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First HPDE Coming up...


PPG4

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So I signed up for my first HPDE coming up at Cal Speedway.

 

I've read all of the online documentation (I believe) and was wondering how long it takes to progress through the different levels of HPDE. I know things are dependent on personal progress, but how many events should be run at each level before progressing on? I'm mainly curious as I'd like to register for more events later this season and want to make sure I choose the right level.

 

Any info/past experiences would be appreciated.

 

Thanks!

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As a noob with 3 events under my belt (5 days) I'll spill my input

 

Most everyone starts in group I unless you have raced somewhere, another country or have race karts/circle track.. .

 

After that your grouping depends on

1.)experience level

2.)competency

3.)amount of track time / # events

4.)what instructors input has been in past

5.)# of participants

6.)# of real experience people that are doing HPDE

7.)Capabilities of car

theres probably more

 

*you can expect to be in group 1 multiple times if you keep switching tracks b/c you will not know the track and new tracks can be tough to pick up as a rookie

 

*group II can last a long time if you want it too

 

*Moving up to group III will take recognition from instructors and getting signed off by an instructor that has been with you in grpII

 

*Groupings can also depend on who is holding the event. Some clubs are more lax.

 

My Personal experience:

210whp Honda Civic cpe 2480lbs with driver

*2 auto X events before my 1st track day

*read a few racing books

*1/2 year of driving a Formula SAE car in College

*started in grp I at HPT BMW club 2day event- instructor said I should go to grp II the next time I come back to the track b/c I displayed good technique and competency and I typically lapped atleast 1/2 my group(16 people total)

*grp II HPT porsche Club 2 day event - Rained 1st day, wet and dryed up 2nd - Ran one session with grp III with instructor 2nd day - Two instructors signed me off to run by myself for the last session of the day with grp III.

* next time I go to HPT I will do grp II again

* I've been to MAM once in a open track and depending on the experience level of the rest of the group I am open to the Event coordinator putting me into either grp I or II

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Well that depends really. Going with NASA, they're a bit more strict (which IMHO is a good thing). So they will make sure you are fully qualified before they put you up into the next group.

 

Now, relative to most people on this board, I'm a new guy. I've got 3 HPDE's (none with NASA) and some lapping time.

 

I went into my first event with about 10 autocrosses under my belt, and that's it. I started off in the baby group, what I would imagine is the equivalent of HPDE 1. The club I was with was really.... unsafe though. Literally, they solo'd me on my 4th session while I was still in the same group. In fact, they solo'd most of the group (all of whom were inexperienced). The next day I was moved up to the equivalent of HPDE 2, still solo... and have remained there with different clubs since. Looking back on it, I was very far from qualified to be solo'd that quickly. Did I learn as much as I could have if I was with an instructor? Nope... I just developed bad habits.

 

If this is your first event, your goal should be to earn your instructor's trust by the end of the weekend. I'm no instructor, but I would think that getting into a car with a person who has never ever driven on a track would be rather frightening. Your instructor shouldn't move you up until YOU have shown him that you are ready to be up there. That means you must demonstrate stability and consistency.

 

In effect, what I'm saying is instead of asking how long it takes to run up the ranks of the groups, a better question would be: What do I need to be able to demonstrate in order to advance? This will focus you, get you to ask the right questions, and by doing so, show your instructor that you're serious and aware of where you need to be. Odds are, you'll advance faster with that mindset.

 

-Phillip

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I appreciate the frank replies. To be clear about my experience, I've run a handful of autocross events in various cars over the past few years and been a part of a couple lead/follow sessions on a road course. Altough my on track experience is limited, I do have a long standing and solid grounding in vehicle dynamics as instructed by a former MB/Ferrari factory supported driver from the 50's/60's (my grandfather) when I was a kid. From that experience, more important than the rudimentary knowledge of the 'how to's' of driving, I gained a clear vision of my GF's attitude towards racing and cars in general; it was all about understanding the limits of your car, your abilities and the abilities of those around you... then respecting them.

 

At this stage, I'm more interested in learning than I am in racing so I'm not in any hurry. I don't have any misconceptions (or desire, for that matter) to rush through the levels, I just want to sign up for events ahead of time and would like to register for the appropriate group. It seems like the best thing to do at this point is assume that I won't progress very fast and sign up for HPDE 1 and let the instructors make the decision whether to bump me up.

 

That aside, I've been waffling about which car to bring. I've registered with a 2006 M5, but I also have a 2006 Z4 Mcoupe. The coupe is a more capable car through the corners, but I feel like I would learn more running the M5 as the extra 1100 lbs make it easier to feel what the M5 is doing as the weight transfers; it's much more noticeable in the M5 when you're approaching the handling limits. On the other hand, the coupe is the car (or at least roughly the class of car) that I will likely use as I progress, so would it make sense to just get comfortable with that car from the beginning?

