by Robert Safe

In late 2020 I bought my first Porsche, a silver GT Carrera 4. I immediately joined PCA-Chicago and signed up as a novice for three HPDE events at Blackhawk and one at Gingerman.
What did I learn?

  • Pre-track instruction is invaluable. The virtual online sessions are where I was introduced to the dynamics of car handling before I experienced it at speed and on the track.  The Hot Lap track guides and video, available on our website, also helped orient me to track driving, which is absolutely not the same as simply driving fast on the freeway. Classroom instruction at the track after the first run drove home these lessons. A special shout-out here to Dana Comolli, John Ruther, Glenn DeWeirdt, Neil French, and Mark Palmer.
  • Nothing compares to in-car instruction. The insights, encouragement, and real-time inputs by our in-car instructors’ responses to their respective drivers driving decisions makes these DE events effective and special.
  • Smooth is fast. Every input I give to the car (turning, braking, accelerating) finds its way to that small contact patch between tires and track; and it’s that patch which keeps the car in control. Smooth inputs reduce the forces on that patch and help keep me within its adhesion limits. Respect the patch.
  • Fast corners are planned. Speed through a corner is directly related to entry speed, turn-in point, apex location, track-out point and rate of acceleration during track-out. Changing any one of these changes my line and speed at the exit. A slower entry often allows a much faster exit, as in a late apex turn.
  • Use the whole track. By using the whole track, and curbs when proper, my turn radius is increased and with it my speed.
  • Track elements are connected. The track is a continuum of parts that are not independent and must be driven in combination with each other for best speed. Exiting one part sets me up for entry into the next. A mistake that takes me offline in the first of a series of tightly coupled turns will probably follow me well into the others.
  • Stay focused. Things happen quickly at track speeds. Re-focus after making a mistake or you’re sure to make a bunch more.  Work to correct it on the next lap.
  • The limits of the car are high. Even in stock form, these cars have impressive traction and brakes. I found myself consistently braking too soon at the end of fast straights and driving too slowly around long sweeping turns. I learned to push it up slowly until I became comfortable with the limits of the car. Still working on that.
  • The right line just FEELS right. You know it at once.
  • This is fun. Everyone should try it. These skills are easily learned, and you meet great Club members happy to help each other.

Thanks to great instructors I was able to solo halfway through Gingerman, and then drove the Blackhawk Oktoberfiesta alone. My special thanks go to my brave in-car instructors; Ian Mast, Michael Kowal, and Bill Distel, and to all the pre-track and classroom instructors as well. Thank you all.

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