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      05-12-2012, 10:01 AM   #23
TJDiCandido
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In aviation, there’s a level of professional courtesy that exists between pilots and instructor pilots (flight examiners). An experienced 1,500 hour pilot with multiple aircraft ratings will be treated more deferentially and will be given more leeway during a check ride than an inexperienced, no-time pilot just out of flight school. That’s just the way it is. Additionally, a good pilot can usually sense how competent and capable his copilot is by the time they’re done running up the aircraft, even if they’ve never flown together before.

This is the kind of courtesy that experienced drivers expect from club driving instructors as well, even if they’ve never driven together before. For example, I currently drive with a local club (SCDA) that signed me off solo after my first day driving with them. That really impressed me after driving with BMWCCA where the instructors tend to discourage drivers from finding their own line, trail braking or driving solo until they reach some magic number of track days with the club.

The SCDA is not as rigid as the BMWCCA, they recognize driving talent sooner and the coaching and driving instruction is first-rate to boot. In fact, the Vice President of the club, Elivan Goulart, won the 2011 SCCA National Championship in the Spec Miata category as well as the Northeast Driver of the Year Award last year. This is in addition to his back to back F500 SCCA National Championships in 2001 & 2002, Karting Championships, and a winning ratio of over 50 percent throughout entire racing career.

SCDA is the club I recommend to my friends who are interested in motorsport. It’s a small, tight knit group of drivers who truly trust, respect and mentor each other.

You didn't say where you're from OP, but if you live in the northeast, you should check out the Sports Car Driving Association at www.scda1.com .
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      05-12-2012, 10:45 AM   #24
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This sport (driving at speed) is MUCH different than flying IMO. In flying, there are vigorous training and certification programs and not every average Joe can walk in and claim they've flown XXX hours and grab a plane and fly. Every hour spent in the air is logged in multiples and verifiable. I would have very little trouble spotting an experienced pilot vs inexperienced pilot.

At a DE it's entirely different. There are so many different organizations and different standards of teaching, in addition different requirement in Sanctioning bodies that you have NO IDEA what their real skill level and experience is. Even in the professional ranks there are HUGE disparities in actual skill. So the problem is, unless you actually know the skill level of the driver, "letting the reigns loose" is a HUGE liability. On a typical weekend, it takes at least 2 full sessions before I'll let a first timer at our event start exploring the limits. Why? I've seen first hand, more time than I can count, when the instruction stops they immediately do something wrong or stupid.

Sounds like you found an organization you enjoy, so good for you. But if I were to come out there and boast I've been a CCA instructor for XX years and they let me drive in the advanced group without a proper check ride? I'd be a little concerned. Like I said, this isn't aviation where every hour in the air is logged. There's no way for me or anyone else getting in the passenger seat to verify any claim of experience so pardon me when I have my reservations, unless the car I'm hopping into is driven by a 6'4" white dude with a massive fro and a scraggly goat tee, and the dude owns a BMW dealership in Murrieta, CA.

Which isn't to say I've never loosen the reigns on a student either. About two years back we had a club race combined with a school. I was assigned an A student I didn't know in an E92 M3. This is when the M3 first came out, so I was thinking to myself I'm in for a LONG day. By the time we got to turn 2, I knew there's something different about this guy. By the time we completed our warm-up lap I knew I'd sign him off. By the time the session is over, all I did was offer him two minor adjustments on his line and point out the entry to turn 1 can be taken MUCH earlier than it appears. Signed him off to go SOLO.

Turns out he's one of the club racers who signed up as an A student because he's out of region and has never driven the track before. Not that we (CCA) don't extend courtesy to drivers with real skills and experience. We do. We just don't take anyone's word for it. Unless you go out and prove you really know what you are doing, we can't assume you really know what you are doing.
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      05-15-2012, 02:04 PM   #25
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Great recommendations about the books, BUT...

I've found that the concepts behind driving are best EXPERIENCED and taught in person. I read up all I can before my very first track event, and while on track I couldn't execute ANY of the things I read in the books. Everything that made so much sense in my head, made NO SENSE while trying to drive it.

Those books are more beneficial to those who's gotten good personal in-car coaching first, and they can be a hinderance to beginners who are trying to learn like the OP. I can't tell you how many times I've had to "reset" a student who comes to our event with a brain full of terminology and knowledge gained from books.

Just my internet opinion.
I agree - and that's exactly why I did the track day, and plan to continue.

I definitely plan to attend a racing school, but not yet. The thing is, I've read Ross Bentley's Ultimate Speed Secrets, and I thought I new it all. Then, at the track, I realized I know nothing. I know the theory, but I don't know what it looks like in practice.

