Speed Secrets: How to Get the Most Out of Your HPDE Instructor
By Ross Bentley
March 21, 2017
You get to your long-anticipated HPDE event, your car is prepped and ready to go, you've studied the track map and many videos, and now you're ready to have fun driving fast. You're introduced to your instructor for the day, you head out on track... and what happens from there will dictate how well the rest of the day goes. Your instructor has more influence on your learning and driving experience than anything (and anyone) else.
That's why I asked Dev Clough, Operations Manager for Hooked on Driving to share his thoughts about how to get the most out of your instructor. Dev has been in the business of performance driving, racing, instructing, coaching,
managing instructors, and running HPDE events for more years than he cares to admit!
Enjoy! - Ross
How to get the most out of your coach at an event? This can vary greatly, depending upon many factors. The biggest difference might be based upon a driverʻs level of experience. But for all drivers, a couple of obvious thoughts. Get a good night’s sleep and eat well before the event. Arrive at the track with your car in great shape. Making adjustments to the car, changing tires, installing new brakes will all interfere with your focus. Next, be prepared to ask questions. You are here to learn. It is never truer than to say there are no dumb questions!
If you are a novice, it’s straightforward:
• Be there to learn.
• Do as much prep ahead of time as possible.
• Take some time to learn the flags. Don’t just read about the flags, but visualize how you would react if a flag is displayed. Watch videos of other folks on the track you will be driving. As you watch, find the flag stations. Know the passing rules for the group you will be running in.
• Visualize passing and being passed.
• As you drive on the street before the event, regularly ask yourself if your eyes are focused well ahead of the car. Your coach will be asking you to do this a lot!
• There is a saying in HPDE circles, “In slow, out fast.” The concept is: entering the corner perfectly under control and placing the car exactly where you want it will allow you to exit quickly and carry the most speed to the next corner.
• Drive within yourself. It is extremely difficult to coach in a car that is being driven at the driverʻs limit. Be aware of how your coach is feeling. If your coach is yelling, “brake, brake, brake!” they are not coaching, they are trying to survive!
• So, arrive as prepared as possible, and with an open mind, then drive at a pace that allows you and your coach to communicate easily and comfortably.
• If you find you are only hearing some of what your coach is telling you, slow down to the point that you can hear and act upon your coachʻs inputs.
• In the morning, before you go on track, tell your coach about a situation where you learned easily from someone else. Be prepared to help your coach understand how you learn best.
• Your coach will expect feedback from you. Talk.
• If your coach uses a term or expression you are not familiar with, ask them to explain.
• Keep in mind that coaching is a two-way process. Coaches are trained to be good at analyzing how you learn, and adjusting to that, and you should be a partner in that process.
If you are an experienced driver, it’s just a little different. First, the obvious:
• If possible, avoid making changes to the car before the session that can muddy the results.
• Plan to spend the day (or session) focused on coaching, and arrive with a plan. What is it you want to accomplish? And be specific. A plan that says, “I want to drop two seconds from my best lap time” is more of a goal than a plan. A plan might say, “I have been braking at the 2 marker for Turn 1. I want to find out if by braking a bit sooner, but returning to throttle sooner, can I improve my exit speed?” Tell your coach what your plan is and make sure you and your coach are on the same plan.
• Bring along a notebook and write down your results. You might start with your goal: My goal is to take one second off my best laptime, and to do that I plan to:
Try braking sooner for Turn 1 so that I can accelerate sooner with the intent of carrying more speed out of the corner.
Did I actually try this?
Did it help or hurt?
If it helped, can I brake sooner yet?
Try turning in later for Turn 6 with the intent of squaring off the corner slightly to get back to throttle sooner and improve exit speed.
Did I actually try this?
Did it help or hurt?
If it helped, can I turn in later and improve the result?
• Leave room for your coach to offer suggestions. They may see something you have missed.
• Once you have set a plan, stick with it.
And the following apply to all drivers:
Keep notes. It’s a very good idea to have a log of information from track to track. A written record of tire temps, pressures, atmospheric conditions, etc. is important. When you return to a track and cannot replicate your lap times, is it you, the car or the conditions? If you have a record, it’s a place to start.
On very rare occasions a driver and coach just do not mesh. I think I’m a pretty good coach, and it has happened to me. First, give your coach a chance. If it’s not going well, tell them! The odds are, if you are not clicking with your coach, they are most likely not having a great day, either. Most coaches are fully prepared to switch drivers, if that’s what is best for the group, so please, do not suffer in silence! Your coach will thank you for this, if they don’t bring it up first!
Finally, come with the intention of having fun and enjoying the day. This is all part of the learning process, and what could be better than spending a day getting better at what we love doing? And here is something else to remember: you may spend a day or session with a coach and not come away with any measurable improvement, but if you tried new things, you have added to your knowledge. That is improvement!
- Dev Clough