Originally Posted by E90 87ss
Beginner groups do ride with instructors, other groups are optional.
My experience: my instructor made me drive unbelievable slow in my already slow car, in D, with traction control on... + he kept telling me when to brake and release, which lines to take, and when to turn... It was not very fun to say the least, you need some room for error/learning. However, I did learn a few things. As Charles already mentioned driving solo is a very important part of the learning process since no one is there to hold your hand.
I tried getting out after the last session, but my numbers were already off. There was only 1 car on the track.
I agree with you and Charles about running solo, but only to a certain extent. I've been doing track events for over 5 years and have had an instructor for 95% of them. I'm in NO way shape or form a professional driver so I feel I always have something to learn.
Recently I had an instructor at Lime Rock and I complained about talking about threashold braking, correct lines and turn-in points. He said that he was able to attend a professional Grand Am drivers meeting and they were discussing the exact same thing.
One of the main reasons to have an instructor is so you don't start any "bad habits" that you're not aware of. It can take a lot longer to progress if you have to correct issues rather than learning them the right way from the start. I caught myself dragging my brakes at Thunderbolt and quickly stopped it. Hadn't I had the past instructions I may have thought that was okay since I was still quick, but overheating my brakes and wearing them out quicker were the costs that weren't necessary. I ended up being quicker by running a cleaner lap and braking where I was supposed to. Dragging my brakes made the car more unstable.
Are some instructors better than others? Definitely, but once you get a really good instructor, you'll really see a difference.
You also need to realize that these instructors are putting their lives in your hands. They aren't paid much of anything (if anything other than track time) to take this type of risk. I know professional drivers who refuse to instruct because they've been scared for their lives a couple of times. Not worth it to them.
I'm always requesting my instructor who is a part of PCA and likes to run with BMWCCA. I learned a ton from him! He will feel out the driver first to assess their ability and make suggestions and see how quickly they can be implimented. From there, he will begin to push you slowly to see if you can handle it and once he's satified with that, he will be aggressive and really teach you to push your car. It's a process, but it works the best for all parties.
Getting out alone for one or two sessions and then discussing what happened with your instructor is also very helpful in getting yourself to be aware of what you're doing. So you're not relying on someone pointing out what you're doing.
The ultimate goal for these events is to learn, not to be a racecar driver. If we were, then we wouldn't be doing these events. We'd have our SCCA license and be racing on the weekends instead.