At the moment, I feel ANY seat time at the track is doing me good. I need to experience as much as I can.

Then, when I do attend a driving school, I can link to what the instructors are trying to say/teach. Moreover, I will be in a better position to ask questions.

Will I learn some wrong things? Definitely. However, at the moment I feel I need to learn to feel the car at all situations. Later on, I will focus on getting fast.

Hope this makes sense,

thanks for the replies.
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      05-16-2012, 06:28 PM   #26
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Well...

You can continue to attend "track days" but without proper instruction it would just be a waste of time, tires, and money if you ask me.

I remember my FIRST instructed event. I was all happy to ask for feedback from my instructor on my driving. His response was "you're doing okay for a first timer. Still making all the same mistakes from all the typical first timers, too early on the apex and not patient enough with the turns." Here I thought I was doing everything right. It took a seasoned driver to point out every single mistake I was making to really show me I didn't know what I was doing.

Believe you me. You will learn so much more and quicker with an instructor in the passenger seat. You don't need to go to any "race" school yet, but at least have the fundamentals taught to you from a decent organization like BMW CCA or whatever is recommended in your region. Otherwise all you'll be doing is building upon more bad habits until it's impossible to correct.
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      05-16-2012, 08:09 PM   #27
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This sport (driving at speed) is MUCH different than flying IMO. In flying, there are vigorous training and certification programs and not every average Joe can walk in and claim they've flown XXX hours and grab a plane and fly.

At a DE it's entirely different.
No it's not. It's called a registrar, there's only one per club, they all know each other very well and can easily cross-reference records. CCA is the only club I'm aware of that doesn't like to communicate outside of their own world. When I decide to register with the advanced group of a new club (PCA clubZ, SCDA, trackdaze, NASA etc), I get an email from JoeRegistrar asking me for references and all I have to do is ask Marty or IanRegistrar to confirm. And it's done.

Enter CCA and in this side of the world, you get "assigned" to a group arbitrarily based on number of car entries, your previous CCA-only history, and a run format decided the night before the event. No emails, no references, you just show up the day of the event to find out that due to a large number of advanced attendees, you've been moved to intermediate, and lo-and-behold intermediate just got combined with beginners to allow time for the CCA race. And the beginners' group allows SUVs, so there goes your day.

And that's why I haven't run with CCA for the last 2 years. Sure, the instruction for beginners is truly excellent, the day schedule is followed to the T but once you're ready to progress beyond the beginner level I've found myself and most of the fellows I've met at the track look elsewhere for extra track time and instruction. SCDA being one of them.
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      05-16-2012, 10:20 PM   #28
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Keep in mind that CCA is a National club and as such how clubs do business from region to region differ. I am our local chapter's registrar, albeit only for a very short time (last 6 months, 1 DE so far) and I can honestly tell you that is NOT my experience. We'll take PCA and Audi club members with equivalent experiences. We won't take SpeedTrials USA or ExtremeSpeed members of equivalent "experience." From a chapter registrar's perspective, there's maybe 2 or 3 local organizations that offer any sort of proper training program that could rival our own, and I simply can't stick someone who's done half a dozen events with ExtremeSpeed in our Advanced or Advanced Intermediate program, no matter how many times they've driven solo. But someone who drives with NASA HPDE 4? Or SpeedVentures Time Trial guy? No problem sticking them in advanced Intermediate. We do screen our Advance drivers and require that they have at least a CCA school in Advanced Intermediate AND a recommendation from their prior instructor, only because the curriculum is closer to a race school than a typical DE.

But my point stands. There are no logs. No national database. No official sanctioning body that determines if the instruction provided by an organizer is up to par. At least with BMW CCA there is a minimum national standard and if a student has been an A student with, say, the Genesee Valley chapter, there's no reason they can't be an A student with the L.A. Chapter. But I can certainly tell you that if all I have to go by is that a particular attendee has only done "private track days," there's no way in hell I can stick him or her in one of the higher run groups no matter how many events they've done unless I've seen then drive first hand.

In my personal opinion, of course.
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      05-16-2012, 11:02 PM   #29
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Hack, I couldn't agree more. Even in aviation, where there is a certification process for both pilots and instructors and a logbook which I can check, the only way to verify proper skill is to go out and fly with the pilot. Sully Sullinberger came to our flight school to rent a Cessna and even he had to go up with one of our instructors. Ok so that's mostly for show but I flew with a FedEx 777 captain and even he went flying with me for an hour.

