One of the more memorable...
One of the more memorable moments of the weekend was when were told to ride along with our instructor in his own car. As it turns out, Jonathan had an uber-cool Factory Five Cobra racer that would pull your face off in the corners.
One of the first things you learn as an instructor is that every student is different-different backgrounds, natural skill levels, and ways of learning. So the first thing is to get to know the student, and his or her background and car. It's hard to push a student to the limit if you don't have any info on the car. One also needs to know how much experience the student has with the car in its current condition. Take Kevin's car as an example. Knowing it had the suspension and brake upgrades allowed me to push him harder and trust the car would continue to perform throughout the weekend.
Once behind the wheel, we started out with the basics-look ahead; be smooth with steering, brakes, and throttle, and of course, the line. Kevin, having some previous experience, was already doing most of this well. We did have to work on braking. Saturday morning he was a little too aggressive with the pedal, braking too hard and not releasing the brakes smoothly. We also had to work on his line, shifting, and being consistent with his entry speed. All of that sounds like a lot, and I'm sure at times for him it seemed like a lot, but he was actually doing quite well and was getting to pass some very nice hardware.
Throughout the weekend, we tackled most of these issues and Kevin's confidence continued to grow. Sunday afternoon I began to evaluate whether Kevin could be solo certified, giving him less and less coaching, letting him make mistakes, and seeing if he would identify and correct his errors before he got in over his head.
I was also watching to make sure he was seeing the flags and working well with the other students, both in passing and being passed. He was doing very well; if we had another session, I would have let him take at least part of the session solo. He could definitely be solo next time, although I would recommend an instructor for the first session just to make sure it is the same Kevin we had at the end of the weekend.
For next time, Kevin needs to work on heel-toe shifting and getting every corner right every time. He was beginning to learn about the effects of getting one corner right and how that additional speed would affect the next section of track. Basically he just needs seat time.
As for the GTO, the next step I would like to see is safety equipment. At the speeds the car can achieve, it really should have a four-point rollbar and maybe some nice race seats. Both of those are really big steps for a street car, but when heading into a corner at 135 mph, you begin to think maybe the inconvenience would be worth it.
Brake cooling would also be nice-during some of the longer sessions we were starting to run out of brakes. This will really come into play as Kevin gets faster. After that, everything is a compromise.
Of course, this is from an instructor-I want the car to be safe and consistent so the student can get as much seat time as possible. Everyone always wants to go faster and the GTO would handle and enjoy another 30-50 hp, but any more than that and you have to start thinking of the effects. You throw 100 hp at that car and then it will need a bigger radiator; possibly an oil, trans, and diff cooler; and most likely bigger brakes. It is truly a slippery slope. For track duty, you always have to look at the big picture. - Jonathan Blevins