It is funny how time goes so quickly. Especially when you are having fun. Last year, I was a DE instructor for Metro NY and was also invited by NNJR (Northern New Jersey Region) to be an instructor candidate for the 2011 season. In addition to being a Metro NY and NNJR member, I am also a PCA-Hawaii member.
I attended the NNJR DE NJMP event on May 16-17, 2011 and unbeknownst to me, the PCA National DE Instructor Program, which was developed and taught by the PCA National DE Chair, Pete Tremper, was given to the NNJR instructor candidates at this event. Thank you again, Pete.
This intensive all day, National Program was designed to provide a basics of instructor training by use of three on-track mentoring sessions followed by a check out ride and three in-class theory and use of real world experiences followed by a ten question “quiz”. The well experienced Pete provided many funny and practical stories about actual instructor experiences. Many stories included his good friend and current PCA president, Many Alban. Some very interesting stories were revealed. My NNJR mentor instructor, Alan Soberman, pretended and talked to me like a track ‘newbie” and performed crazy maneuvers on track to simulate the beginner student.
We are supposed to use the student’s (my) car, but since the cup car is a bit loud, we took Alan’s beautiful new 2011 GT3RS on the track for the first session. The new RS is a great track car and it is the first time Porsche essentially used a cup car and “legalized” it for street use. It sounded good, looked great and handled even better!
In the next sessions, we practiced the 3-5 minute interview drill when we first meet a new student and his ride. Alan was really entertaining as he simulated a new DE student. When I questioned him about his ride and experience level, he stated that he had zero track experience, knew that the full blown race car was in a race series in Europe, and his dad gave the car as a gift last month. He also said that he new nothing about the car except that it was very fast and he wanted to drive it “flat out”! At this point, I said “time out” from the mentoring session and said I am now terrified and would like to talk with the track chair/chief instructor and request another student! We had many laughs while learning important techniques about the program.
Alan had a chance to drive my car on the track but it was so noisy, we could not hear through the helmet communicators so we used hand signals. Another funny moment was when Alan tested me by weaving around from side to side, waving his left hand haphazardly out the window to indicate a pass signal and driving much quicker than the typical green or yellow student driver. Since we could not hear well, I yelled into the communicator and said if the test was to have me throw up all over the car (and/or on him), his efforts were succeeding! If the test was for me to tell him to slow down to more reasonable green/yellow group beginner speeds, then please slow down. Lastly, I said if he wanted to have more fun and “test out” the cup car, then go for it. At this point, Alan amazingly “heard” me well enough that he gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up and proceeded to accelerate quickly! After the session, he said he wondered if I would rein (slow) him in as an instructor should. I thought he wanted to have some fun as well, so we had another good laugh.
For the check our ride, I was concerned as I did not know how strict and critical the exam would be. Expect the worst is how I always treat these (most) situations. The checkout instructor would be different than the mentor instructor. Past NNJR DE Track Chair and current President, Bob Michaelson was assigned to give me a checkout ride. I felt more comfortable as Bob knows cup cars well and knew he would not blow my newly rebuilt the transmission or damage my newly painted bumper covers and other refreshed cosmetics (just kidding!). In the past, he patiently provided neophyte me with many invaluable suggestions in running and obtaining parts for a cup car. I had so many questions and his replies were most prompt and helpful. Thank you again, Bob!
After some discussion, we had to swap check out instructors as he would be more comfortable in a different car. I always said that I can barely get in and out of my car with a full roll cage and race seat without Vaseline and Bob swapped with Scott Studer. Scott’s check out student was Sal Strocchia (Tech Chair Extraordinaire) and he immediately came by to complain to me as he had already “paid” Scott to pass him (LOL!). I informed Sal to ask Scott for a refund and he said too late, no refunds! When I informed Scott that my car would most likely be too noisy to communicate during the check out ride and we may have to use his car, he said forget it as the only reason he agreed to the swap with Bob was that he wanted to drive my car (At the time, he looked very serious and it was really funny stuff!). He was gracious enough to use his car so we can communicate well during the check out ride. I informed him if he ever wanted to drive my car in the future, he may do so. It is this camaraderie and trust that bonds us at these events. Lifelong friendships have been formed at these events.
The written exam was less scary as it consisted of common sense questions. After the track went ‘cold’, 13 other candidates and I went into the class room to learn our fate. Many of our friends and fellow drivers attended this beer and chip party to wish us well. To our collective good fortune (and skills?), the 14 of us were deemed worthy of being a named PCA National DE Instructors.
I am low key, so when my name was called, I hid behind Marlys as I went up to receive my NNJR Instructor cap. In the group photo, I tried to hide in the second row with Sal, but was literally pushed to the front row to show my patented “underwear” look (lucky Hawaii swim shorts) which I wear under my fire suit at all events. During past events, I had people come up to me in the paddock area and request a check to see if I was wearing them. It was like going through a second, very personal tech inspection!
For some more funny news, Pete has informed me that I am the first National PCA Instructor for the PCA-Hawaii region. It is an honor and privilege to represent them. As there are/were only drag racing strips (I know the one in Honolulu closed) and SCCA autocross events at Aloha stadium parking lot, it is understandable why there are no DE instructors from Hawaii. Congrats to PCA-Hawaii as they just won best T-shirt design at this year’s PCA Porsche Parade in Savannah.
I thank the many PCA volunteers and instructors, including Johannes van Overbeek for helping me get to this point of my driving career. I would not be here without their time, patience, dedication and efforts.
All in all, this program was a great learning experience. It is always the people that make the experiences which we have with our Porsches that much more enjoyable and memorable. Come out and join us for a “safe, serious fun” event! Until next time, learn well, drive better and be faster.