 

edit: I should point out that the M5 is a much faster accelerating car (M5 7.64 lb/hp vs MCoupe: 9.46 lb/hp) and no slouch through the corners in it's own right.

 

Thanks again for the input.

 

Cheers.

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I didn't have an option of what car I wanted to take to the track but I would drive the car you feel more comfortable with.

 

If I was going at it for the first time, I would drive the car that I have the desire to continue to drive at HPDEs.

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As far as which car, use the one most comfortable, and best suited for 'spirited' driving. The more stock the better. A brake pad/fluid upgrade is the first priority. The a good set of hi performance 'street' tires. Don't go getting 'R' compounds. Save those for graduating into Group 3.

 

Go ahead and sign up for all you can/want. Start in Group 1 and let the progression happen as you get some seat time under you. Your instructor will work with you to help get you thru the learning process, and will assist in the advancement process, as far as the organization.

 

As far as different track, and I'm speaking as an instructor, it doesn't really matter if it is a new track and you're in Group 2. You are on track to learn a 'process'. A method. A track is a layout. A course. You're learning a method to drive a course. Different types of turns, corner entry/exit techniques, braking dynamics. It doesn't really make it a deal breaker if your first track event was at CMP, now you're faced with Watkins Glen. You can quickly learn a course, it is the technique to get around it that is what you bring with you.

 

Don't put a lot of emphisis on advancing thru the ranks. Sign up and get on track in Group 1 and just go from there. Let the leaqrning begin, the results will speak for themselves.

 

I've been instructing for NASA-MA going on 5 years. I've done other NASA regions and other clubs, and it is about what goals the student wants to set and the instructor helping that person achieve that goal.

 

If you have any other driving questions, just drop me an e-mail

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My personal experience has been to sign up for group 1 (even after being signed off) until they roll their eyes at you and give you a hard time. This makes you a priority for instuctors. Is that fair to other students? Maybe not, if there was a shortage of instructors. Do I believe I have learned more in a short amount of time due to the instruction? Absolutley! Show me 100 instructors and I will show you 100 different instructing styles. If you can take just a couple things away from each instructor, you will have a huge knowlegde/experience base and will benefit in the end.

 

Now, there is a down side to this. I call it the instructor "safety blanket". What happens when I go to a track for the first time and have to figure out how to drive it on my own? I can't tell you. I have only had the luxury of solo rides on track which I am familiar...

 

I need to begin developing those skills this season, but I believe my knowledge base is sufficient to grow a bit on its own. When I get "stuck" or have an "oops" I will revert back to the safety blanket.

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Driving a new track without benefit of an instructor is best left to very experienced drivers, who know how to relate the capabilities of their car and themselves as drivers to the requirement of each corner of the new track. My only attempt to conquer a new track without benefit of instruction resulted in a major off at the Big Bend at Lime Rock. Fortunately, there was a lot of horizontal lawn to slide across before encountering anything vertical and hard. Damage only to ego and confidence, but will not be soloing new tracks until I have a lot more track days under my belt.

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shotgunslade - you are correct and I probably should have qualified my remarks about learning a new track.

 

A well experienced driver can drive a new circuit and learn it relativly quickly. Most of it anyways. It is alway prudent to ask for someone with first hand knowlege to guide you around a new track. I have given may a ride-a-long for that very purpose.

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My personal experience has been to sign up for group 1 (even after being signed off) until they roll their eyes at you and give you a hard time. [snip] Now, there is a down side to this. I call it the instructor "safety blanket". What happens when I go to a track for the first time and have to figure out how to drive it on my own? I can't tell you. I have only had the luxury of solo rides on track which I am familiar...

 

That's a great description for it. "Safety blanket." I like it.

 

I have only driven at Phoenix Int'l...and I won't drive other tracks until I'm confident at that one first. I'll definitely have an instructor with me when I start other tracks!

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That aside, I've been waffling about which car to bring. I've registered with a 2006 M5, but I also have a 2006 Z4 Mcoupe. The coupe is a more capable car through the corners, but I feel like I would learn more running the M5 as the extra 1100 lbs make it easier to feel what the M5 is doing as the weight transfers; it's much more noticeable in the M5 when you're approaching the handling limits.

 

As an E36 M3 owner and having driven a Z3 based M Roadster, I would offer that you leave the big car at home. Having M5 horsepower in the straights might distract from the rest of the experience.

 

Just have fun and learn something...

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