ARPCA Drivers Education: A foggy & wet year in review.
Another successful year has passed. The promise of 2012 is just around the corner. In 2011 ARPCA managed four events and co-sponsored two additional events. Let’s take a quick trip to each.
Watkins Glen DE – May 13-15
The season opener in May was a sell-out event at Watkins Glen, NY. The weather can be dicey up around the Finger Lake region. Friday and Saturday were quite nice. Sunday was, well – foggy. Early morning was clear enough with a bit of rain. I was out around 9:45 AM and could see the fog roll in across and between the mountains. By 10:30 the fog was thick enough that the track suspended operations. We were in a holding pattern – hour by hour. By 11:30 the fog was so thick that it was impossible to see across the garage. By 1:00 PM we consulted with Track Control and decided to call the event.
Abbi, Ellyn & Tom Mueller, Ginny Mickitsch and I had planned to stay over until Monday morning. Tom and I joined the ladies on touring wineries. We sampled a number of good Riesling wines from a half-dozen wineries and had a very nice meal in town. The fog did not lift until Monday morning!
Thanks to Bob Nadin for all the hard work in managing this event.
BeaveRun Car Control Clinic – June 11
In June we again hosted our car control clinic at BeaveRun. If you’ve never had your car on a skid-pad or run it through a slalom you have to come! This year we had 16 students ranging in age from 16 – 60. This year’s event had a combination of sun in the morning and rain in the afternoon. Rain at an event like this is EXACTLY what we’d order up if we had control the weather. Rain provides an opportunity to find and experience your car’s limits at greatly reduced speeds.
Kay Swanson brought her new 997 out to feel the difference from her previous 911. Scott Mores and Freya Swanson both were “repeats” – they came back to experience the clinic more than once.
Thanks to John Schrenker for again managing the event.
Calabogie, ON DE – July 7-9 & Mont Tremblant, QE DE – July 11-13
For a 2nd year ARPCA was a co-sponsor of two DE’s in Canada run by the North East Region. While this year’s contingent from Zone 4 (ARPCA, MORPCA, NORPCA, etc) who travelled north this year was smaller than last year’s crew we still had a great time! Some of the Zone 4 contingent included our Chief Instructor, Bruce Graham and his wife, Cathy, Billy and Nancy VanGinkel, Christian Martinkat, Abbi and me as well as a number of instructors who run with us at Watkins Glen, BeaveRun and Mid-Ohio.
Calabogie is a relatively new track that opened in 2005 and has seen steady improvements since then. It is now a world-class facility. SpeedMerchants has a full-service speed-shop on site. The track is 3.4 miles in length, the paddock areas large and fully paved. In a word – wonderful.
The weather absolutely cooperated. We had 3 beautiful days of driving. Unfortunately, I did need to visit SpeedMerchants. On Friday afternoon I corded a set of front tires. I was not smart enough to bring a spare set… Fortunately, SpeedMerchants was able to hook me up with a great set of Pirelli Corsa’s I just love them!
Mont Tremblant has a huge amount of racing history. It is a track nestled against the hills alongside a ski village next to lake Lac Mercier. When walking through the ski village you are quickly transported to the French Alps. At the same time as the DE Mont Tremblant village was hosting a blues festival. There were concerts running from noon to 10 PM on 3 different stages.
The course is fast with sweeping turns. The 2,3,4 complex is a series that have a “real pucker factor.” We were on-track until 5 and then would mosey on over to an outdoor café to enjoy a refreshment and fine music. We had two and ½ days of wonderful weather with just a bit of rain. The evening it rained we all gathered at Bruce & Cathy’s rented condo for dinner. Grilling outdoors in the downpour proved challenging but Dave Reed (a loyal member of our instructor corps that just happens to Canadian) and I were up to the test. Dave held a table umbrella (the really large kind) over he and me while I grilled our dinner. In the end we both ended up getting soaked.
BeaveRun DE – August 20 & 21
We had a full complement of 60 students participate in our home track DE. We were successful in having enough new students (16) participate that we were able fill a “first-timers” run-group. BeaveRun is a great place to start.
On Saturday morning we again experienced “a wee bit” of fog….enough fog that it was not possible to get on-track until Noon. That’s the 2nd event this year we had a fog-out for part of a day. When you are served lemons you need to think lemon-aid: we decided to capitalize on the open track with a track walk. We had Jack Neff and Earl Seiler, two of our most experienced instructors who each have 1000’s of laps experience at BR lead the students in the track walk around the 1.4 mile course. We walked the line looking at the curbing, sight lines, camber in the turns and the rough spots in the pavement to get a better idea of what’s going on under our tires and where we should consider placing our cars when entering, apexing and exiting a turn. It was great.
