By on February 15, 2018

The speedometer on the little two-seater was already past 90 and climbing as I watched the grey-haired fellow to my left put both his hands on the left side of the steering wheel and start to tug at it. There was a curve ahead, a long blind left-hander with a line of Jersey barriers on the shoulder. What was on the road after that was a complete mystery, both to him and me. Neither one of us had ever been here before.

He tugged on the wheel at the same time as he stomped on the brakes. Various lights flashed on the instrument panel ahead of him. The car slewed then caught itself. There was a hot metallic smell as the stability control and ABS clamped all four corners of the car in rapid-fire pulses. The right front tire groaned in protest as we gradually sacrificed momentum down to about 30 mph.

“Let’s pull over here,” I said in what I hoped was a flat and judgment-free voice, “and stop for a minute.” We came to a halt in a small parking lot. A minivan pulled in behind us. I got out of the car and walked over to the minivan, where my photography team was waiting. We were all here to do a story on this relatively rare and exotic car and its owner, whose bacon had just been saved along with mine by the very best efforts of an Italian stability-control engineer.

“Move something,” I told the photographers, “I’m riding in the van now.”

“I GUESS HE DON’T WANT TO RIDE WITH ME!” the owner yelled. “I DRIVE AT THE EDGE!”

“He drives over the edge,” I spat, stepping into the van and finding a recently-cleared seat in the third row. “Over the edge of idiocy.”

This past Saturday, a Boomer-aged HPDE student was killed in a one-car crash at Roebling Road Raceway. His instructor, provided to him by the Porsche Club of America as a part of his participation in the two-day weekend event, was seriously injured. There are no further details available and, if past PCA practice is any guideline, there probably won’t be any further details available. It could have been a mechanical failure and it could have been the best-effort response to an existing on-track incident. There’s no way to know.

After 13 years as a driver coach, however, I am having a hard time not just reaching into my bag of stereotypes and scattering a few all over the event. The driver was 70 years old and he was behind the wheel of a Porsche. I’ve sat right seat with a lot of men who fit that description — and I’ve decided that I just don’t want to do that anymore. Not unless it’s absolutely necessary to earn a buck or fill in to help an organization for which I feel some affinity.

I’m tired of Boomer-aged doctors and lawyers and finance professionals who have been flawlessly trained by the circumstances of their fortunate and comfortable lives to feel an absurd sense of confidence and entitlement behind the wheel of some terrifyingly capable machinery. You can’t tell these dudes anything. They don’t listen. Sometimes you will spend a whole day getting them to shed bad, dangerous habits only to see them revert in a flash to their old ways the minute their amygdala is triggered by a narcissistic injury or a sudden memory or just the phase of the moon.

I’m tired of sitting right seat with dudes who think you can huck a 600-horsepower Ferrari on Hoosiers around the way you hucked a ’75 Mustang II with 110 horsepower and bias-ply tires. I have contempt for the people who don’t realize they are being saved again and again by ESC but I prefer them to the people who think that you should turn off all the “nannies” on your Hellcat before you take your first-ever lap around a road course. I’m 100 percent over hearing stories of high-speed canyon drives in California and I am 200 percent over sitting right seat for those canyon drives in the pursuit of some story or feature article.

Thanks to over 170 days in the instructor seat, I’ve learned to almost immediately identify all of the habits that people are going to display. There’s the Freeway Pumper who is incapable of holding the accelerator pedal at any steady position. There’s the Stab and Grab guy who always uses the steering and brakes at exactly the same time. There’s Mister Weeble Wobble who can’t stop jerking the wheel every time he moves his head to look at something. They all think they’re great drivers. The only way to show them that they aren’t is to put them in the right seat and take them around a track at 95 percent of race pace. That shuts them up, but it’s so much ego, it’s so much narcissism on your part, even if you don’t want it to be.

The old men are the worst. I’m tired of them and that applies equally to the HPDE students, the rich guys with exotics, the people who make cars available for tests. I respect their efforts and I like them as human beings, but I don’t want to sit next to them any more.

Some time ago, I had a fellow instructor tell me that he gives each one of his new students a sort of throwaway line when he gets in to the car with them.

“Don’t try to impress me,” he says, “because you can’t impress me. And don’t try to scare me, because I’m already scared.”

At the time I thought that it was an unprofessional thing to say. But I’m coming around to it. It’s maybe not quite in line with the McQueen/Hemingway/whatever demeanor that a driving instructor is supposed to display. Still. It applies. I’m already scared. Let’s not make it any worse. Let’s not upgrade it from “already scared” to “almost dead”.

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127 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: I’m Already Scared...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Just curious, Jack…what percent of ‘performance driving students’ would you say actually learn something?

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My experience pales in comparison to JB but… I’d say 100% of them that WANT to learn. Those that can listen and follow directions do just fine. As mentioned there are some that already know everything and thus can’t be taught. In training we have saying – you get 3 types: students, prisoners and vacationers. Students are the best, vacationers can sometimes learn a thing or two, but prisoners never learn. I have one main rule: the nanny stay ON when I am in the right seat. Rule #2 is if they don’t listen then I’m out and they can find another instructor.

      Thankfully 90% of the guys I’ve instructed have kept their ego in check. You can usually figure the dangerous ones out pretty quickly. I’ve had a few that are just ham fisted with the wheel, or can’t figure out the line, or don’t apply the brakes/accelerator properly. Basically you except to see some improvement session to session. You know when they are making progress when they start catching and admitting their own mistakes. If I don’t see this happening then I drive their car to show them how its done. Everyone learns differently so occasionally you’ll just be an incompatible pairing.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        That happened to me on my second track outing with my current car. Older guy was my instructor. We just didn’t jell.

