Thursday, May 8, 2014

Last weekend was a long one...lots of on-track instructing

I was instructing at Friday at the Track on the 2nd and at the beginning of the day they asked if there was anyone willing to stay on for the rest of the weekend and instruct at the SCCA event that was Saturday and Sunday.  I didn't want to sign-on then, but I kept that in the back of my mind all day.  My morning run on the track with the other instructors went well (and Chrissy was happy to be able to ride along) and then it was time to start hopping in students cars.

The first car I hopped in was a BMW 750Li, which I would call strange except I have been in an A8 on the track as well before.  He was a first-timer, and I took him on two laps around the course with me driving to show him the line and poitn out the flag stands and other important items.  He took to the track pretty well, and that car stopped surprisingly well for something that big.  He was there with a group of friends and managed to pull a cleaner line than some of them.

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Once that session was done, it was looking like I wasn't going to get a second student but a couple of people were late pulling up to the grid and I managed to hop in a 2010 Camaro SS.  I must say, the Camaro is not a great car if you are tall and wearing a helmet.  It is very lacking in headroom.  The car was damn fast though and he was a second-time track driver.  He was still a bit timid because he didn't want to ding up his beautiful car and had to clean up his line some during the early runs in the morning.

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After lunch, the Instructors actually have a chance to take the students out which really helps show them some of what you are trying to explain.  Depending on the maturity and ability of the student there are different ways I drive my demo laps.  If they are mature and I think I can rely on them to keep themselves tame in the afternoon, I drive my normal pace, but if I am worried about them getting carried away, I will back off and drive more how I want them to drive.  Fortunately for me (and my students) they were both the kind I could show my regular speed driving rather than reduced.

First up was the BMW driver and I took that opportunity to talk about the two spots I was most concerned with his line, between 3 and 4 and 9 and 10.  He had a blast, and learned a good bit about the actual line to take around the track.  I pulled into the pits, swapped passengers, and took out the Camaro driver for a spin.  On the very first lap out of the pits, I managed to get a "Holy shit!" followed by nervous/joyous laughter as I entered the braking zone for Turn 1.

To understand why, you need to realize that both students were braking at ~ the 500 ft mark going into turn 1 (at roughly the same speed because they both would lift off the throttle and coast for a bit before braking).  I go from full throttle to braking at ~300 ft before the turn where my max speed is about 100-110mph.  Of note, the Camaro driver said "Your little VW is the best roller coaster I've ever been on".

The first session after the demo, both of my students still behaved, they both had a blast through the day and greatly improved.  The most important thing is they both left with their cars still shiny and fully intact.

Near the end of the day, I ran into another one of the instructors and mentioned to him that I was interested in instructing through the weekend, but couldn't remember who I had to talk to.  Well, turns out he is the membership chairman for SCCA Washington DC Region, so he took care of things. I had never done an SCCA event at all, so I had to sign up Friday night. Since I hadn't planned on staying on, we left the track car there, drove home and repacked to drive back Saturday morning.

Saturday, I ended up instructing a 19yr old in a Honda Accord. He was another first-time student, and at first I was a bit worried about his attitude but he showed himself to be very mature for his age and he picked up the line pretty well.  Just like Friday, he didn't REALLY understand what I was trying to teach him until I took him out in the afternoon, but he picked it up.  During his next to last session, he was overdriving a bit and I had to work on reeling him in, but before I even had a chance to talk to him for his last session, he had already made the decision to back off for his last session and work on his line.  That is where the maturity really showed through.  I will probably be seeing him on the track again at some point.

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Sunday, after a stay in a hotel, I was back at the track, this time instructing an intermediate student with about 10 prior track days in a Honda Prelude.  He was a two-day student but his instructor left after day one.  Overall he had a really good line through every section of the course except 5-9 (the skill session of the track). He had managed to clean up turn 4 with his instructor the day before though, so he was getting a lot smoother.  I still had trouble getting him to understand exactly what he should be doing in 5-9 until I took him out for a demo, but as soon as I did that, it just clicked and he got much faster through that section.  Once I was sure he wasn't going to try and go nuts out there and try to run the course like an instructor, I let him off for solo for the end of the day and he was good for the rest of the day.

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So, all-in-all, I spent about 4 hours on the track in my car, and 5 in student cars through the weekend.  I also spent a lot of time talking to other instructors and "networking" which might pay dividends in the near future.  Emailing back and forth with another one of the instructors who was there, I may be string instructing for yet ANOTHER group in the near future. (I am also working on instructing with Track Daze hopefully after next weekend).  So, I now have instructed for BSR/FATT, and SCCA, and am working on two other possible groups for instructing.  Yay free track-time!

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