Why attend a BMW Club HPDE? Can’t I just drive laps on a track?
Well, yes you can, but read on for some of the benefits of a structured setting. So, you have the Ultimate Driving Machine. Sure, you could just use it for transportation, but why not really learn to drive it? Think about how much time per year you spend in your car, on roads congested with other humans at speed in their 2-tons of steel and composites. A misstep, bobble, mental error, mechanical failure by anyone can lead to impact, catastrophe, death…
We drive a lot. Why not be as good at it as we can be? Think of driving as either a sport or an occupation. To become proficient at any sport requires an understanding of the rules, equipment in good working order, instruction in proper technique, then practice, feedback from a coach, and more practice, practice, practice. I learned to play golf at an early age, with clubs just the right length and flexibility for me. A small book of rules to read and learn. Saturday mornings with an adult coach explaining and correcting how to stand, select the correct club for each situation, hold each type of club, swing each type of club. Hours on the driving range and putting green. Practice rounds with peers then parents, counting strokes, measuring performance, evaluating progress, getting better. Without proper training, a golf bag full of clubs is just an expensive and frustrating way to spend the weekend hiding little white dimpled balls in the woods and in the water. It’s no fun for you, no fun for your companions, who while shooting par, have to listen to your swearing, and certainly no fun for the clubs you wrapped around the trees and the balls you condemned to death.
How about comparing the activity of driving to an active job? Fire fighter, cop, soldier – those think clearly act quickly, lives are at stake kind of jobs. Run into a burning building without protective gear, forget to put bullets in your service revolver, can’t identify friendly forces vs. the enemy – terrible things could happen. These types of folks require an understanding of their rules (of engagement), well maintained proper equipment, months of initial training with feedback from experienced coaches, and continuous practice with this equipment to be able to make the appropriate split second decision needed to keep them and those around them safe.
Want to become a more proficient driver, ready for all the road may throw at you? Hmm…, how to become better? How to evaluate your equipment’s condition? How to anticipate the bone-headed moves of the folks sharing the road with you? How to confidently respond to those moves quickly and correctly? How will your car actually respond to your steering and pedal inputs during emergency maneuvers? And yes, how to have a ton of fun plus beef up your skill level while driving your own car on a racetrack?
Depending on your goals, maybe you could start this Spring with our low-pressure Car Control Clinic to develop a true sense of how well your car performs, especially if you are new to your car. You and your in-car coach practicing exercises specifically designed to showcase your BMW’s performance and help you (and/or your new teenage driver) develop fun and lifesaving skills. Participants from 16 to 66 “Have Fun / Learn Stuff” that day.
Then, the next activity for skill development might appeal to you. The Autocross School (plus the whole season of autocrossing – all good and relevant seat time). Your skills soar to a new level and the adrenaline pumps as you compete against other drivers in like cars. Drive a twisty parking lot course against the clock. Moderate speeds with emphasis on precise application of throttle, brakes and steering. Whack a cone and you give a 2-second advantage to your competitors. Bummer. The AutoX School also has a classroom session plus in-car coaching. Meet more people, have more fun.
Soooo, now you’re ready for that full-blown track car and Club Racing. …not yet cowboy (cowperson?). First let’s take those parking lot skills and apply them at higher speeds on a real race track with your ride-along instructor providing real-time tips and guidance. Do the Walter Mitty thing – driving your car as those Bavarians intended it be done. Experience the same sensations as Bill Auberlen and Joe Hand, even Hans-Joachim Stuck. Okay maybe at a somewhat slower pace, but hey, we’re just getting started.
Yeah, there are venues which let you drive your car “fast” on a track even the first day you get it, but without instruction, your “fast” won’t necessarily be safe, and it might not even be all that fast. Your skills might not match the capabilities of your car. New BMWs are just crazy competent right out of the box! Don’t succumb to the siren song of that need for speed without letting us teach you how to drive quickly and safely on a track. By the way, you build up to the speed you are comfortable with. You’re not forced to go faster than what you feel is safe. Meet up with us at a racetrack near you.
Morning of the event – a safety briefing, a half hour in classroom learning some of those Bill Auberlen-type things, meet your weekend’s instructor, strap on one of our loaner helmets, buckle into your car and ease out into track traffic with your run group. Accelerate, brake, turn-in, apex, squeeze the throttle down, exit the turn, and set up for the next one. The session passes quickly. Then a little downtime, more classroom presenting the next skill level, and back to experiment in that laboratory we call the track.
Session 2 ends – you and your instructor agree- faster, smoother, less angst, more confidence, bigger smiles. This pattern continues all day. Meanwhile, your friend who “might want to do this sometime” has a chance to sit through a classroom session and catch a ride along as one of our instructors takes him/her for some hot laps round the track. Whoohoo!
For our weekend events, we’ll usually have a nice buffet dinner Saturday night and you can bunk at a nearby hotel or take that quick ride home to sleep in your own bed. What say Sunday we do it all over again?
Hmmmm. Car is making a funny noise. No problem. The professional mechanic we have on site, looks it over, swaps out a part or two and you’re good to go again. This is a great security blanket that we have at (only) Windy City schools – to keep you safe on the track or get you home without a tow.
Sunday ends and you can’t seem to get rid of that silly smile. You met your goal of driving swiftly on a race track. As you and your instructor de-brief the weekend’s performance, your realize you have learned how to apply some of those techniques you read about in that Ross Bentley book you bought last month. Still more to learn/apply at future events, but overall, not a bad start for a guy in just a street car.
For over 33 years the Windy City BMW Club has been developing folks with excellent high-speed driving skills. Many of them are now our instructors. Others have gone racing. We all have a much better sense of how to control our cars and stay alive in highway traffic – not a bad skill set to have. So why not join us and have some useful FUN!?
If you have any questions, send them to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org …
PSYou don’t need a BMW to drive with us. Many of our instructors and students get their rides from the USA, Asia, or other parts of Europe.
PPSCheck out our pricing. It is very competitive with those for-profit groups.