Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Remember: HPDE is not Racing

I will admit to getting so tired of correcting people when they call it racing that half the time I don't bother anymore.  I correct my students, and sometimes people just checking out the events, but it is the people that I shouldn't have to remind that worry me. Namely, instructors.

A couple of years ago I changed some things around because I had some very bad experiences in an open passing environment.  I thought this was just me being a wimp. I even ran into problems during an event that didn't have open passing.  I have since come to realize that it wasn't the open passing that was my concern, but rather the other instructors who used the HPDE sessions as full on race practice OR did not really have the head about them to make good decisions in an open passing environment. They were in the open passing group just because they were instructors, not because they had proven themselves as capable of playing well with others.

Contrast that with some other open passing experience I have had that I have actually loved since those events. The big difference? Instructors, by default, are in a point-by passing group and only drivers and coaches individually approved by the Chief Instructor are allowed to run in the open passing group. I have never had a close call with another driver those open passing groups, but at many other events I have had problems because instructors were just using it as a practice session for a race.

You aren't going to go home with a trophy or prize money from an HPDE event. Lots of people are in street cars, and if an incident does occur because you are trying to HPDE champion, not only could you hurt another person (or yourself) but you can hurt the sport.  At the very least, you will damage the reputation of the club you are working with.  

This is especially the case for instructors. You must conduct yourself above reproach if you are to keep credibility with your student. If you are out in a lower run group, driving overly aggressive, you are more likely to force a student to have an incident because you scare them.  Many instructors love to do this because they feel like Gods among men, even in slower cars.  They hound them through the corners well in advance of passing zones, following much closer than any other beginner student would. When you do get past them, if you are driving "flat out" they might also start chasing you even though it is well beyond their ability.  You need to be invisible out there and blend to the appropriate group.

I don't even care if the person in front of you is your long time race buddy and you can go side-by-side at 300mph through turn 1 at Summit Point while sipping tea during a race. You can't do that in the lower run groups. It is unprofessional and unsafe (even if the two of you don't crash), no matter how good you are.  Set the proper example.

This type of scenario has played out multiple times while I am in the car with a student. We are in beginner or intermediate and an instructor comes up on them, starts poking their nose to the inside in non-passing zones, and actually makes the student become fearful for their safety and start driving unpredictably. 

So, remember that HPDE isn't a race. Dial it back, keep everyone safe, and don't tarnish the name of our sport or the clubs you are acting as ambassadors of.  I am not saying drive slow, just keep it under control and allow a margin of error.  If you find yourself saying "Hey! Watch this!" on track with your student in the car, you are probably part of the problem ;)

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