Novice Day at NHIS 30th April 2008
On April 30th, in a partnership between North Country Region (NCR) and Northeast Region (NER), we will be holding an event of particular interest to those who have never attended a DE. “Novice Day” will be held at New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS) which is a short 1 hour drive north of Boston. We hold “Novice Day” only once a year, and although complete newcomers are welcome to any of our events, this day has a special focus for those with no experience. Unique to this event we will have special extended classrooms as well as a car control clinic including time on a skidpan, a braking exercise and mini-slalom. In the afternoon you will also be spending time on the full race course with a PCA instructor.
In preparation for our upcoming “Novice Day”, and with the newcomer in mind, the following provides a little more detail about the day, provides a fuller explanation of what to expect at your first event as well as what you need to do to prepare. We would also recommend reading Bill Hawe’s article on NER’s website titled “What to bring to your first DE event” and viewable at:
Let us start by reiterating what a Driver Education (DE) event is all about:
DE events are held at racetracks, but are not races. There are no prizes or rankings, and how well you drive fast is much more important than how fast you are. The intent and focus of the event is to allow you to take your Porsche to the track and explore your own and the car’s capabilities at speeds unobtainable on the street in a relatively safe environment and under the guidance of a PCA instructor.
So presuming you have registered and been accepted and are intending to attend, what should you expect when you get there?
Before you actually hit the track there is some stuff you should know and some pre-event procedures:
- The first thing you need to do is get to the track on time. You will find the track’s address and directions in the accompanying Track Pack. Usually the gates to the track will open a couple of hours before the first run of the day – At NHIS the gates open at 7am. Most drivers like to arrive as soon as the gates open as there is much to do before the event.
- Upon arrival at the track you will need to confirm your registration. Typically registration is easy to find as it will be where the crowds of people are queued. At “registration” you will be required to provide your drivers license and in some cases your PCA membership card, you will be given a wrist band to indicate your “run group” along with a schedule of the days event and information about your assigned instructor (unless this information was already supplied to by email in advance of the event in which case you should print it and bring it with you).
- After Registering you will need to find a place to unload. Follow everybody else to “the paddock” or “infield” and choose a spot that suits you. There is no protocol as to where to park. The only exception will be the garages. Most events require that you reserve a garage at the time of your original registration – if you happen to be one of the lucky (and early) few you will be informed of your garage location by email prior to the event.
- Once you have found a place to park your next task is to unload everything that is not bolted down from your car and we mean everything – tool kits, floor mats, spare tires, that morning cup of coffee all need to be removed.
- Next, you need to take your car to tech inspection. Typically, there will be a sign up to show you where the inspection is being undertaken. If you don’t see a sign have a look for a line of cars waiting. At the tech line your car will have a final inspection for safety. Scrutineers will check your lug nuts, brakes and tires amongst other things. They will also want to look at your helmet to ensure it meets minimum requirements and will collect your “tech form” – you remember the one your pre-tech inspector supplied you with before you headed off for the track.
Having completed the formalities there is nothing left to do but listen for announcements and go with the flow. Events provide for different run groups with the intention of ensuring that you are running with people of similar skills and experience as yourself. At your first event you will be assigned to the “Novice” run group and you will be assigned an instructor who will be with you for the duration of the event whenever you on the track. The instructor’s task is to gently introduce you to the principles of high performance driving on a one-on-one basis. S/he will talk to you, demonstrate, and then guide you through the skills of getting the most out of your Porsche and understanding vehicle dynamics. If you have a little time it is well worth trying to locate your instructor. Prior to the event (or at registration) you will be given your instructor’s name and vehicle details. Ask around as someone will be able to point you to your instructor. Try to make a plan for where and when you will meet your instructor after the driver’s meeting.
To help you in understanding the principles and practice of performance driving you will be asked to attend both a driver’s meeting and a classroom prior to your first “run” of the day. The meetings will cover a lot of information about flags, passing zones, passing protocols as well as a talking about “the line” (the most effective way to negotiate any given corner) and many other terms specific to performance driving. Don’t worry too much if on first hearing you are not certain you can remember it all – most of us felt that way. Before and while on the track your instructor will remind and reinforce the learnings.
At the April 30th “Novice Day” at NHIS, your morning following your classroom will be occupied with a Car Control Clinic. At the clinic you will be instructed and participate in various fun but relatively low speed activities on the skid pan. The object of this clinic is to start to learn the basics of vehicle dynamics, get a feel for the limits of your car and to start to apply some of the lessons learnt in your classroom.
Soon enough it will be time to go out on the race track. In the afternoon you will be out for 2 runs each lasting between approximately 20 minutes. Your instructor will be with you the whole time. In most circumstances your Instructor will drive you in your car for a couple of laps to show you the way around and to demonstrate “the line”. Nothing I can say here will accurately describe the first time you drive a race track in a Porsche. What is important to understand, however, is that your instructor will not pressure you to do things you are not comfortable doing – we want you driving well long before we want you driving quickly. Safety is always the first consideration at a Driver Education. What is almost a certainty is that you will have an enormous amount of fun and hopefully will learn lessons that you can carry back into your daily driving.
The only other thing you need to be aware of is that, although we will have professional flaggers at all events this year, all drivers are expected to carry out a “work assignment” at some point during the days activities. This typically involves helping with staging other drivers prior to their run of helping with pit-out. In any case your responsibilities and the time you will be required to work will be explained to on the day and there is nothing you need to do in advance.
On a related subject, we are often asked what a new driver should do in preparation for a Drivers Education event. The answer is very little. If your car is in good roadworthy condition, has passed a pre-inspection and you have a helmet with at least an SA2000 or M2000 rating then you should be good to go. Having said that there are a few things you should be aware of:
- Make sure you know what the factory recommends for tire pressures, that you have an accurate pressure gauge and that your tires are set to the correct cold pressures before you leave home.
- Make sure your brakes and particularly your brake pads are in good condition. Your pads should be at least half as thick as a new set and it’s never a bad idea to have a spare set with you. Ideally having the knowledge and tools to change them would be great but don’t worry too much as there is usually plenty of people with the skills and equipment who will be willing to help if you get stuck. If you don’t know how to check your own brake pads ask your pre-tech inspector for advice.
- Bring plenty of water with you. Driving on a track is hot thirsty work and dehydration should be a constant concern.
- Get plenty of rest the night before the event. The day will be surprisingly taxing on you in many ways.
- Wear (or bring with you) a long sleeved cotton shirt and cotton trousers. It also may be a good idea to bring a cotton jacket in case it gets a little cool. Synthetic clothing including Nylon jackets or fleece sweaters are never acceptable for wearing on the track for fear of the potential fire hazard they pose.
- Bring a waterproof jacket with you (preferably in a dark color as red and/or yellow cannot be worn during work assignments) in case it rains and don’t forget to bring sufficient plastic bags or containers for all the gear you will be removing from your car.
- Make sure you read all of the information available on both NER’s and NCR’s websites under the link “Driver Education”. Take particular notice of the area describing the differing flags that will be used at the track.
- Make sure you check you email prior to the event for any email messages. In these you will find schedules, track maps and last minute information.
Hope this has been helpful to some and we look forward to meeting our newer members at the track.