        The guy had been in a bad accident with a previous student and his unfamiliarity with my car and my lack of experience probably contributed alot to that.

        It was my second outing with the car so I had more confidence it its capability than he did.

        While I enjoyed the event it wasn’t nearly as fun as my first one where the previous instructor hadn’t suffered a serious accident and was more confident in my car.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    A powerful statement to the intersection of privilege and masculinity. Even if it may not happen to explain this particular case, as appropriately acknowledged.

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    I always like to say that your most important and valuable safety device is inside your helmet. Use that properly, and all the other equipment is most likely going to be just along for the ride.

    HPDE/Track Day is not a competition. There are no trophies, no winners, except for maybe “Biggest Dumbass”. You don’t want that one.

  • avatar
    hirostates12

    My extremely strong urge for survival has always made me “the slow guy” in driving situations where my peers and buddy’s were working to impress themselves or others.

    I am the poster boy for going in slow and coming out alive.

    It used to embarrass me but hey, I’m 50 and I’m still here and some of them aren’t. That, as Shel Silverstein said, makes me “THE WINNER!”

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I did a short version of the BMW performance school a few weeks ago in South Carolina at the factory. I thought I was a pretty decent driver in comparison to some of the other dipsh*ts in the class. Then we took the hot lap with the instructors driving. I am nothing. I almost wonder if that hot lap should have been first, or would that have tempted me to push it harder? I’m not sure.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Ah, it’s too bad you are too beat up to be a motorcycle track day instructor. Mashing the gas in a car and driving like an idiot just takes a lack of brain cells. Flying through a kink at full lean at triple digit speeds? That takes brains and balls.

    Silly as this sounds, it might be a good idea to put these FOGs (fat old guys) on a sim racing rig before cutting them loose. They would probably cry that “this is just a video game”, but the skills definitely transfer over (as evidenced by the mega sim rigs used by F1 drivers), and they could see exactly how hard corralling a 600HP beast actually is without killing anybody.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Riding a safe distance behind is always preferable to sitting beside, if you’re stuck trying to teach someone unteachable, how to do something potentially dangerous.

      More than that, Bikes also give MUCH more feedback (of the negative kind), much further from the limit, than modern “performance” cars. Combined with the amount of overlap between the skillets required to pilot either kind of vehicle, I still think 3 years and 50,000 miles onroad on an open two wheeler, would be a sensible prerequisite for a license to drive a car. With perhaps a year or two, and 5000 miles of dirt biking before commencing those 3/50….

      Anyway, I (futile I know) hope the leeching, scumsucking ambulance chasers can be held at bay sufficiently to let SuperMoto tracks open all over urban America; once quiet, non polluting electric bikes become cheap, reliable and safe (including the occasional track mishap) enough to be affordable. SuMo is fun as F, too slow to be THAT insanely dangerous, and it helps teach practical riding skills. And by the above similarity, driving skills (and attitudes) as well. Driving an infinite number of miles to get to a track, doesn’t allow a fraction of the people who I’m convinced would otherwise avail themselves of them, to reap any of those benefits, however.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I like this idea, but to a large degree I’m thinking that modern tires and safety equipment are rendering the “skill” of driving unnecessary. Without question, I’m a more skilled driver than most people, but I’m also way more aggressive, which makes me a worse driver overall in the context of safety. I think mitigating distracted and sleepy driving would go further for road safety than teaching skills most people will never have to use. Avoiding accidents on US roads is not too difficult.

        For track driving though I definitely agree with some level of graduated progression before being able to cut loose in a 600HP anything. Forget the driver + instructor- that combo is a threat to everyone on the track. This conundrum of equipment and skill is why I really love karting. Everything is laid bare. You’re either fast or you’re not.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Also, 2 words… Vadim Kogay

  • avatar
    cheezman88

    I wonder if the owner of that Alfa Romeo is the same dude who was on Matt Farah’s SmokingTire channel on Youtube?

  • avatar
    scuzimi

    The most SCARED I’ve been in a car has been with young dip shits that haven’t a clue around your age Jacko! I once actually feigned motion sickness on the Angeles Crest to stop a 30 something from killing us in his 911.

    I’m 71. When I did the Abarth Driver Day after buying my Abarth the “Young” instructor told me I was the smoothest driver he had on track, not the fastest but the smoothest, all day. The rest of my day was less than stellar on the slalom courses.

    I think, it seems to me, that the folks who can afford the high cost performance cars are generally in the “ENZO” mode and think they are the best no matter their age.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “I GUESS HE DON’T WANT TO RIDE WITH ME!” the owner yelled. “I DRIVE AT THE EDGE!”

    In my head I pictured Bob Lutz.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I pictured a 45-year-old divorce attorney who just made partner, with a fake tan and a six pack of Red Bull under his belt.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Then he would have brought his GO PRO to show his latest Hunny what he did on the track.

        FWIW I’d be hearing Jerry Lee Lewis sing “Middle Age Crazy” as the soundtrack for Jack’s story.

    • 0 avatar

      Lutz has driven all sorts of high performance machinery and made it to his 80s so I’m guessing that he’s relatively prudent behind the wheel. There is that photo of him holding a cigar next to an Opel Kadett he rolled, but in that case he was actually trying to demonstrate to Opel engineers that the Kadett would indeed roll in a J-turn. https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/the-story-behind-the-best-bob-lutz-photo-ever/

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        My point was it sounds like something Lutz would say (not dissing his driving ability).

        Lighten up Ronnie.

