At the High Performance Driving Event

When you get to the track, one of the first things you need to do is register and determine what run group you will be in. If registration is not open yet, use this time to get some of the other things on the list completed. One of the first things you need to do is prepare your car for the technical inspection that is required before entrants are allowed to drive on the track. The tech inspections are typically pretty basic, and if you have completed the previously-stated items before the event, you shouldn’t have any problems. As a side note, when I instruct at HPDEs I also am part of the tech inspection team, so I understand what they will typically look for. Don’t think tech inspectors are mean people looking to find an excuse for you not to be able to participate in the event. The tech inspectors are trying to ensure your safety.

  • When you get your registration packet, a “Tech Sheet” is often included. (Sometimes this is provided when you and your car are in the tech inspection line.) Before going to the tech inspection, complete any of the items indicated in the registration packet. When in doubt, ask.
  • Remove all loose items from inside the car and the trunk (such as loose CDs, a radar detector, floor mats, maps in side pockets, etc).
  • When driving your car to be teched, also bring your helmet. The tech inspector will usually verify that it has a Snell or other satisfactory rating that meets the club’s requirements.
  • Apply the vehicle’s numbers as assigned in the registration package or while at registration. Many clubs include vinyl numbers for you to apply on your vehicle; otherwise it will be necessary to use tape or white shoe polish on the windows. Unless otherwise stated, the numbers should be put on the rear passenger side windows. If you are not sure where to place the numbers, again ask someone.
  • Check the car’s tire pressures. There are many factors that influence what tire pressures will be optimum for your car, such as how much the car weighs, front wheel drive versus rear wheel drive, the type of tires you are using, whether it is very hot or cold outside, and the car’s suspension set-up. I would suggest that you try to locate an experienced driver at the event who has a similar car as you are driving to see what he is doing. Also, speak with your instructor and see what his thoughts are. A rough starting point for cold street tire pressures is 5 psi above the recommended stock pressures listed inside the car’s door. Right after coming in from your session, check your tire pressures again. As previously stated, the most important tire pressure reading is immediately after coming in from your session. As a side note, every track that I know of has pressured air available at the track free of charge.
  • Clean your front and rear windows. Having good visibility when on the track is very important.

During the course of the day, it is very important that you drink plenty of water. This holds true regardless of the weather conditions. People told me this when I first started racing, and I somewhat blew it off. Unfortunately, I learned why drinking water was so highly stressed, and I discovered that even on a cool day a person can become dehydrated quickly. Being dehydrated will lead to a decrease in concentration while out on the track and, for obvious reasons, that is not a good thing.

During the event, don’t be afraid to approach instructors in between your driving sessions for some additional coaching. The instructors have years of experience that you can tap into. People often feel that they don’t want to bother the instructors, but remember that the instructors are there because they enjoy sharing knowledge and seeing new drivers progress. When a student approaches me with questions, I honestly take it as a compliment. The instructors at HPDEs are not paid in the traditional sense, although they do obtain entrance to the event at no charge in exchange for instructing students. Some students think that the only reason why instructors are there is because they get free track time. That simply is not the case. When I started instructing, I realized how little the free track time factors into why people instruct at the events.

Just to reiterate, the most important objective during the event should be to avoid damage to your car while learning and having as much fun as possible. The worst thing you can do is to drive beyond your limit and risk damaging the car, or even worse, hurt yourself and/or someone else. Although some insurance companies may cover damage incurred during the school, most do not. In order to determine if your insurance carrier would cover damage, obtain your policy’s list of exclusions.

Take your time building up your speeds as your comfort level increases. On average each entrant will receive a total of 1.5- 2 hours of track time, which is broken into three or four sessions. Initially this may not sound like a lot of time on the track, but at the end of the day you will be very tired. I still find it amazing just how tiring driving around a track is. Don’t be surprised if you get home from the event and you just want to lounge around the house and go to sleep early. You surely will be drained. Euphoria may settle in the next day!