TRACK DAY ARTICLE
By Jim Adelman
Originally appeared in Porsche Club of America’s Challenge Magazine
For a track junkie, what could be better than spending an entire day driving cars on a race track? How about spending an entire day driving cars on track being coached by a professional driving instructor?
The PCA’s Connecticut Valley Region “Fairfield Concours d’Elegance” is an impressive event. But this year was really special when my name was called as the winner of a raffle for a Lime Rock Drivers Club track day. As I deliberated about what to do with my prize, not fully understanding what was being offered, I received a call from Jeanette Veitenheimer, executive administrator for the Lime Rock Drivers Club. She explained exactly what I was lucky enough to have won, making it all sound very appealing, emphasizing, “You’re going to have a great time!” So I chose an available day and signed up.
My perception of the Lime Rock Drivers Club had been vague at best. I’ve watched “the others” driving during alternative hours at several Driver Education events and was often curious as to what they were trying to accomplish. There would be a variety of cars driving around the track relatively alone and frequently coming in and out of pit lane. Being a guest of the Club could be enlightening. Besides, I always had an itch to park my car in their reserved paddock area!
From the moment I arrived at the track, Jeanette and the Club team made every effort to make me feel welcome and comfortable, starting with a catered continental breakfast at the Drivers Club Chalet on the hill. After signing a waiver, I reviewed how my day would be spent with Simon Kirkby, the Lime Rock Drivers Club Director. The plan was simple: use the track time and professional coaching to improve my driving.
Simon, “the Brit,” was my pro driving instructor throughout the day, and he was by far the best “treat” for me. He’s a very experienced race car driver, spanning everything from rallying to the fiercest European open-wheel competition. We rode together for a track orientation, then he checked me out in the Club’s new BMW M3 – my first time driving spiritedly with paddle shifters, and a challenge to get used to. After several bouts of inadvertently flashing the headlights and turning on the windshield washers, I settled into following Simon’s expert coaching. Four hours of track time made it comfortable and easy to run several laps, pit to discuss what we were working on, then go out and try it all again. The format was always laid-back, with lots of time to review what we were attempting to achieve.
Simon occasionally switched seats to demonstrate a point. Obviously, he was capable of driving well above my pace but settled at a speed to which I could relate.
The variety of cars, sportsmanship and skill level of the Club drivers were impressive. The Club Members were all enthusiastic about their cars and most importantly, they were there to have fun and mainly work on improving their driving skills. Just like me!
Following a delicious buffet lunch in the Chalet, we took to the track again to refine what I had been working on all morning. At that point, Simon encouraged me to apply the lessons learned in the M3 while driving my own track car. Naturally more comfortable in my own car, it all started to come together. Simon joined me right-seat as we practiced the earlier routine: drive several laps, pit to discuss, and then back on the track to try it again.
At one point Simon drove my car for a few laps to demonstrate something I needed to see and feel. Wow! It was a real eye opener to experience my car’s potential. I could only imagine how quick he would be with more time in my car. For anyone delusional enough to think that you’re driving your car to its limits, give yourself a treat – and a reality check – by having a pro like Simon drive your car on a track. The exercise is enlightening, educational and humbling when you witness the car’s capability in really talented hands. The best lesson learned is that improving the car to increase performance is secondary to improving the driver.
When our time on track was over, we returned to the Chalet to relax, have some refreshments, and chat about the day... very civilized, indeed. Even with all the track time, my day flew by, definitely on an adrenalin rush. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until the drive home, sometimes thinking of Jeanette’s promise, “You’re going to have a great time.”
Actually, I had a fabulous time.