        I honestly would love a man cave that had a poster size print of Lutz and the overturned Opel. A perfect example of the “don’t believe me? Fine I’ll prove it” attitude.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        He also geared-up his Albatros.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        If you remember, Lutz did relatively well in the event against Mike Cooper in a tuned M3 and that was right before the retirement. So, he really was fast for an amateur. And maybe prudent as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      I picture Ricky Bobby.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    What kind of fool pays $500 to $1500 to attend a high-performance driving school and then doesn’t listen to the instructor? How can you get better if you won’t listen to the advice of someone who’s better than you are? Honest questions, not rhetorical. I can’t get my mind around it.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I don’t think every person attending these sort of events are interested in becoming better drivers.

      They just want to drive their powerful car very fast with no fear of getting arrested.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Unfortunately the majority of human beings that have $1500 to blow (plus travel etc) on something so frivolous are going to be entitled pricks at heart.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Wow. Ok.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          What percentage of such human beings have you had any interaction with?

          Your jealousy is seething.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Dan, Really? You’re better than this.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Apparently not

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            You guys act like I said EVERYBODY – I would never say EVERYBODY who goes to these schools.

            If I was ever lucky enough to have JB in the seat next to me I’d be listening to what he had to say if we were in a 911 or in a 1966 F100 with straight 6 and 3 on the tree.

            Mad respect for those of you who started out with your daily driver and the best tires you could afford, doing autocross and working your way up slowly building your skill or track days that were very similar or guys like Jack who have been through just about every sport on wheels and have basically only worked so they could afford the toys and the free time to race.

            I’m talking about the guys that I see lots of other posters talking about and the same guys that Jack is talking about. The guys who become part of “Cars and Coffee” videos showing their idiot selves smashing a Z06 into the total loss category.

            There is a certain mindset that comes with that behavior.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            You said anyone with “$1500 to blow (plus travel etc) on something so frivolous”.

            I spent about that much on wheels and tires for my car last summer… does that make me a bad person?

        • 0 avatar
          Pete Zaitcev

          Seriously, Dan?

          • 0 avatar
            scottcom36

            “sportyaccordy
            February 15th, 2018 at 3:07 pm
            You said anyone with “$1500 to blow (plus travel etc) on something so frivolous”.

            I spent about that much on wheels and tires for my car last summer… does that make me a bad person?”
            He said “the majority”, not “anyone”. Perhaps Dan should have said “many”, or “too many” but I’m not going to fault him.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @scottcom

            I do generally try to avoid absolutes. Thank you for the benefit of the doubt.

            I do solemnly swear that my civility will improve on this fine Friday in February.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The kind of fool who thinks they’re “hot stuff” as drivers and want to pay a professional to validate that fact. AmIrite, Jack?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’ve competed in a handful of 24 Hours of Lemons races, done a ton of “lapping days” and even done the Bridgestone School of Racing Formula 2000 parade, but had never actually received any 1 on 1 professional instruction. So last fall I took a performance driving course at Mosport Raceway.

    Before this class I thought I knew how to drive around a track pretty well. Not great, but well enough. I was wrong. I thought I was looking ahead far enough, I wasn’t. I thought I was graceful with steering and brakes, I wasn’t. I thought I was driving “at the limit”, I was driving past it and going slower and being harder on the car than I needed to be.

    My instructor, Mike, had all kinds of semi-professional seat time and is now semi-retired teaching performance driving to police departments, security agencies and at track days. He enjoyed his time with me as much as I did with him and he stuck with me the whole day. Listening to his advice, I was able to put the 2017 Fusion Titanium 2.0T on the bumper of faster cars by the end of the day. It was cool to watch myself get better and better.

    I guess the moral is, if you have professional instruction available, take the opportunity to benefit from it.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Some people just cannot check their egos at the door. A hothead with something to prove is not going to learn anything, except maybe how much a helicopter ambulance ride costs.

  • avatar
    everybodyhatesscott

    I don’t like being in the right seat in most cars under regular circumstances. Tailgating on the highway while texting because you can’t wait 30 minutes to check your phone. Almost everybody is a terrible driver. 0% chance I would do it on a track.

    • 0 avatar
      hirostates12

      Bingo! Agreed!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I freely admit I am one of the world’s worst passengers. If I am going somewhere with people, I generally drive. I only have a couple friends I am even remotely comfortable riding with. Don’t even get me started on the subject of my sainted Mother’s driving…

      I like to drive quickly, but I do not have a Baruthian need for speed. Thankfully I got that out of my system at a young age with no damage to myself.

  • avatar
    tomm

    I did a couple of PCA DE events (5 days total) last year, and had outstanding instructors at both events who were volunteering their time and taking some level of risk to be in my car with me. I tried to listen to every word they said and follow direction precisely. I figured that was the best way to avoid an accident. I applaud Jack and all the other experienced drivers that enable beginners such as me to enjoy our cars on a track. The DE events are an absolute blast. However they certainly are not risk free – at both events there were accidents with heavy damage, although no injuries fortunately. BTW, the accidents were with experienced drivers (no instructor in car) who naturally are driving more on the edge than us beginners.

    These DE events are an affordable way to actually drive your car at speed relatively safely, vs. on a public road, with helpful instruction. I hope that they continue despite the risks.

  • avatar
    JimBot

    100% yes on all of this .. this is well written. Thank you. This boomer generation is a POS for a lot of reasons, but this successfully encapsulates one of them.

  • avatar

    Doctors, lawyers and finance professionals are used to taking tests and being graded by instructors and things like medical board tests and bar exams. In great part, their test taking abilities have earned them status and wealth. Few things humble good test takers more than failing tests, and knowing they deserved to fail.

