Secrets of Picking a Good HPDE Organizer

There are several different paths that road course track enthusiast follow. The 3 categories that I know of are:

  • Racers - commonly referred to as wheel to wheel racers or W2W, since they are often side by side on the race track jockeying for position and trying to win the race. A properly set up car with an approved roll cage and other safety equipment is required to participate.
  • Time Trialers - This is where drivers are trying to achieve the best lap time in their class. Roll cages are not required for Time Trialers, but there are more rules than racing such as point bys being required in order to pass. Cars are staged for the track based on their lap times from practice laps with the fastest cars at the front of the group.
  • High Performance Drivers Education/Event (HPDE) or Performance Driving Experience (PDX) - There are many organizations that put these events on and as can be expected, some do a better job than others. This will be the subject of my article this month.

I would like to preface this with the thought that this is just my opinion from the past 10 years of being involved with this industry. Even though this is a relatively short time I generally do 40 or more track days a year with 10 different organizations and at 16 different tracks.

It is my opinion that the events that focus on the HPDE/PDX are the best bet as they are not competing with the racing or time trial events, which seem to take precedence due to the need for completion in order to have a winner. I think it is also safe to say that in general, the racing events seem to have more incidents due to their competitive nature.

The quantity of cars allowed on track at a time is another consideration. There is a point where it becomes much more difficult to keep a good flow. Event organizers also play a big part in keeping a good flow by closely watching traffic and dealing with problems. Additionally, organizations that are more thorough in their evaluation before soloing or moving drivers to a more experienced group win here. Chin Trackdays and the National Corvette Museum (NCM) recently, have special groups of instructors that checkout drivers that have been recommended by their instructor and want to either solo or advance to a more experienced group. Summit Point's FATT's procedures call for a senior instructor to check out a student that has been recommended by their instructor. You are less likely to find a problem with the groups that have multi-level approval to advance. Additionally, I have noticed both Chin and NCM will regularly drop drivers back a group if they are not performing. I am sure that other groups do this also, but I have not observed it as much.

Experience - The more experience the team members have the better because it gives them the chance to have seen many different scenarios and solutions. The more that the team has worked together the better, and the best is when the team regularly works together and changes key positions. Chin Trackdays does an excellent job of sharing responsibilities among their 4 event managers with usually 2 or more at each event alternating between running the event, classroom instructor, tech in and course marshal. At my last event with Chin at Road Atlanta in November all 4 event managers were working together as well as Chin Trackdays COO Mark Hicks and Operations Analyst Maria Herrera-Hicks. This adds to the continuity and consistency of the team. Putting all of this together with the 113 track days that Chin puts on a year and it is hard to beat them.

Frequency - Naturally the team putting on 100 plus days a year will have better continuity than the team putting on 10 days per year. Teams that include full time track personnel in key positions have a big advantage also, such as NCM MSP and Summit Point with their FATT team. These 3 teams definitely are at an advantage for keeping a good rhythm.

Extras - A very nice addition to the FATT event is the car control skid pad training in the track owned Crown Vics. Car control is a valuable talent to have and FATT, with their trained skid pad instructors does an excellent job of teaching car control.

I did a check for the track days scheduled for this year by local tracking organizations and here is what I found.

* NCM and FATT events include key staff that put on events all year. I could not find any high performance track driving events for the Porsche Club of America Chesapeake Region.
Track DaysOrganizer
113Chin Trackdays
18NASA, Mid-Atlantic Region
16Hooked on Driving
11Audi Club Potomac Chapter
10FATT, Summit Point*
8SCCA, Washington, DC Region
6National Corvette Museum*

Winter Karting Event

With issues still open from last years event I have not scheduled an event for this year. Please stand by for updates to be coming soon.

Motorsports Safety Foundation Instructor Certification

The MSF has been working for a couple of years to help make the HPDE's safer. As a matter of fact, the MSF was at Sebring back in January 2016 offering Simpson Hybrid Neck Protection devices and helmets for participants to try out. I rented one and had the opportunity to see if it would work for me. I do recommend neck protection for all in this sport.

The MSF Mission/Vision is:
Improve the standards and operations of HPDE schools, Instructor training programs, and Instructors to provide a safer and better quality experience for performance driving students and Instructors.

MSF has developed an Instructor Certification program and Chin Trackdays has been heavily involved working with MSF on this. There are 5 Levels of Certification:

  • Level 1 - Online Instructor training program
  • Level 2 - Hands-on Certified HPDE Organizer Instructor Training Program (for Level 1 certified Instructor Candidates only)
  • Level 3 - Classroom Instructor
  • Level 4 - Remote instruction using data acquisition and video
  • Level 5 - Chief Instructor, with focus on operations and organization of a HPDE event, as well as the management and mentoring of instructors

Chin Trackdays has been working with MSF for a couple of years on developing the Level 2 program and is now one of just a few organizations certified to offer Level 2 training and certification. Chin's Level 2 program has 2 classroom sessions and 6 on track roll playing sessions. I am honored to be one of the first to have achieved Level 2 certification.

Want to try your car out on track?

Please remember to keep it to the speed limit and stay alert on the street as, in my opinion, it is much more dangerous at the speed limit on the street than on the track at speed. If you would like to hear more about the tracking experience, please feel free to ask myself, or any one of our tracking group about how easy it is to give it a shot.

Check out the tracking schedule on the HPDE page.

Pat Roney
HPDE Instructor

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