Surround Yourself with the Best
A year ago at this time, your GGR track team had just completed hosting its 2018 PCA National Instructor Training. Fast forward to the recent weekend of February 16-17, where we hosted the National Instructor Training once again.
Last May (“How Many Hands Do You Have?”), your track chair tinkered with the idea that we could expand our program repertoire from three courses to eight, if for no other reason than to be able to say “Yeah, I’ve driven that.” At this most recent Instructor Training weekend, we raided Thunderhill’s west side two mile course, a circuit that GGR, historically, has rarely used.
In the days preceding the weekend, we were sleeping with one eye open and on the Weather Channel, hoping that we would have a dry track for at least half of our event. Whereas wet conditions are a great teaching tool, we’d rather implement that tool some other time.
About the west course, some teeth gnashing ensued. (“Aaagh, the west side. I hate the west side.”) Yes, it’s completely different from the “usual” east side. Not only is it shorter, but it is, as they say, more technical. The only corners of the west side ten that do not “connect” with each other are 10 and 1, and 2 and 3. Otherwise, a driver must precisely execute every other corner to be in position for the next. It’s busy!
Passing zones are few, so there are only a couple of opportunities on the west course to just sit back and let the motor do all the work.
The perception is that it is “slow” compared to the east course, when in fact the average lap speed is virtually the same on both (unless you have a cheater GT3, which then requires you to share your accomplishments with its motor and PDK).
Your track chair, in letting his “coach” persona off leash, desires for GGR’s instructors to be as prepared as possible for all of its events. It is not enough, in your track chair’s opinion, that we can just say, “Yeah, I’ve driven that.” Our instructors need to be able to say, “I can teach you that.” As such, conducting our training on the not-so-familiar two mile course allowed a learning environment that more or less forced both our season instructors and instructor candidates to address the additional layer of learning (or at least reacquainting one’s self with) a new track. Of the entire group of instructors and candidates, you could count those who had driven the west side on one hand.
To maintain the learning curve over the course of the weekend, we turned things around and ran the west side course the reverse direction on Sunday. When asked at the Saturday morning instructors’ meeting how many had driven the course in reverse, the room went silent. (Your track chair is pretty sure they were all thinking, “Is he really going to make us do this?”) Cue the Cheshire grin.
“Well, alrighty then,” your track chair gleamed. “It’s going to be a fun weekend!”
…and just like that, we added two courses and twenty corners to our standard portfolio. The only replication between the two courses was the prominent weed serving as the at-the-crest apex marker for the off-camber, 80 mph turn 8.
Admittedly, the idea to run the west course in reverse was a complete roll of the dice. Well, maybe not a complete roll. Your track chair drove it in the rain back at the beginning of January in a Mercedes E350, and it seemed at the time (slipping and sliding under the downpour from dark skies) that it could be OK.
As it turned out, running the west course in reverse was deemed much more fun by virtually all drivers. (In a kind of “you heard it here first,” keep that in mind when we run the five mile in April.) We even had one driver on Sunday exclaim “frickin’ genius!”
…and the weather? While cold (35 degrees) and wet in the mornings, the sun came out in full force every morning to warm our chilly bodies the entirety of both days!
Your Chief Driving Instructors Scott Kalkin and Brad Williams had selected and invited fourteen specific experienced drivers to be instructor candidates. This allowed for a “success” rate (those candidates we will bring on as provisional instructors) not seen before. Hats off to Scott and Brad for bringing on a very good slate of candidates! Twenty-one seasoned instructors (including two each from our neighboring Diablo and Redwood Regions) served as instructor mentors. The teamwork and camaraderie between candidates and mentors was immediate, in sync, productive, and inspiring. Every one of the mentors and candidates were committed to making their time together as productive as possible. Kudos again to Scott and Brad for putting the right people together!
As a reminder, registration is open for our upcoming DE and Club Race event at Thunderhill March 23-24. (Fret not – we’ll be running the east side three mile course in the normal, CCW direction.) Be sure and read the new rules.
Register for the DE at: https://www.motorsportreg.com/events/pca-ggr-de-2-thunderhill-raceway-park-golden-gate-track-events-453046
Club racers register at: http://register.pca.org
Our instructors are ready, drivers!
See you at the track!