    If I were a high performance driving instructor I would explain to my students that their first time out will be graded so we have a baseline of their driving knowledge, skill, and abilities. Have a checklist of both good and bad driving and go over initial grades after the first lap or two.

    Sometimes you have to explain to a customer that they hired you for your expertise and that in your expert opinion they are wrong about something.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Doctors, lawyers and financiers have also spent their lives in worlds where confidence, drive and energy are paramount and wisdom is seen as a hindrance to success, if it even shows up on the radar at all.

      You cannot be the surest, most energetic (read: most successful) guy in the room if you’re thoughtful enough to realize that you don’t know enough to know what questions to ask.

      And maybe that’s why the young aren’t wise – that wisdom would interfere with the energy and drive they need for success. The surest way to sabotage your career is to have a sense of perspective when you’re 22.

      Maybe that’s the lesson – that one cannot have both Wisdom and Drive at the same time.

      So there’s the problem.

      A guy who’s spent his whole life sure of his every action – or faking it till he makes it – thrust into a potentially life-or-death situation that requires humility.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I suppose you could try that Ronnie, but aren’t the guy making him take a test so he can continue making lots of money – you’re the guy who he’s paying lots of money to in order to validate his ego.

      Good luck telling that guy that you’re going to be grading him on how crappy his baseline driving skills are.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    What I see all the time are old men who finally got the Corvette they’ve wanted since they were 20 drive it like a minivan, while the people in minivans – the fat, ugly ones who look like they’ve just given up on life – leadfoot it all over town.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      Weirdly true, now that you mention it. I rarely see “hot” cars being driven in a crazy manner on normal roads, but clapped out Altimas on steel wheels get hooned like crazy.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      A friend of mine once had a financial interest in a used-car dealership that catered to high-end vehicles. It got a Corvette in on consignment that, along with the Monster Miata, no one was allowed to test-pilot. A dentist in Calgary had ordered a C5 from Bowling Green and had had it sent directly to a race shop in Kentucky. After being lowered; sprung; shocked; gutted; blown; intercooled; and fettled with a roll cage complete with a fire extinguisher in the passenger footwell it was shipped to him. He drove it three times then consigned it. He was one of the SMRT ones, I guess. Oh, the Miata with the Mustang V8 was called ‘The Widowmaker’. I never asked why.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Great story. And excellent writing as usual. YOU WRITE AT THE EDGE.

    The one time I’ve received any professional instruction was an open track event in which you brought your own car. There were pony cars, Porsches with silver haired Porsche Guys wearing driving shoes & standing around talking about their Porsches, even an Audi R8 driven by a kid. And me in my stupid Jetta Sportwagen looking very out of place. The instructors walked down the line of cars and chose who they would ride with.

    My instructor specifically chose me because he wanted to avoid riding with an overconfident amateur in a powerful RWD sports car.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This summarizes the professional instruction event I attended last fall. Several Porches, including a 911 GT3, a C6 Corvette, two late model Mustangs, an M3, an Infiniti G or Q whatever coupe and…the rented Ford Fusion Titanium 2.0T AWD that I brought. It was still plenty fast, but had half as much HP as some of the other cars there. With good instruction, it didn’t have a problem keeping up.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Age has nothing to do with it. Stupid exists at all ages and, given some notorious posts Jack wrote about driving on public roads when younger, he makes my point for me. Some young stupid people grow out of it, some don’t and some never get the chance to be really stupid until their finances allow them to induldge their lack of sense.

    So, please rant about stupidity. But don’t condemn everyone older (or younger) than you. Age isn’t, necessarily, an indicator of either lack of sense or capability.

    And for all those who think the boomer generation is a “POS”, have fun getting old because your dumb anger and inability to see nuance will cripple you as your failings multiply. Those of us, regardless of age, who don’t make stupid generalizations are, generally, much happier and that, my friends, is the measure of life well lived no matter what age you are.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Well said bunkie

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Ouch, Bunkie! But you’re right about Jack and his past efforts to justify driving at insane speeds on public roads, “back in the day.” Surely, today’s Jack is an older — and much wiser — man.

      Regarding the “silver haired lawyers, etc.” who can, at last, afford to indulge themselves in a fast car let’s not be too judgmental. There’s lots of deferred gratification going on here. MD’s don’t make squat for quite a long time. Not only is there 4 years of post college eduction, then there are internships followed by residency before they make much more than a middle-class wage. Lawyers — other than plaintiff’s PI lawyers — are flak catchers for their clients. Things turn out badly, it’s the lawyer’s fault: get me a new lawyer! I had a CEO of a public company who booked as revenue the proceeds of an 8-figure lawsuit before it went to trial — and where the other side (a Fortune 50 company) refused to even talk settlement. Talk about losing sleep! I did that for 38 years.

      Finance guys . . . well there are no old finance guys. There are young finance guys who make a big haul . . . and find another line of work, or go into consulting. Them that don’t make a big haul . . . do something else. So, there’s no deferred gratification there.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Don’t leave us hanging – did you win the suit?

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Yes. The CEO was talking to the senior partner of the firm and setting us (me) up for the fall if the result was bad. The senior partner was wetting his pants.
          He told me I was fired.
          Then the decision came down.
          Nevermind!

          This happens a lot. The firm I was with in the 1980s had to close its doors in the early teens when its biggest client (a company whose name you would recognize immediately, but not a public company) pulled all of the business from the firm.

          It seems that the company and/or its principals had done some dodgy tax things which caused the IRS to raise an eyebrow. The client claimed that the firm hadn’t advised it of the risk. Knowing both the tax folks at the firm and the principal of the client, I seriously doubt that was the case.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Back a few years ago, life threw me a nasty curve ball. Ive mentioned the specifics before, and I won’t repeat them.

