Instructors Notebook

The Instructors Notebook


Driving Instructors School

The Certification Criteria for new instructors.

  1. Current member of RMR or AMR.
  2. Current driver’s license, preferable Colorado.
  3. Top notch communication skills.
  4. Knowledge of Colorado tracks.

  5. Knowledge of mechanical principles as applied to track driving, including
    suspension, tires, and handling characteristics of various models of
  6. A consistent record of skillful, controlled, safe driving
    on the track. A role model for new members. Represents the spirit of the
    PCA/RMR/AMR drivers school.

  7. Minimum 3 years in RMR/AMR, with participation in at least 12 drivers
    schools (more is preferable). Experience in other PCA regions or racing may
    be considered as a partial substitute.
  8. Must have a minimum of 6 RMR/AMR drivers schools in the previous 24


Criteria to Maintain Active Instructor Status


  1. Same as above.
  2. Participate in instructor training day at least every other year.
  3. Participate in a minimum of 3 drivers schools in 2 years,
    actively instructing with multiple students.

An active instructor not meeting the above criteria will be
changed to inactive status. An inactive instructor does not have instructor
privileges. Reinstating to active status requires participation in an instructor
training day, including a role-play check ride, and in the same year
participation in a drivers school, including instructing multiple students.


Safety Guidelines for Instructors

SAFETY FIRST! Instructors are
expected to demonstrate safe conduct, and to promote safe conduct with others,
at all PCA events, whether riding with students or not.

Examples of unsafe and inappropriate actions by an

· Driving
a student’s car with the student as a passenger, at excessive speeds or not
in control.
Any of the following indicate a problem:
sliding the tires, locking the brakes, putting one or more wheels off the
track, fishtailing, spinning, veering significantly off line, scaring the
student, or following other cars to closely.

· Taking
the controls of the student’s car while the student is behind the steering
wheel (e.g., taking the steering wheel or stepping on the gas).

At times this may seem like a useful way to get a message across, but the
potential problems are greater than the potential benefits.

· Driving
unsafely anytime at a PCA event, whether with a student or not.

Instructors are expected to set an example, and an instructor who is
repeatedly spinning or going off track out of control is not setting a good

Unsafe conduct by an instructor will be reviewed, with
possible consequences being temporary or permanent loss of instructor
privileges, and in extreme cases, restrictions on participation in PCA events.

Procedure for Becoming a PCA

1. Complete application

2. Submit application to Instructor Committee:
    a. return to applicant for further information.
    b. reject it because it does not meet published criteria and
minimum experience levels,
    c. accept it subject to candidate attending orientation with
committee and satisfactory     
        completion of checkruns with
committee members.

3. Committee conducts an orientation session with the instructor candidates.
Session consists of instructor conduct, "tricks of the trade" and
coping with the expected situations you encounter as an instructor.

4. Committee conducts check runs with each individual candidate. Candidate is
required to complete checkruns with no less than two and not more than five of
the committee members.

5. Upon completion of the check runs, the committee meets and votes (by
simple majority) on the acceptance or rejection of the candidate Candidates are
notified immediately.

6. Candidates who are accepted are on probation for a period of one year.
During this time they are evaluated on; attendance, feedback from students,
observation and evaluation by the instructor committee.

7. Rejected candidates may reapply after one year.


Check Run Criteria

Candidate is evaluated on the following criteria:

#1: Candidate driving with instructor observing

a) smoothness
b) technique
c) control
d) consistency and line

Instructor observes and comments to assist candidate in learning to meet the

#2: Instructor drives and candidate instructs

a) Instructor role-plays a particular type of student, possibly as a
first-timer, possibly as a more experienced student. The candidate treats the
role-play as a real situation.

b) The candidate determines the driving and individual needs of the
role-play, and adapts the instruction to suit.

c) Candidate talks "driver" around the track and makes
appropriate comments when "driver" errors (some of which may be done
deliberately) to test the candidates knowledge and ability to communicate and
constructively instruct.

#3: Candidate is critiqued by those instructors who have conducted the









The following information includes the actual instruction
required by the instructors in assisting a student. It is provided in order of
the training process. Read each section carefully and teach as the information
indicates for the best instruction results:




In addition to the information provided in this instructors
guide, instructors should also be familiar with "The PCA/RMR Introduction
to High Performance Driving" booklet. This booklet explains the basic
techniques of track driving and it includes track write-ups and maps. It will be
given to all new drivers school participants, and will therefore be a key
influence in their perceptions on track driving


Steps to follow in training:

A) You can begin to instruct a student by first knowing their level of
experience. With students you don’t know, be sure and ask. Do not assume they
know what they are doing. Find out if they have ever been to a drivers school
before, or driven on this track. Also ask what kind of tires they have, and what
pressures they are using.