For the balance of the weekend the weather “mostly” cooperated. Sunday afternoon we watched the rains skirt the track, both north and south. Unfortunately, we were not able to completely dodge the bullet. The last run of the day occurred with streams of water running across the track. This provided a “great opportunity” to experience hydroplaning and learn to adjust accordingly.
Thanks to Scott Mores for managing the event.
Mid-Ohio DE – September 23-25
Our final event of the year was again a sellout. More than 2 weeks before the event we were fully booked. Again, the weather played a part in the weekend.
Friday, the rain was downright awful. Mid-Ohio has placed sealant over specific areas in the turns of the track to keep the asphalt from degrading too quickly. This sealant creates very slippery patches. Friday morning we all were tippy-toeing around the edges of the patches.
At one point in the morning Blair Gordon, driving his 1973 911 passed me in my 2004 911 twice in 10 minutes. How was he getting around the track so fast? What did he know that I didn’t? Well, a lot! Blair taught me a completely new approach for driving in such situations – controlled sliding. Blair took me out in his car for 40 minutes to demonstrate the technique and then I took him out in my car for 40 minutes while I worked to apply the technique. Viola – driving in the rain at Mid-Ohio went from an apprehensive experience to exhilaration!
At this event we had a really special opportunity. Dennis Macchio, the Boss of Bertil Roos racing school was on-site with our DE providing personal 30 minute coaching sessions to participants. On Friday evening Dennis led a track-walk. Extremely insightful. I was able to schedule a personal coaching session with Dennis. It’s amazing what he recognizes about one’s driving in just 2 – 3 laps. Dennis was able to provide 2 very actionable recommendations that significantly raised my game. Saturday and Sunday were both very nice.
I’m already looking forward to our 2012 season. We’re considering adding another event to our schedule as well as potentially co-sponsoring a few other events throughout the season. Come run with us!
Before I close on this year I need to thank:
- Co-chief Instructor Corps: Bruce Graham, Ralph Gaudio and Larry Pryor Jr.
- Event chairs: Bob Nadin, John Schrenker & Scott Mores
- Safety & tech team: Joe Serbin, Dave Shumsky and Shawn Anderson
- Registration team: Tom Mueller, Ellyn Mueller, Ginny Mickitsch and Abbi Rabeneck
- Our Goodie Store who makes the giveaways: Suzanne Carlin and helper Rachel Rabeneck
- Instructor Corps: Too many to name but without our great group of instructors our events would not be what they are.
See you in 2012!
Quotes from those who have attended:
- James Bernier: Great event, thanks for putting it together. Fun driving with you.
- Shahin Zandfard: Great time. Thanks again
- Frank Ecker: A great event. You guys really know how to run “track days”. Thanks for the opportunity to participate.
- Malcolm Campbell: I was unable to say personal thanks for a great DE. It had been three years since my last DE also at Mid-Ohio so I was a little apprehensive about the event. That all ended with my first trip on the track. My instructor, Cathy Graham, was very good (10) and allowed me to build my confidence with each session. No overload of info to crowd the mind and my mistakes became lessons learned for the next lap.
- John Brandt: It was really a well done, smooth event. I think everybody there had a super weekend. I’m really looking forward to have our two regions to mix more often.
- Michael Stark: I had a great time and will definitely do it again next year. Thanks for putting on a great event.
- Scott Owen: Just wanted to say thank you for hosting a great event this past weekend at Mid Ohio. I thought it was very well organized. Good amount of track time on Sat and Sun. Bummer that Friday was a bust, but at least we got two great days! Thanks. I plan to join you next spring at Watkins Glen.
- John Luff: Thanks to you and your team especially! Hope to see you before spring.
- Scott Schober: Great event thanks.
- Dave Man: Great Event – despite the rain!
- Christopher Ryan: Dale, I wanted to thank you and the rest of your crew from the club for what I know is a hard and thankless job. Despite the weather, I thought it was a great event. I brought two newbies this year and they enjoyed it too.
- Billy van Ginkel: Nancy and I had fun this weekend at BeaveRun. As usual for ARPCA, it was perfectly organized. Thank you for organizing and running these events, we do realize and appreciate the time and effort you put into this.
- Nancy van Ginkel: That was a fun event – very well organized as usual! Say thanks to your wife and daughter too!! I know they were a big help in running it smoothly! See you at Mid Ohio.