    What I did at that point of life encompasses all kinds of descriptions/theories.. Lets see.. retail therapy, mid life crisis, self pity, maybe the ageing “Boomer” trying to recapture his youth ?? Yup that would be me bringing home home a new 425 HP 6 speed stick 2 SS Camaro.

    I lovingly washed ,and detailed it. Neighbours, and friends all oohed and awed. My fellow GM retirees were all duly impressed.

    I was experiencing a little trouble with smooth shifting. It seemed my timing was off, I let it lug more than once.. One time while stopped at a light with a slight grade , I stalled trying to make a left.

    I had learned to drive,and took my driving test with a stick shift. My first cars were all sticks. I figured , I just needed just a little practice. Shockingly the Camaro sported a whole different set of driving dynamics compared to, say a 64 Biscayne.

    I did manage to learn how to shift the Camaro , without stalling, or lugging . I wouldn’t go as far as to say “I had
    mastered it” As my shifting improved, so did my confidence. With confidence came a little bravery.

    Lets just say I experienced a couple of “pucker moments” Slowly the realization that this was too much car for me began to sink in.

    Winter 2013-14: I have the Camaro parked in my garage beside our 2008 Mustang convertible (6 automatic.) I had already reached the conclusion that one of them had to go. One would think, a so called “car guy” like myself would of not hesitated to dump the Mustang.

    I’ve driven every configuration of vehicle you can think of. I live in Southern Ontario, and have driven in all kinds of weather conditions. I feel and think I’m a pretty good driver.

    I’m not an Accountant or a Doctor/Lawyer etc. However I have enough common sense/street smarts to recognize a 425 HP Camaro was beyond my driving skills. Bye bye Camaro.

  • avatar
    redapple

    I dont have the time or money for regular track time.
    On our roads, you cannot drive one mile with out a Jag off pulling something in front of you that forces you to evade/compensate somehow.
    You cannot drive (except in the sticks) on the interstate- set the cruise – and and…… just cruise.
    So, i ve lost interest in performance cars. Whats the friggin point.
    And I m a former SCCA Auto crosser, Civic SI, Sentra SE-R, Z 28 owner.
    Save my go animal stuff for the mountain bike and boat.
    I m done- I m out.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I agree with this sentiment. I went from a G8 GXP (quite high level of capability) to a LS 460 (not intended for performance driving, but quick and fairly capable if pushed) and then recently to a LX 570 (zero on-road performance pretensions whatsoever). I don’t have any need for big on-road performance anymore. Most of my driving is on 25-30 mph city streets with lots of pedestrians and bicycles, and the rest is on freeways where there is enough traffic that you only occasionally see the 60 mph limit.

      I do want a fun car to go with my LX, but the goal will be lighter weight, responsiveness, nice sound, and a manual gearbox, rather than raw performance.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      This is exactly why I went 4Runner instead of GTI or G37. I determined that the potential to enjoy a hot hatch or sport sedan in my usual driving environment was miniscule and decided to scratch the backcountry itch instead.

      Desert two-tracks comprise a small minority of total miles driven, but they make me smile far more than unusable horsepower and chassis dynamics every day in town. Bummer, really. There are some neat and very attainable cars out there that you just cannot use.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Speaking as someone who’s unschooled in high performance driving, I’ve found it’s a lot easier to get yourself into trouble with a powerful RWD car than a FWD car, even if it’s a GTI-esque hot hatch.

        I once worked for a Chevy dealer in the ’90s, and decided to take a Z28 out for a little lunchtime hooning. At the time, I drove a twincam Protege, which had decent power and a well-sorted suspension. It was a good little car for driving quickly in, but the Z28 was a whole different ball game. I drove it like I’d have driven my Protege, expecting to find the usual understeer, hit the gas coming out of the corner, and found myself in a world of trouble very quickly. Thankfully, I didn’t wreck the company’s car. But I learned a powerful RWD car demands some respect and training before you drive it quickly.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          This seems true. But around-town traffic and mountain road dawdlers around here prevent the velocities needed to differentiate FWD vs. RWD. Hell, I’m not entirely sure the difference between a GTI and V6 Camry are all that noticeable in this environment.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            IMO that’s what makes the GTI et al. great cars. They’re enjoyable at lower speeds. You can drive them around town, have fun, but not feel like a need to “push” it.

            Some performance cars aren’t really that enjoyable to drive unless your doing extra legal speeds.

            A GTI and a Miata RF is a hell of a garage.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      4 words… sim racing (and) go karts

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Very much agreed. My M235i was fun, but the GTI that replaced it is just as much or more fun, despite being quite a lot slower. It’s still faster than I have any need of.

      No regrets over having the experience of having that car though, especially the 5000 miles I drove it around Europe. It is kind of fun being a shark among minnows in a place where you won’t get cuffed and stuffed for 120mph, and those around you actually know how to drive.

  • avatar
    mankyman

    I have a question for the cognoscenti, and maybe Jack.

    I have a son who is going to get his license in a few years. We live in a state with very little driver education and many, many bad drivers. I see accidents almost every day on a 4 mile stretch of my daily commute. (It’s very similar to Golf road in Schaumburg in Illinois).

    So I was thinking about taking him to one of the teenage driving courses, with the goal being to try and impart as much defensive driving skills as possible. Are these places worth it? I only know about the Bondurant school. I would have to fly to California.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Most local halfway decent tracks have some resident performance driving teachers that put on schools for the love and seat time of it. Search it up, you don’t need to go to California to be sure.

