Second post to NASA Speed News; going fast and having fun!

 
With the second post written for the National Auto Sports Association (NASA) digital publication, Speed News, I upped the ante somewhat. While the central theme was about going fast and having fun, little did either Margo or I realize the commitment this would require! To be honest, for most of that first year on track with NASA as a participant in their High Performance Driver Event (HPDE) program it was more a case of hanging on and hoping to be able to drive home with the car we brought.

This second post also made reference to a previous post that appeared on this blog. It was a reference to an outing in a Ferrari F430 that good friend David Roberts had arranged for me and my good friend Brian Kenny while we were visiting him in Sydney. The venue was Sydney Motor Sport Park and with a number of weekends completed with NASA there was still no denying that a huge gulf in skill existed between a pro driver and those like Margo and I wanting to simply drive our car fast.

For those who may have missed that post of November 12, 2013, simply follow this line to Two golds and a red!

So here you have it; the second article to appear in NASA’s Speed News!

THE HPDE JOURNEY

You finalized your registration for your first ever event with NASA and you checked the box for a weekend of on-track driving experience in HPDE1. And it hits you – this is not going to be an experience like any other. Everyone in HPDE1 will be at the same level of experience (or lack there off) as you are and even after you have completed your registration you aren’t all that sure what that means. Experience? Sure, I can go fast! Of course, there will likely be a number of participants with a couple of years of karting under their belt. You can always spot them early – the drivers with the ratty Miatas.

No worries, as by the afternoon they most likely will have graduated to HPDE2 and then you won’t see them again! As for the rest of us, the initial intimidation from entering a hot track is palpable and there is no denying that the nerves are frayed in the extreme. The question every HPDE1 driver asks as they enter the track for the first time, am I fully prepared? Will it all work for me?

Considering how little contact there is between a car and a track’s surface you would think tires would be the first thing HPDE participants would check, but oftentimes, this isn’t the case. What to put on for your first track outing? Having no experience whatsoever, it was less a case of throwing on a set of slicks than it was ensuring you had a good set of street tires. Take it from me, until you make it all the way up into HPDE3 or have joined a racing program, slicks are the last thing you need first time out. On the other hand wheels should be in good condition and with a lot of tread left on the tires. Just as important, an alignment close to factory spec is the best option first time out. Setups will change with time and experience but initially, it’s all about coming to terms with that car you brought to the track!

And let’s get serious here; check all your fluids. Again, first time out you just need to have engine oil topped up as well as brake and clutch fluids looking good. Don’t forget power steering fluid either as I boiled it on one occasion. No need to upgrade to more track suitable fluids just yet but, in time that will likely be the case. The mantra of HPDE is to go fast and to have fun among like-talented drivers all heading in the same direction. It takes time – a lot longer for some than others.

When I was in Sydney, Australia, I had the opportunity for a ride along in a Ferrari F430 for a couple of laps around Sydney Motorsports Park in the hands of a Red Bull hot shoe. That was eye-opening. Nothing though compares to time spent in your own car on an equally famous track like Sonoma or Big Willow. Even for novices like me, the HPE sessions end all too quickly. 

Pulling back into the pits after a session, grabbing a Gatorade and heading for the HPDE1 download, there is an undeniable sense of relief as there is just a small sense of accomplishment. Yes, it’s a small accomplishment and no, not everyone will want to come back the following month but for those in HPDE1 for the very first time that become hooked on the fun with safety aspects, it’s the beginning of a long journey. For me, it will be ten years with NASA and the emotion returns each time I check a regions schedule.  


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