on the track at the same time as those with a lot of track time. The beginners also get classroom instruction coupled with instructors who ride along and provide quality instruction before, during and after each on-track session. Students learn the basics of car control, throttle and brake control, and eventually learn how to better control the car in all kinds of situations. Things that are learned are transferred to the street, making the operator more competent and more confident.
As participants gain experience and skill, they progress through two “student groups” and eventually are checked out to go “solo.” Solo drivers are still encouraged to seek out an instructor during an event weekend for more fine tuning. Eventually, some drivers get to “advanced solo” and “instructor” levels.
So you have a bunch of people driving around a race track…how can that even be close to being called “safe?” The groups each have very restrictive passing and spacing requirements, keeping the less experienced from doing stupid things. In short, passing is done only when the person being passed gives permission, and only in a safe place. (It sounds complicated, but it really does work.)
As an instructor for the past many years, I have had the opportunity to ride with and instruct every kind of driver you can imagine. I have had fifty-somethings in new Porsches. I have had nineteen-year-olds in muscle cars. I have had wanna-be racers in Mustangs and Camaros. I’ve coached women and men – and find that the women are better students. I even had a guy in a Volvo turbo station wagon. All were wonderful students, and as they say, if you really want to learn something, try to teach it to someone else. Every student teaches me something new.
So why do we do this? It is immense fun. You test your skills as a driver and as a learner, and you can see improvement even over a weekend event. When you get to the instructor level, it is great fun to pass along what you know. There are also the social aspects of these events, meeting new people and having fun with friends.
It is also quite a departure from what we do every day. Most of us are in professions that won’t allow us to put on a helmet and drive like hell. HPDE is a great stress reducer, too. It also requires one hundred percent concentration on what you are doing, thus shutting out the rest of the world and the rest of your worries.
You don’t need a race car or a hundred thousand dollar Porsche to participate in these events. While pickup trucks, SUVs and family sedans aren’t found on the track, you will see older Miatas, the occasional VW Golf GTI or BMW, and lots of other older sports cars. Participants are required to have their cars checked over by a competent garage, then are subjected on site to a technical inspection to be sure that all is well.
Sound interesting? Most of the manufacturer sports car clubs run HPDE events at local road course tracks. Porsche Club of America, local Corvette clubs, BMW Car Club of America, local Miata clubs, Ferrari Club of America, Audi Club of North America, and others. Check online and in Facebook for your favorite brand club and see what they have to offer. You can also check out the road race track in your area to see what they have on their schedules, then contact the hosting club.,
One item of interest – there are organizations that host “track days” that are generally pointed towards experienced drivers who just want to drive fast on a certain track. They
offer little in instruction for the beginner, and it can turn out to be a bad idea if you are just starting out. Instead, the clubs mentioned above seem to do a much better job of providing guidance and instruction. Remember that while these events are generally safe, driving at high speeds is a risky proposition, even in a controlled environment. Getting quality instruction is important, especially as a beginner.
Want to see more? Check out this video on YouTube of a student session with an instructor at Roebling Road Raceway near Savannah, GA. This was a Porsche Club event hosted by the Florida Citrus Region of PCA – my home chapter and one of our HPDE events. There are many videos on YouTube from dash cams and Go-Pro cameras from tracks all over the country and Europe.
Let’s go drive fast and safe!
P.S. Everyone asks…for the weekend, my top speed on the front stretch was 127 mph. And on the track, I got about nine miles a gallon!
At HouseSpouseStuff, we share with those celebrating 50 years and more of remarkably diverse talents, hobbies, history, and abilities – and with those who love them!
Here House Spousers find entertaining insights on travel, cooking, healthcare, lifestyle, technology, finance, volunteering, and loving life. And the option to share your uniqueness with the world with a hat from the House Spouse Store.
The company consists of four experienced professionals with expertise in healthcare, nursing, legal, university instruction, pharmacy, cooking, wine, writing, Porsches, knitting, history, photography, travel – and an undying appreciation for the interesting, inspiring, sublime and creative magic in life.
Kevin, Christal, Jerry & Barbara