      I’d say if it’s reasonably priced and your kid is willing to learn, it would absolutely be a benefit, and fun. Regular driver’s ed doesn’t teach much in the way of vehicle dynamics and they certainly don’t let students put it into any serious practice. Most people’s first real lesson is the first time they get into a skid. At which point post people panic, overreact and make things worse. A good driving teacher will instill that smooth inputs, looking where you want to go and showing how a car reacts so the student can be prepared.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Track driving and street driving are two completely different things. HPDE events are about brake zones, learning the line, apexes, etc – sure you will learn car control, but its in the pursuit of being quicker. Thus not really what a newly licensed teen driver needs (in my opinion).

    • 0 avatar
      eliandi

      Look up Tire Rack Street Survival Teen Driving School. Its a 1 day course, 50-50 classroom and driving, where the driving has the teenager get to experience panic stops, emergency lane changes, etc.

      As an autocrosser, I also had both my kids do an autocross school.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The local BMW chapters do Street Survival for teens too. If I had a kid, it would be mandatory, and I paid for my nephew to do it. They really should offer it to adults, not just kids. One of my buddies is an instructor, just going through the tasks with him was great for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      Tire Rack Street Survival is definitely worth your $95 and then some, and there are classes scattered around the country:
      http://streetsurvival.org/

      My son will be 16 next year and I will definitely send him to SS or the Mid-Ohio Teen Defensive Driving course. I want his first experience losing control of a car to be in a nice, safe, wet skidpad at 35 mph.

      *edit* JINX! Looks like I owe eliandi a Coke.

      • 0 avatar
        mankyman

        Thanks for the replies. I did not know about the Tire Rack thing. Unfortunatey, I have not found anything remotely similar to the Bondurant school in my area (mid-south), so I might have to cough up to send my boy to Cali. People here are really attocious at everyday driving.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I have to ask, Jack, was the car in question indeed an 8C? If so, I’m jelly even if it was a death ride.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    “I’m tired of Boomer-aged doctors and lawyers and finance professionals who have been flawlessly trained by the circumstances of their fortunate and comfortable lives to feel an absurd sense of confidence and entitlement behind the wheel of some terrifyingly capable machinery.”

    Said every CFI (Certified Flight Instructor), always and forever.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I’m a Boomer and my insurance is dirt cheap, I’m covered to the hilt too. I hope my agent never sees my birthdate, if she finds out I’m a crazed Boomer my rates will quadruple!

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    This coming from the same guy playing king of the road whilst on his MC in an ocean full of cagers during morning rush hour(past JB ttac post)?? Sounds like the same mentality to me. Pot, meet kettle.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    You think these guys are scary in a 911 or a 458? You should see what happens when they decide to buy a Baron, a 310 or Heaven forbid, an Aerostar. 

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      I have a friend and neighbour that Captains an AB 320 for a major airline…He cringes when he sees a photo of John Travolta wearing the Captain stripes.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The Cirrus SR-22 with its whole-airplane parachute system is now the “doctor killer” of choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Seriously? These are your choices? Puleeze. Well, okay, Aerostar is a hot ship, but there are dozens of light twins that are hell on one engine and have all kinds of tricky behaviors and bizarre systems. A Baron or 310 are easiest twins fly safely, even with tip tanks.

      • 0 avatar
        SWA737

        There’s a reason the insurance companies shut down the owner flown piston twin market. For *almost* any piston twin, flown by *almost* any amateur pilot, the second engine is just there to fly them to the scene of the crash when they lose one at 50 feet.

        Given the level of proficiency of the average rich guy amateur pilot, there’s really no such thing as a safe light twin. The insurance companies know that, that’s why most of the rich groundlings are either in parachute equipped singles or riding around in the back of a fractional ownership light jet flown by a professional crew. 

  • avatar
    Gigidad1

    I agree with Redapple – I am over big HP & speed for the street. What is the point?? Been there, done that, it was stupid and I am lucky to be alive. I have been to 4 different driver schools, and after the last one I knew I was an OK fast driver, but could not afford track days. So. I enjoy my Kia for groceries, and my NA Miata for street level fun.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      What’s interesting is growing up, to my friends and I, the best cars were the quickest 0 to 60, or had the most horsepower.

      As I grew older and started driving, this changed. I was attracted to the less powerful, lighter weight cars, because they felt right.

      I had more fun driving a Miata RF around town than I did with cars that had 3 times the horsepower. It just felt right.

      I know where you’re coming from.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        It’s more fun to drive a car that feels fast than a car that is fast.

        My Spitfire is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on, while barely breaking the speed limit.

    • 0 avatar
      VatizzleMcDilderjazz

      I agree that it’s not necessary, but I justify a certain amount of speed and HP for the street in order to limit my exposure to dangerous habits on the road. Not swerving and dodging people in slower traffic, but when I see risky behaviour in front of me I want to limit my exposure as much as possible. With more power/brakes you are able to more quickly control your position relative to the potential danger. For example, finding yourself merging onto a 70 mph freeway at 45 due to the guy in front of you. When I merge into traffic, I want to be at 70 like the rest of the flow as quickly as reasonable.

      You can totally do that with a Miata which also has the side effect of being light, too. But it’s easier to do so with more power and proper control.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Golfer Bill Haas was injured yesterday when the Ferrari he was riding in hit two cars (one driven by movie star Luke Wilson) and crashed into a light pole or tree killing the 71 year old driver. Early reports are the driver was driving aggressively and lost control – perhaps trying to impress Haas with his driving skills?

