It is January of an even numbered year, the time when NNJR changes its leadership team. Drew has moved to the coveted job of Immediate Past President, which strikes me as a little like becoming a grandparent: same fun, less work. Enjoy it, Drew, you have earned it. Tom Iervolino, having set a high bar as a terrific Track Chair, becomes President. He and I are getting used to hearing “if you need something, ask Tom.” Which Tom? The President is the one with the gray hair. Oh, wait…
To succeed Tom as Track Chair I am giving up the power of the purse – Treasurer. I confess that to my surprise, making the books balance to the penny each month became a source of satisfaction. Engineers, like accountants, love it when the numbers come out right. And I will miss being the most popular person at our monthly board meetings – everybody loves the person with the checkbook. Janice Ernsting is our new treasurer and is a real pro, so you may rest assured that the club’s finances are in very good hands.
After the sudden and untimely death of our Track Registrar Bob Michaelson, Craig Mahon is taking on that responsibility and I look forward to working closely with him.
I am excited to now take a turn in leading NNJR’s Driver Education program. Our first DE was held 45 years ago this May 1 at Lime Rock Park. Over many years we have learned how to make these events educational, fun, and most importantly, safe. In fact, our slogan is “Safe, Serious Fun.” We work with PCA National to insure we use best practices gained from national DE experience and we follow the rules and guidelines set out by National. Our events are guided by these principles:
1) We combine our knowledge and experience with that of PCA National and each track to run the safest possible events.
2) We comply with PCA DE rules and guidelines that enable us to obtain insurance for our events at affordable rates.
3) We improve each driver’s experience by placing him or her into a run group with drivers of like experience and speed.
4) We run our events efficiently to allow for the most track time possible.
Of these the first is clearly our top priority. As past Safety Chair, I was occasionally asked by our tech inspection team to speak with an entrant who was insisting that he (note: never a she in my experience) be granted an exception to one of our technical safety standards (“the dog ate my replacement brake pads”). I took a very dim view of these kinds of requests and I promise I will do so as Track Chair. We will bend over backwards to insure people have fun and learn much; but we will not compromise our safety standards. I note with a sigh that those of you reading this are almost certainly not those who might be tempted to cut a safety corner or two. As usual, we have a busy agenda for the year. For those of you who have not experienced high performance driver education, we will hold on January 31 our Mid-Winter Introduction to Performance Driving. This tutorial covers everything you need to know to get started in DE. At this event we will also introduce the NNJR Autocross program.
On February 21, we hold our instructor seminar in the morning (by invitation only) and in the afternoon, we will hold our driver seminar, which is open to all but recommended for those with prior DE experience. This event will feature pro racer and coach Kyle Tilley and, although the agenda is not finalized, we plan to include discussions on the use of video and telemetry in driver training.
Although not all contracts with the tracks are signed as I write this column, our DE schedule for the year is pretty well locked in. We have eleven events on the calendar, including Lime Rock, NJMP (x3), Mid Ohio, Pocono, Mosport, Watkins Glen (x2), Palmer and VIR. Major changes for this year will be running on the repaved track at Watkins Glen and once again being able to run the double infield at Pocono. I will be working closely with Tom and Craig to improve upon our already excellent program, using participant feedback contained in www.DrivingEvals.com. I also encourage you to contact me with your comments and suggestions.
Preliminary NNJR 2016 Driver Education Schedule
|April 6-7||Lime Rock|
|April 23-24||NJMP Lightning||Advanced drivers only|
|May 20-22||Mid Ohio||With Potomac|
|June 3-4||NJMP Thunderbolt|
|June 24||Pocono North Course||Ladies Day and upper run groups|
|June 25-26||Pocono IMSA and DI||All groups|
|July 15-17||Mosport||With UCR|
|July 29-31||Watkins Glen I|
|Sept 14-15||Watkins Glen II||Advanced drivers only|
|Oct 15-16||NJMP Lightning|
Note: Tech inspection dates and locations TBD
Finally, some of you may be asking the same question that I am asking myself frequently: How on earth did I get here? Unsurprisingly, it is a long story, one that started years ago with my seduction by the lateral g-forces experienced on the windy roads north of NYC in my best friend’s MGB. It includes my first pride and joy: a 1972 240Z with suspension tricks from Bob Sharp Racing. As a grad student and then a young engineer at Ford, a series of increasingly powerful motorcycles followed (togetherness is two people on a motorcycle at 135mph). “Vehicle dynamics” took a respite for twenty years to focus on career and family. The narrative runs through my first few NNJR track events at Pocono (“Wow! Are they really going to let me drive here?”) and at Mid Ohio (“How hard can this really be, in the pouring rain?” Answer: not all that hard if you have a great instructor like Laurel Townsend). After a lot of seat time, I was pleased to become an NNJR instructor and later honored to be asked to become one of our chief instructors. And now, track chair. As a good friend and former student of mine – now a PCA club racer – said to me: “Gee, that sounds like a lot of work.” Maybe so, but I am ready. Many wonderful people encouraged, taught and helped me along the way. Some, like Bill Gilbert and Knute Hancock, are still on track. Others, like Rick and Laurel Townsend, Dick Fell and Dennis Thovson have retired from the track. Sadly, some like Bob Michaelson and Art Pilla, are no longer with us. I take on the job in part because “someone has to do it” but mostly out of a sense of gratitude and respect for those instructors, chief instructors and track chairs who through their hard work and enthusiasm made our DE program the finest in the country.
I can’t wait for the season to start.