Now I'm a bit less aprihensive in an airplane than I would be if I were a driving instructor. 1: things happen less quickly. 2: I have a set of flight controls. I'll let a student go pretty far with a mistake before I take the controls. I'm pretty jaded now when students try to kill me. I can totally see how performance driving can be different since you cant really take complete control of the car and things can get out of hand in a hurry. That being said, as a flight instructor, I can relate to almost everything you've mentioned here.
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      05-17-2012, 09:09 AM   #30
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^ This was pretty much the point I was trying to make. PeterM1 hit the nail on the head too.

No prudent aircraft owner would let an unknown pilot fly YOUR expensive airplane without giving him/her a quick “proficiency flight evaluation” to observe their flying skills and provide a local area orientation of VFR checkpoints, weather and other pertinent information. It takes less than an hour to do this before letting a pilot rent YOUR airplane (and he’s paying for the time anyway).

Tracking your own car at an HPDE shouldn’t be more difficult than flying someone else’s airplane, but BMWCCA makes it so. Based on my experience, clubs other than BMWCCA will let an experienced driver solo in his/her own car after a quick “proficiency driving evaluation.” In fact, my first time driving with SCDA I did one or two hot laps with an instructor in the first session and I’ve been driving solo with them ever since. I’ve driven once with two different chapters of the BMWCCA and they won’t even consider doing that. I think BMWCCA has too many lawyers involved in their organization or something. I have a valid SCAA Regional Competition License and the BMWCCA still put me with an instructor all day at my last (ever) HPDE event with them. The funny thing is that my instructor had never even driven at the track we were at so I was the one showing him the proper line.

My point is that it’s really not a big deal to let drivers solo in their own cars after they demonstrate a level of good judgment and proficiency, even if it’s their first day driving with a club. Most clubs have controls built in such as two off-track excursions and a driver is done for the day. They also black flag drivers for safety or rules violations. Think about it, if a person driving solo in his own car does something stupid, they’re wrecking their own car and paying for any damage to the track too. This potential for financial liability combined with a self-preservation instinct that most of us possess (and the need to have an operational car to drive home from the track in) are why crashes during HPDEs (run by all car clubs) are so extremely rare.
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      05-17-2012, 11:36 AM   #31
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Again, my experience with our region is slightly different (we've taken this thread off topic enough, I assume). Once a student has demonstrated a capacity to be safe and consistent, I am (and I don' want to speak for the rest of my Pacific Region cohorts) more than willing to sign the student off to go solo for the rest of the day*, with the provision that I am always available to jump back in the car should he or she require it. Of course, our events being more expensive than just about any other organization short of the Russels and Skip Barbers of the world, means I ENCOURAGE the student to keep me or at least an instructor in the car because that's what they paid for. Heck, if I were to sign up as a participant for a BMW CCA school, I'd want to keep an instructor in car even at my current speed and level, simply because there's ALWAYS something I can learn from each instructor.

But I fully agree. We are bound by some very strict rules passed down by National. There are certain minimum requirement, such as having an instructor be available to any participant at any time, or passing only with a point by, has made BMW CCA events somewhat less attractive to participants who are only looking for hot-laps. However we've worked within the CCA guidelines as well, by altering our passing zones (for certain tracks, it's defined as 'from the back of the finish line to the front of the finish line') while still maintaining the passing only with a point. A+ students now ONLY drive with an instructor for a 15 minute check ride in the morning and are to go solo for the rest of the day (however we still require anyone signing up for A+ to be screen and by recommendations from an instructor at a prior event) with most of the coaching done in classroom. This new "standard" is being accepted and implemented nearly nationwide.

I agree with the fact that BMW CCA is far more conservative than most of the other organizations you'll find, in just about any region. But part of that "tight ship" mentality is also what attracts some of our participants, who's often got a $50,000+ car that wants more of a learning environment than simply open lapping and are willing to pay more for the instruction.

Different strokes for different folks if you ask me.

*p.s.: The caveat re: SOLO. I wouldn't necessarily sign off a student if he or she has more to learn within the confines of the group. If I feel there's more value to be had for the participant by having me in the passenger seat, I'll stay and dial my instruction back even if said participant is fast, safe, and consistent. I may have him/her try alternative lines, start working on other more advanced techniques, or work on aspects of driving not taught through the normal curriculum. Unless there's absolutely nothing more I can offer, I often encourage the student to keep me in their car.

However, if there truly is NOTHING I can offer the driver...Well, we might as well swap seats and have HIM/HER instruct me.
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      05-17-2012, 02:09 PM   #32
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It seems that you have a bit more sensible solo/group assignment policies on that side of the world.