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    I’ll never have problem discussed. No desire to go track because I don’t fit in most cars, nor faster than 80 mph on the interstate where allowed. I giggle everytime a highway patrol pass on the left.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    I partly fit that old person track stereotype, minus $, and also was an instructor. You could have added the well known possible legal consequences regardless of waivers, just the potential mental legal process and $/time required to defend yourself regardless of outcomes.

    Talk about idiots and egos, instructors are the pinnacle. I look back and think how could I have been that stupid to instruct, was I sure I was immune. Its the instructor’s fault, as I’m sure everyone has heard at one time or another, in the aftermath? Oh sure, I didn’t talk fast enough through my communicator when the student late braked. Yeah that makes sense – not. Average is about one in 150 cars having a serious enough accident to potentially cause at least injury over a 2 day track driving school. I’d buy lottery tickets with those odds, because soon enough I’d “win-lose”.

    Its more madness now that nannies are built into cars, and worse if they are turned off because they are on when the students do 99% of their driving and learning their car.

    Good decision to quit.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This is a great column. (Even if, as others have pointed out, it’s a bit crosswise with some of your past work.)

    I’m a lawyer and can absolutely see how this develops. People come to lawyers because they are in unusual situations. Lawyers handle these situations every day and get very good at handling them–within their areas of expertise. Many lawyers then think they can handle any unusual situation outside their area of expertise as well, and over time become resistant to suggestions that *anything* is outside their area of expertise.

    I try to remember that there are only a few things I know well. Driving is one of them, in a way — I drove a bus professionally in a dense city for several years. But that is an almost 100% different set of skills from driving a sports car at the edge of its capabilities, in which I have zero expertise whatsoever. Based on reading your and others’ writing, the things they have in common are looking way ahead (farther than you ever imagined as a new driver); developing and maintaining 360-degree situational awareness; and making inputs as smooth and non-exaggerated as possible.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “I drove a bus professionally in a dense city for several years.”

      That must’ve been interesting. How many times were you been cut off or not been able to get back into traffic after letting off a passenger at a bus stop?

      I must admit, I don’t like to be behind buses and I don’t want them directly behind me.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Occasionally that’s a problem, but I had a pretty aggressive approach. Neither I nor the passengers wanted to be delayed 30 seconds or more at every single stop.

        There’s a law in my jurisdiction (and most others) that requires cars to yield to a bus signaling to leave a stop. So I’d start signaling, letting cars next to me and cars immediately behind me go. Once I was confident that the next car had had plenty of time to see my signal, I’d go. I can see better than they can — bus mirrors are really good — and 85% of the time they’d get scared before I did and let me in. The rest of the time, I’d just adjust speed and/or direction a bit to avoid hitting the passing car, and the next car almost always let me in.

        The real problem is for bus drivers who are unwilling to create a conflict and just sit there as car after car passes them without trying to make any move.

  • avatar
    eliandi

    How much of the problem is due to the horsepower wars?

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      The HP of modern cars is a bit crazy, your average Camry or Accord is nearly as fast as my “old” 350Z.

      I think the bigger problem is most of these guys have learned what track driving is like from watching Top Gear too many times. With those guys being sideways half the time with smoke pouring from the tire and starting every lap by remembering people to turn OFF traction control. I have had many students ask how fast they would be going on track only to become very disappointed to learn that they a) must brake often for turns, b) will not in fact be drifting and c) will only see speeds of just over 100 MPH at Homestead (my home track).

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I am not crazy about car racing/track at all. But I love taking it into a snowy road and do some funny things dry surface wouldn’t allow.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Rich, talented guys mistake proficiency in medicine or law, with driving proficiency. Reminds me of the surgeon who climbed K2, almost died, lost his fingers. Being smart and rich doesn’t make you Mario Andretti.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      And I know about Paul Newman. Actor and winning car racer. And other bunch of professional guys who on the side also good snipers, bike racers, house flippers, etc

    • 0 avatar
      Testacles Megalos

      You are in error when you equate being financially successful in medicine or law with being smart. Success in those professions requires only diligence and hard work, but it is not a matter of brains. Really smart people either figure out how to earn a nice living (but not “rich”) by doing something that doesn’t require as much work, or figure out how to get rich off of other peoples’ risk-taking.

  • avatar
    jimf42

    I have taught at DE days sitting next to the student and race schools from the side of the track at various corners. Fortunately, my DE students were willing to learn and hesitant to go beyond their abilities. Some of the race students needed more assistance and luckily other instructors and I were able to coach through observation covering most of the corners on the track and it was rare that someone exhibited the foolishness and dangerous attitude you encountered. As I (hopefully) mature, I think side of the track coaching is a much better idea…

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Re the horsepower wars, it’s all relative. When the E36 M3 came out it was the buzz of the paddock: we’re all going to die! — at least according to the instructors in their old E30’s. Still, today does seem to be on another level.

    Instructing, which I’ve been doing for 18 years with BMW CCA, is a bit like riding a sport bike: you have to have a certain level of belief in your own immortality, while still being smart enough to know that’s BS. I’ve spent a lot of time, and no small amount of money, on safety upgrades for my own track car — which helps not a bit when I’m in with the student.

    A talented driver and instructor friend of mine crashed badly in a Viper (of course…) in T10 at Putnam Park when her student passed out at the wheel. Now she walks with a heavy limp and can’t drive on track any more. I think about these things now.

    I’ve been generally lucky with my students. One I remember the most was a 60-something year old lawyer who would only brake and turn when explicitly instructed to. Otherwise he’s just keep going straight at speed. Obviously I made the calls, but mystifying! On the second day of the weekend he finally told me that as a young man he’d been in a coma for 60 days following a severe car wreck, and as a result had impaired short term memory. He didn’t brake or turn because he’d literally forgotten what to do since the lap before. Well that made it easy: I told him what to do and when to do it, and he executed. Not badly either, and we both had a good time. He was so happy at the end of the weekend that he gave me a giant hug and thanked me for being patient with him.

