D-Day has come! We throw our...
D-Day has come! We throw our '05 GTO into the corners at Sebring International Raceway at more than 135 mph!
Now that your Pontiac has been thoroughly looked over and you have all the proper equipment ready for the track, it's time to get out there.
Jeff Lacina and Dell Hughes from Track Guys Performance Driving Events invited us out to participate in their "PDE," held at Sebring International Raceway from May 21-23, 2010.
Many clubs and groups hold these PDEs, but the training and safety that Track Guys provides impressed me. I was in Group 1-Novice. This put me on the track with beginners and in the classroom between sessions. Throughout the weekend, I learned a lot about my driving skills, and I left the event an all-around improved driver.
To start things off, all drivers attended a mandatory drivers' meeting Saturday at 8 a.m. sharp, so it's suggested that you have your car registered and inspected by tech the day before. See "Open Track Packin'" (Nov. '10) for a checklist. During this brief discussion, Jeff and Dell went over the agenda for the day, the do's and don'ts, as well as some basic etiquette.
At the meeting, I met my instructor, Jonathan Blevins, Track Guys' chief of Tech and Safety. We talked for a little bit about my driving experience before getting into the GTO. For the first few laps, the instructor took the wheel under caution to guide me through the track. Caution laps do not allow passing and are to be driven slowly. Drivers don't wear their helmets this go-around so that they can easily hear each other.
I listened to Jonathan carefully as he made suggestions for every inch of the track. Once the pair of laps was complete, we switched off and he guided me through the course, this time with me behind the wheel. Soon, we were heading off the track to go to school.
In The Classroom With Jeff Lacina
Here is the layout that we...
Here is the layout that we used at Sebring. It's 3.7 miles long and has 17 turns with long straights, high-speed corners, and very technical low-speed corners. The course still runs on old sections of World War II-era landing fields that were constructed of concrete sections with large seams that can be quite rough on suspension systems. Thankfully, we had our KW coilover setup tuned up just right.
Track Guys Performance Driving Events are not designed to be a racing school for competitive licensing requirements. It was founded as a way to get car owners out on tracks with their performance vehicles and introduce them to the basics of performance-driving techniques and etiquette, while maintaining a high level of education, safety, and fun.
To accomplish this, class sessions focus on the basics of car control, safety, and performance driving. This is more than enough to keep participants and their cars out of trouble, infect drivers with the performance-driving "bug," and put smiles on their faces. The combination of classroom learning and track instruction will stay with you for the rest of your driving career.
Cornering Terms Explained
The Line: The path your vehicle takes through a corner. You'll hear racers say, "I had a good line on that corner," or something similar. You're always hunting for the best line.
Each of the following terms describes different sections of the turn.
• Braking Zone: The area you will designate for scrubbing the car's speed to turn-in.
• Turn-In: This is where you will begin your turn. If you have turned in too early or too late, it will change your apex and track-out.
• Throttle/Power-on: You want to be back on the throttle at the earliest point you can for each corner; it will be different for each one.
• Apex: The part of the turn where you are closest to the inside. You will begin to return to straight after this.
• Track-out: After you have hit your apex, you will begin track-out, where you leave the turn and complete it.
Before I could learn how to incorporate these terms into my turning, Jeff discussed car dynamics-the physics of how your car will behave on the track. Since this was a novice class, only fundamental driving techniques were discussed, but we will also touch on a few more advanced techniques.
Jeff held a model car with a marker in the middle "pivot point" to display what a car does under braking, accelerating, and cornering. The visual clearly illustrates how the vehicle reacts to the forces placed upon it. For example:
Braking: Reduces speed and transfers weight to the front tires. In more advanced techniques, drivers can use the brakes for what's called "trail braking," where the brakes are applied conservatively to help the front tires dig into an aggressive low-speed corner, thereby helping with vehicle rotation.