Is there any reason why CCA National does not provide such guidelines to all regions (or if they exist, why they're not publicly posted), similar to NASA's CCR? We've taken this thread way off topic but hey, at least it's on a track-related topic that affects all of us.
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      05-17-2012, 04:39 PM   #33
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It seems that you have a bit more sensible solo/group assignment policies on that side of the world.

Is there any reason why CCA National does not provide such guidelines to all regions (or if they exist, why they're not publicly posted), similar to NASA's CCR? We've taken this thread way off topic but hey, at least it's on a track-related topic that affects all of us.
CCA publishes a basic, minimum standards guideline that all chapter follows. How the chapters wish to "interpret" the rules and amount of leeway given to each chapter depends heavily on politics and past record. For example, the passing rules. The rulebook clearly states:

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Passing. PASSING AREAS AND RULES SHALL BE CLEARLY DEFINED (in writing, if possible) to event staff on-track and classroom instructors, students and corner workers AND THEY SHALL BE AGGRESSIVELY ENFORCED.

Advanced Student groups and Instructor groups may have additional passing areas as safety allows at the discretion of the Chapter. Instructors in any run group must comply with all passing rules applicable to the run group without exception.

Passing is ONLY allowed upon clearly defined hand signal by the driver of the car being overtaken—pointing to the direction that the passing car should take.

A passing car must receive a signal from EACH car being overtaken.

EACH car allowed to pass requires an individual signal.

Note that a passing signal is an invitation to pass, but NOT a requirement. The pass must only be initi-ated if it can be completed safely within the designated areas.
Now, how each chapter chooses to interpret said rule is up to the chapter. In the Pacific region we've taken it to mean as, for C & D group, we'll only allow passing on the straights. For B group we will allow passing into the turns but not past the apex. For the A+ group, we take it to mean the passing zone is expanded to "from start/finish to start/finish" as long as it's deemed safe (we'll close off certain turns for passing, like turn 9 at Laguna Seca or turn 10 at Sears, for example, where passing is strictly SUICIDE). Some of the more conservative chapters may still choose to assign passing to the straights only, even for the advance group.

As for the "solo" rules with regards to A+, the national guideline only stipulates that an in-car instructor MUST be available at any time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW CCA Operations Manual
Instructor/Student Assignment. The focus of driving school events is driver’s education. In-car instruction is required for all students. Even students who have been signed off should be encouraged to continue in-car instruction to advance their learning.
Interpretation of the rules is, again, up to debate, but if you read it as "if an in-car instructor is available at any time then we meet the minimum requirement," well, that means all we need, especially for the A+ drivers who's proved themselves more than capable, is a check-ride in the morning with an in-car instructor to make sure they're good to go solo for the rest of the day (this satisfies the in-car instruction is required portion). Again, a more "conservative" interpretation would mean that an in-car instructor MUST be present, we just took the rules and "liberalized" it (after all, we do live in the most liberal state in the country).

This, of course, wasn't like so a few years back. Our region has been hit particularly hard by increased competition from the likes of NASA, SpeedVentures, Hooked on Driving, NCRC...etc, where for a far cheaper price participants can go and just "lap" for the whole day. So we found loopholes in the rules that allow us to bring that "open lapping" environment, but still within the rules put forth, to the best of the best participants. We offer this to guys that are leaving our events to do the NASA HPDE 4s or SpeedVenture lapping days, but still offer them an intensive classroom curriculum so they're not just doing laps, but they're doing laps while learning valuable skills to make them go faster.

But since the events are still sanctioned by the National office, they have full right to enforce the rules as they see fit. If National tells us our passing rules or our A+ program does not adhere to the rules put forth, a chapter may lose its affiliation and be dissolved. We're certainly lucky in a way that, the two biggest chapters out this way just happens to be the #2 and #4 chapters in the nation in terms of membership, so if National were to dissolve of our Chapters, they would immediately lose about 1/4th of the membership. So far, we have not had to push our luck yet.

From an organizer's perspective though, it is a FINE LINE we have to walk. I need my events to be as trouble and incident free as possible, and on the other hand I have to admit as many participants as possible to make ends meet. So far we've found a decent compromise in the region and I hope to continue the success of the program...But it's not an easy task, I can tell you that.
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      05-18-2012, 10:43 AM   #34
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thank you, good insight into the process. The NASA regions seem to "interpret" the CCR a bit differently as well but there's not (IMO) that much room for play there.

Either way, I agree that CCA is still the best way to get started into the sport, it'd be good for National to do a poll at some point to see why intermediate/advanced drivers move on to other clubs. This could easily be done online via bmwcca.org etc.
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