Is High Performance Driving Safe?

There is an old debate rising up with new vigor lately: is high performance driving getting to be so dangerous that major changes need to be made? There has been a recent major incident (fatality) at Road Atlanta (RA) that seems to be spurring the online commentary and chatter. Heavy hitters like Ross Bentley (one of my favorite authors, of Speed Secrets fame) and Don Salisbury (founder of Blue Ridge SCCA region, Blue Ridge PCA safety head) have weighed in. And they say that horsepower is too high, speeds are too high, and danger is too high. And that changes need to happen.

These two highly-knowledgeable instructors propose that speeds on the straights at tracks for cars without roll cages be potentially limited. Ross Bentley says, "We either make cars have all the safety equipment, or we control speeds." When asked how he came up with the idea to limit speeds on track, Don Salisbury states, "That is easy: Structural integrity, kinetic energy and years of watching high speed incidents "tearing apart" and "balling up" cars in club and pro races with a large part of that being the heavier Showroom Stock cars. You have street cars without rollcages doing 150+ at some tracks. They were never designed to crash at those speeds."

There was an interesting counterpoint made by Mark Hicks, General Manager at Chin Motorsports.com, one of the largest private organizers of track day events. He contends, "In the last 5 years, I'm aware of 4 fatalities nationwide in track day/HPDE events: 2 involved running-off into trees after loss of control in a corner at tracks with inadequate safety barriers. 1 was a crash at corner exit that resulted in an injury that was exacerbated by an undisclosed medical condition (a normally healthy driver would have likely survived). And, the incident most recently at Road Atlanta, which happened on a straightaway. Applying a straightaway speed limit cannot be demonstrated to have a mitigating affect on a single one of the incidents described above. Even though the nationwide numbers of participants has increased in recent years, there's not a sudden spike in fatalities. In fact, fatality probability, as a factor of track miles driven, is probably at an all-time low."

Personally, I have enjoyed many side conversations (often on Facebook) on a related range of topics such as, "what exactly is the educational component of high performance driving education (HPDE)?" and "how is progress measured, especially if lap times are no longer applicable?"

Driving three cars at the same time: fun at ADSI on July 19

It's mid-summer and hot. And a great time to enjoy driving! A few ACF members and friends took a trip down to Quonset Point to attend the July 19 session of ADSI's high performance driving school and autocross. I wanted to see how many of my cars I could get down there to experience so I enlisted the aid of Alex SdB and Mike M so we could manage three: the '07 997, the '86 944, and the '73 914. 

#ForzaJesse!

Folks, one of our own from Providence and ADSI has had a spell of bad luck at a hillclimb at Okemo. Many of you probably know Jesse Whitsell, proprietor of Banchwerks - a great auto shop in Providence, fierce driver of an E30 M3 which spends most of its time going sideways, and all around great guy who is always ready to provide automotive advice and a helping hand. 

Should you be so inclined, you can help him with medical bills and not being able to work for a while as he recovers from surgery.

A Real Guide to Palmer Motorsports Park

I hope everyone is having a good summer and is getting excited for ADSI at Quonset on July 19th!! 

Here is some breaking news! A very experienced driver–and a person I'm very happy to have recently met: Ron Savenor–has posted a much more in-depth look at the right way to get around Palmer Motorsports Park at speed. I found it pretty fascinating to compare his impressions to mine. The big takeaway for me is that I was throwing out too much of the theoretical line, thinking I was finding a faster way around the track. I now realize that it was faster largely because of my own limited skills! This info has helped me to see that I was on to something by observing the helpful camber in places on the track, but I was also leaving a lot of speed on the table by trying to cut corners too sharply. That was also probably hurting my tires a bit more than I should have been. 

I hope you find it as instructional as I have. Thanks, Ron!

Next up: ADSI autocross on 7/19 N.Kingston RI

While you are all planning out your summer activities, block off this day on your calendars: 7/19 8am to 5pm. We'll be headed down to the autocross at Quonset Point in North Kingston, RI to be instructed by ADSI's crew. The morning will start at 8am with lessons until noon. From about 1pm to 5pm, the full autocross course will be up and running for timed runs and refining the skills learned in the morning.

Should anyone have forgotten how much you learn and how much fun it is, I'll just leave this here for you to refresh your memory (link to video):

Palmer Motorsports Park - Adding A Third Dimension

What a surreal weekend with the Porsche Club at Palmer Motorsports Park in Palmer/Ware, Massachusetts this weekend! I still can't quite believe it actually happened. We had Thompson Speedway's road course come online last year in this region and had the joy of working to figure out that new track. And now this! And this one is unbelievably complex. How you ask? Try adding about 150 feet of elevation change per lap!! Let's take a minute to explore why that changes everything.

You Can't Wait for this Weekend!

The fun of summer is well upon us folks! It's track season! And wedding season. And graduation season. And where the heck are my kids going to summer camp season. And all that fun too! But mostly track season! This weekend's main event is the ADSI autocross at Quonset. Most of you should be there. 

I, oddly, will not be there. I'm going to be trying to not do anything stupid at the new track up in Palmer called Whiskey Hill or something like that. The PCA overlap with ADSI is rough this year for me, but such is life I guess. If you don't think it's quite so dramatic, take a look:

And here is Ron Savenor (those who've been on Charles Street in Boston may recognize the name) taking his Cup car around the course.

Our fellow ACF member Alex G. is supposed to be there with me so hopefully we'll learn this beast together. But in the mean time, I fully expect you all to get yourselves down to Quonset to enjoy the amazing driving at ADSI!! No excuses this time! And I promise I'll be a regular for the rest of the events after this one, especially when Anthony puts two in one month for July!!

So get this stuff on your calendars folks and get to some driving, will ya?

Following The Pack - Thompson 5/9/15

A Driver's Education (DE) event with the Porsche Club has become one of my more favorite things to do. But it has been an evolution to get to that place. Despite my normal love of driving and, now, amateur car-control events, I'll admit that my first trip to drive my own car on a real race track in 2013 was a bit nerve-wracking. Everyone thinks they are the world's best driver, especially before they have ever been trained (where we learn we aren't nearly as good as we think we are...). So I at least had that going for me. Yes, I had driven other people's car on a race track before - Skip Barber High Performance Driving School at the historic Lime Rock Park track in CT - so it wasn't that I hadn't been on a track before. Tracks are certainly a bit intimidating, especially New Hampshire Motor Speedway with it's full NASCAR stands around the oval. You really just don't know quite what to expect.

Shifting Our Way Into Spring

As we go from freezing our nuts and bolts off to baking our coolant, it's a good time to look ahead and do some planning. The Formula 1 boys may take a few weeks off, but here in New England we're just getting started. In less than two weeks, ADSI will host it's second school and autocross of the season. The date is Sunday May 17th. My son has a karting event that day so I may catch the late afternoon at best (2-5pm??) or may miss it altogether. My grand plan to hit all the events again this year is being somewhat confounded. But that does not dissuade me from encouraging all of you to take advantage of one of our local natural resources!