Speed Secrets: Setting HPDE Expectations

Features, Racing I By Ross Bentley I February 08, 2022
Speed Secrets: Setting HPDE Expectations

Ross and David Ray have some interesting stories this week that address some of the expectations we have when we go on track. Experience teaches that managing expectations is key for track days (and even more important for wheel-to-wheel racing).

Toward the end of our 2021 season at NorCal HOD, we had two incidents that were out of the ordinary, with drivers shook up and cars destroyed. In both cases, I was present – the first at Sonoma Raceway, and the second at Laguna Seca, and I know both of the drivers well. Rob and Scott represent some of our best: very quick, experienced drivers at the top of our skill level where we operate with an “open, cooperative passing protocol.” Rob from Denver has been track-touring the West coast for years, and has been a regular, very fast driver at HOD, never putting a tire wrong. Scott, a local to NorCal, is the same story – never any drama, and clearly someone who had quietly developed a high level of skill as a clean, safe driver at HOD days.

But both of them had the “Big One” within two weeks of each other. Ambulances rolled. Paramedics did thorough checks… in both cases, thank goodness, the safety equipment did its job. They were both shook up, but did not need hospitalization.

Whoa…I bet you don’t like where this is going, as this is a forum for how to drive faster – NOT to talk about crashes.

Their story can be summarized by my concern that we’d had two bad wrecks (this is not normal), AND both drivers told me the same thing, exactly, in a debrief. ”Dave, I was pushing too hard.” Rob had his adult, very capable son Rocky with him and they were sharing Rob’s brand new GT4 track-built car and loving it. Rob’s wife Lesli was there and it was a great, fun family day. That is, until Rob modified his line around a vintage race car that had pointed him by at Turn 7, added steering too late while not backing off, and rotated into a concrete wall upon exit. Earlier, I had heard a lunchtime chat, where it was pointed out by Rob that Rocky had just posted a lap time a FULL ONE SECOND faster than his in his own car. Yup, he was pushing too hard.

In Scott’s case, we’re including the well-written, autobiographical story of his wreck. Explaining to me that he’d gotten too focused on improving lap times, data, and simply made a very small mistake – not turning in quite enough, then trying to catch it at track out, and going too fast to recover from a nasty impact at the exit of Turn 4 at Laguna – one less M3 track car. Thank goodness for a great roll cage and HANS device, and the good fortune that the headache was minor. Close call.

What we’re talking about here is intended for HPDE drivers and a reminder of why we do what we do – and IT’S NOT RACING! Getting too close to the edge leaves no room for error, and none of us are perfect. I’ll ask you to read Scott’s very personal and clear recounting of what he learned, and hope that drivers take both stories to heart and make safety the key to the future of this hobby. (Also to having track event insurance available, etc., etc.).

Thanks for reading this far (with no tips on trail braking!), and to Rob Insinger and Scott Shearer, two really good drivers and good guys, both of whom took one on the chin and were willing to talk about it honestly.

Scott Shearer’s Story

What could be more exciting than a day at the track with good friends and plenty of fast cars? I have been enjoying track days since Thunderhill opened its West track in the summer of 2014. My sons and I have participated in many HPDE days, dipped our toes into racing, and have modified and built a number of cars along our journey into performance driving.

As the true costs of racing became clearer, I decided to focus on HPDE track days and was usually able to attend monthly. During this time, my car (2005 BMW E46 M3) slowly developed towards the NASA ST4 class rules, although I did not intend to race. It had great performance capabilities and I was learning how to hustle it around my two favorite tracks (Laguna Seca and Thunderhill) – or so I thought.

Finish the story here!

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