The Need For Speed
I keep telling myself that I am safe, yet my body is telling me otherwise. My eyes are dilated and my body bathed in sweat. I note that if my heart continues to pound at this rate, some key arteries in my head will certainly explode. My right hand is clutched tightly to the door handle, my left gripping my thigh. No wonder there is such pain in that thigh.
I am a control-less passenger, hurtling down a straight road at approximately 130 miles per hour. There is a sharp right hand turn approaching at astonishing speed, yet the driver won’t slow down. I keep telling myself that he knows what he’s doing. After all, he is a driving instructor. I quickly wish I would have checked his credentials. Too late. The sharp right hand corner is now upon us, and I’m sure the end is near. Suddenly, the brakes are applied, firmly and solidly. I feel my eyes trying to exit my skull as I am pressed forward on the seat restraints. Then something magical happens. The car becomes smooth and balanced, and much like a cheetah with claws extended, it grips the road and slings us around the corner like we were on rails.
All I can now hear is the howl of the motor behind me as we accelerate at light speed down the next straight. It takes me a few moments to notice that the driver was looking over at me quizzically giving me the “thumbs up” sign. I relaxed my death grip, and raised my hand up and reciprocated the gesture. As the endorphins filled my brain, I was coming to the quick realization that I loved this feeling. As quickly as it started, the twenty minute hot lap session in my own Porsche came to an end and I found myself standing in the paddocks talking to my grey haired seasoned driving instructor. I recall him saying something very odd “…..when my son told me he wanted to get into this hobby, I begged him to take up the crack pipe. I told him in the end it would be a lot less addictive. And probably cheaper too,” he said with a wink. You have to love that kind of humor and the reality of the statement.
That was my introduction into the world of hobby race track driving, or “tracking” as it is often referred. After buying my first Porsche, I was invited to this track event also euphemistically called Driver’s Education events. I was told that I needed to see what my car could really do when it was unleashed from all the entanglements of laws and limits, and finally allowed to explore its true potential. I could not believe that that the same car that took me to work, and to the grocery store, could also perform like a purpose built race car with no modifications to the car. Now modifications to the driver…that’s another story.
As I became more involved into this great hobby, I found out that there are certainly some rules and structure to this sport, which allows beginners to advanced drivers to both enjoy the track with a large degree of safety. During these events, drivers are separated into skill groups and only share the track with people of their own skill level. Beginners spend some time in the classroom viewing films and chalkboard diagrams. Then they are paired with seasoned veteran instructors who patiently coach them. Once they get the hang of it, they are advanced into the different groups of drivers with similar skill levels. Tracking as a hobby is certainly addictive and most people who try it once usually continue in the sport.
As with all good addictions there are certainly some costs involved. As you might expect, the costs increase incrementally with your enthusiasm for this sport. The basic gear is a good helmet and that could easily be rented at the track itself. As you find yourself increasing your speed and losing some fear, investing in more safety gear is important. A good driving seat with harnesses and a HANS (head and neck safety restraint) is the basic gear that limits the damage of an off track experience to just the purchase of new underwear.
Some basic improvements to the car to increase performance could be done as well. After a few trips to the track, most people will find themselves oddly familiar now with the brand names of tires and brake pads. Soon, you will find yourself fully engaged in a deep conversation debating the pros and cons of various suspension upgrades and intakes and exhausts. Yes, you will. After all, speed is the rush that keeps you coming back for more and more.
A word of caution regarding warranties and auto insurance: Even though Porsche encourages using their vehicles on the track, depending on the particular dealership, they may choose to void portions of your warranty. You should find out if your dealership is “track friendly” before disclosing your intended use of your car. Also, most auto insurance policies do not cover the cost of any damage that might occur when out on the track. They are also no longer fooled with the term “driver’s education events”. Darn, that was good while it lasted! The good news is that you can buy a “per event” track insurance policy to cover your car just for the day it’s out on the track. That will give you good peace of mind and is also good for knocking a few seconds of your lap times.
Despite all the talk of potential injury or damage to the car, the statistics are overwhelmingly in favor of this being a safe sport. Rarely does anybody get injured. And unless you have committed the cardinal sin of overestimating your own driving skills, most people do not damage their precious cars. After all, you are being grouped with like-minded individuals who understand that the only “trophy” they will be taking home, is the shiny car that they brought to the event.
We are also fortunate that the southeast United States is home to some of the best road courses in the nation. In Florida, some notable tracks include; Daytona International Speedway, Homestead Miami Speedway and Sebring International Raceway. Not to be outdone, neighboring Georgia has the famous Road Atlanta as well as the historic Roebling Road courses. South Carolina hosts Carolina Motorsports Park and Virginia has the famous Virginia International Raceway. This is just a partial list of the regional offerings. Each race track offers a unique set of challenges that begs to be conquered. Once you become more involved in this sport, you will find the rationalizations needed to purchase a trailer so that you can haul your beloved Porsche to all these new ventures.
Getting started is as simple as showing up at your next Porsche Club of America meeting. They can give you further information regarding track events. Every town and city in the United States is represented by a regional Porsche Club. There are also some great private organizations such as Chin Motorsports that is very supportive of new drivers entering the sport. In general, the world of tracking is a great community that is encouraging and supportive of new people being introduced to the sport. This is one addiction that you do not have to “Just Say No” to.
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