At the lunch break the instructors conducted “demos” where they would drive their own cars and take students along for a ride on the track. I had the chance to ride along with another instructor in Don’s Lotus Elise and that was a blast! The car definitely feels very purpose built for the track, and handles more like a kart than a car in how precise it felt in steering and overall responsiveness.
Later in the day Don invited me to ride along with him in the car as well and he demonstrated more of the smoothness we had been working on in my car and it further illustrated where I needed to focus my practice. He really was making very minimal turns of the wheel, smoothly setting it, and then using the throttle to make minor adjustments throughout the turn. He definitely showed a driving level I aspire to get to with more practice so I really appreciated that experience.
We then went out for more laps and I was starting to feel much more confident about the turns on the track. Don did a great job of figuring out where I was skill wise and pushing me to get better. He had me braking later at the straightway as I had a tendency to lift a bit early and brake earlier than I needed to (from doing a bit over 100 mph on the main straight). He kept reminding me to use maintenance throttle (not accelerating or decelerating) during the turns and helped me with my shift points during braking. All of these things resulted in my going incrementally faster. I was starting to get pointed by to pass by higher performance cars and that was a blast.
After one of the breaks I took the time to walk around a bit and talk with some of the other drivers. I had noticed earlier in the day someone had a Porsche 944 on track so I looked for the car and went to meet the owner. I met Colin, who told me he’d recently bought the car a few weeks back and loved it. It’s a lower horsepower car but he found it to be great for learning without extra power masking your mistakes or getting you into trouble. So far it looks like that may be the right car for me to get as a race car so I was glad to have a chance to chat with him.
As I walked around I took the time to snap some more pictures of other cool cars I saw in the paddock and I came across a very serious looking race prepped Porsche 911. The owner turned out to be one of the instructors and I chatted with him briefly about the car. He then offered me a ride in it, and I jumped at the chance! Now this was probably one of the highlights of the day. I got in the car and strapped in the 5 point harness of the racing seat and we went out. The first lap felt absolutely like a roller coaster ride. Although I’d been out on track both in my car and as a passenger in the Lotus, this was definitely way faster. This thing was fiercely loud and just ate up the track spectacularly. We got pointed by several cars and it was just a blast lap after lap.
I went back on track in my car for the remainder of the day and continued working on my skills. Later in the day Don approved me for solo, which means I could go on track on my own without an instructor riding with me. This allowed me to continue practicing on my own and by the end of the day I really felt things were clicking for me. I was able to implement Don’s instruction and could see I was carrying alot more speed through the turns while at the same time doing so more smoothly. This is a great and addicting feeling, when you can get the car to just fly through the track almost at the limit in a very controlled fashion with the minimum steering inputs needed.
Overall this was an amazing track day and a great value for the amount of instruction and experiences I got that day. I’m now approved for solo on two local tracks and have come a long way in terms of driving ability on the track. I can’t say enough good things about Don and the Hooked on Driving team of instructors and I’ll definitely be looking out for their future events.