    One of my toughest student challenges was a former fighter pilot instructor at Top Gun. He was used to performing at a very high level and found himself frustrated not being able to drive his M3 as well as he could fly an F16, and was incredibly hard on himself. This despite his understanding the instructing and learning process from his own career. It took some working through, but we got there.

    I do enjoy having female students, a couple of which have been very talented. Less ego, more eager to learn.

    • 0 avatar
      Testacles Megalos

      The E30 M3 and then the M3 Roadster/Coupe were machines with a factory predeliction for the inside wall on corner exit. Either that or they attracted drivers who just genetically can’t let off the pedals, hold the wheel straight, and go for a passive ride when on not fully on asphalt.

      Over the years I saw several M’s get balled up on corner exit, inside wall. In the paddock one hears ..’eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhh….(quiet for just a moment while the Hero exitedly tries to save himself by wrestling the car back onto the asphalt from the outside of corner exit….and then hooks up and…)BOOOOMPH.’ Then out comes the red flag.

      At least in the first generation Viper, I never saw those guys get too cranked up – I think they were still pretty afraid of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Testacles Megalos

      The M3 and then the M3 Roadster/Coupe were machines with a factory predeliction for the inside wall on corner exit. Either that or they attracted drivers who just genetically can’t let off the pedals, hold the wheel straight, and go for a passive ride when on not fully on asphalt.

      Over the years I saw several M’s get balled up on corner exit, inside wall. In the paddock one hears ..’eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhh….(quiet for just a moment while the Hero exitedly tries to save himself by wrestling the car back onto the asphalt from the outside of corner exit….and then hooks up and…)BOOOOMPH.’ Then out comes the red flag.

      At least in the first generation Viper, I never saw those guys get too cranked up – I think they were still pretty afraid of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Lawyer at 60? I could not remember corners at 40. As a result, every lap was the first lap.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I’ve been lucky enough to go out with a professional driver (him driving) in cars ranging from exotics to econo-boxes. It’s otherworldly the speed into corners, and you learn as the second corner rushes up, that no, you are not the fast, skilled driver you thought you were. And yet, he has said he could teach a chimp to drive that fast. I can believe it, but only if the chimp actually listens!

  • avatar
    Testacles Megalos

    I don’t have your depth of experience but I do have 80-90 right hand seat days and a bunch more classroom teaching days for several organizations including PCA. The single biggest problem is that the cars are too powerful and too dumbed down. The best teaching was in the early 90s when all but the 911 Turbo were “reasonably” powered (if not slow, e.g. Audi), and ABS could be switched off. Also it helped to have senior instructors/organizers who weren’t afraid to prematurely terminate a student’s weekend if said student couldn’t understand the phrase “slow the F*ck down!” (Kent, I’m thinking of you here – yelled from the middle of the track at Blackhawk one day). I can only imagine in 2018 that such an act would bring forth several trial and civil rights attorneys having the aim of gutting the instructor’s financial future.
    I quit doing DE in 2004 because the cars were too good for the drivers, and one too many students tried to tell me that it wasn’t necessary to be slow and smooth since the car would save them.
    We’ve empowered idiots in the United States. The only way to deal with this is not go to teach at DE anymore. At least that was my conclusion.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    It’s tough to really use 400, 500, or 600 horsepower in normal everyday situations.

    Buy something less powerful, but lighter, more precise.

    Put the horsepower money into something that:

    1. Goes off-road. No speed limits, go as fast or as slow as you want. You can get a lightly used Yamaha SXS for a good price. It two wheels are more your thing, can I interest you in a KTM 500 EXC?

    2. Floats- get out of the no wake zone and put the throttle down. Not much Johnny Law can do about it.

    3. Flies- there’s nothing like flying an airplane (or helicopter, or glider, or gyroplane…you get the idea). As a bonus, you can go as fast as your money takes you (just not faster than 250kts below 10,000 ft.)

  • avatar
    jack4x

    As an owner of a car with limits far far above my own, who is considering getting professional instruction at some point, this article was a good look into the other side of that relationship. Food for thought. Thanks for writing it, Jack

  • avatar
    ajla

    Am I the only person on TTAC that takes their cars (legal) drag racing?

  • avatar
    VatizzleMcDilderjazz

    Over the edge and recovering is always going to be slower than close to the edge with precision. I want to improve lap times, which you can’t do with bad habits.

    That kind of overconfidence is just gonna ruin someone else’s day when it blows up.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    He was driving flat-out. You should move him to the fastest run group.

  • avatar

    I have a friend, an airline pilot, who started out his aviation career as a primary flight instructor. He said that of all his students, the lawyers and doctors were the most consistently terrifying; they already knew it all.

  • avatar
    andy777

    I was instructing a year or so ago and got a choice of two guys. The first told me, casually, he was afraid he’d get into trouble because he could drive very fast. When I inquired where he learned, he told me he was a drifter who practices on videogames. He had brought some big engine Mustang to the event and was concerned when the organizer told everybody that wheels-off meant big time out. After all, he was gonna four-wheel it around the track, ya know?

    The second guy had a Subaru or Toyota sports car and was concerned he didn’t bang it up. I chose him.

    BTW, both those guys were about 25. I’m about Jack’s ago, maybe 5 years older. And a lawyer. And with a Porsche. Don’t think that much of stereotyping guys with cars, if you get my drift.

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