B) One of the key characteristics that distinguishes the best instructors is
the ability to understand and connect with the student. What is the students
mood, attitude, frame of mind? Confident, anxious, excited, detached, scared?
What are the student’s goals? What is the student’s ability to learn facts, and
what is their ability to learn skills?

C) First-time track orientation – The key to providing a good introduction for
the first-time driver is to always repeat the key points. Tell them what you’re
going to say, say it, and tell them what you said. The outline you follow for a
first-time student is:

Introduction to the car

Outside (tire pressures, lug nuts)
Inside (seating position, seat belts, hand position)

Introduction to the school

Goals (safety, learning, fun)
Terms (apex, turn-in, reference points)
Procedures (staging, entering, passing, exiting, re-entering from a spin)

Driving the track

Vehicle dynamics (smooth: accelerating, braking, turning)
Proper line (brake points, turn in, apex, exit)
Trouble situations (drop-offs, spins, no brakes)
Cool down techniques (easy brakes, one gear higher)

D) Check the student’s clothing:

Be sure the student is wearing cotton long-sleeves and pants.
Ensure the helmet is strapped on.
Thoroughly explain the rationale and reasons for these requirements.

E) Check the student’s driving position:

Ensure the student’s hands naturally grip the wheel at 10 and 2 (or 9 and 3).
Ensure the seat belts are fastened and driver’s window is open.
Correct seating position problems before you enter the track.

F) Review all the terms you will be using which are unfamiliar to the
student. Make sure they thoroughly understand apex, turn-in, and reference

G) Before you drive a student’s car, check the brake pedal travel, and test
the clutch engagement point. This will allow you to "expertly" drive
the students car even though you’ve never been in it before.



Steps to follow in training:

A) When the student has never driven this track before, the instructor always
drives the first few laps to demonstrate the line and points out reference
points for braking. Note the passing zones, and the appropriate time to check
the mirrors. (Never drive the students car at the limit!)

B) Demonstrate an easy, smooth lap.

C) Explain everything you are doing, and why. "Now I’m braking and
downshifting while still going straight, because the balanced chassis gives me
the maximum traction for braking. When that is complete, I find my reference
point and turn-in. Notice I’m looking ahead to the apex. There it is. Now I
squeeze the throttle to minimize the weight transfer and let the car drift out
to the exit point."

Point out the pylons placed around the track are there as reference points
only. To properly apex a given corner, in a particular car, you may end up with
an apex which is either earlier or later than the apex cone placement.

Illustrate several times the different driving maneuvers and techniques,
until you are convinced the student fully understands your demonstration.



Steps to follow in training:

A) Talk to the student while they are driving. (NEVER JUST SIT THERE)

Students become edgy and nervous when you don’t talk to them, they often
assume they must be doing something wrong.

B) Communicate and teach nearly every turn. Whether it’s just "Good
Turn!", "Brake and downshift in a straight line, now wait … look for
the apex…Good!", "Smooth brakes, squeeze the gas… that’s
it!". A running dialogue is part of effective instruction.

C) Provide hand signals to communicate in noisy race cars.

D) To the student, you have the driving expertise, and they expect to learn
as much information as possible. Your responsibility as the instructor is to
ensure they always receive your best effort.

E) Explain terms used in auto-crossing. Define what an " apex" is
and why it’s so important.

F) Explain why "reference points" help achieve consistent results,
and that tall weeds and pavement changes make good reference points.

G) Continually seek how they feel and if they are comfortable. ( NEVER PUSH A

H) Be positive! Good executions should be rewarded by commenting to the
student. Brush off minor mistakes, and point something good in every ride.

I) Actively seek feedback. For example, "Did you feel how turning
smoothly allowed you to accelerate sooner in that last turn?" "Don’t
you think this turn is easier when you hit the apex perfectly?" "Do
you think you can do that every lap?" "Where do you feel strong in
your driving abilities?" "Where do you feel weak in your driving so I
can concentrate on instructing you in that area?"

J) Always note the positives. "You recovered from that nicely" or
"Did you notice how much easier it was to recover when your hands were at
10 and 2?"

K) Offer constructive statements for improvement.

L) While the student is driving, ensure they constantly check to see if
anyone is behind them.

M) Ensure they are conscious of faster traffic and reinforce the habit of
repeatedly checking their mirrors.

N) Instruct the students to check their gauges at this time. Explain why this
is important for their driving safety.

O) Explain the importance of the line and how they need to have a firm
foundation in following the line and vehicle dynamics before they can increase
their speed.

Many students try to drive too fast when they first attend a driver’s school.

P) Suggest the student "short shift" (shifting to a higher gear at
a much lower revs), and concentrate on picking braking and turn in marks.

Q) Focus the student’s attention on the things they should be feeling
(front/rear weight distribution, smooth braking techniques, smooth turn-in), and
they will begin to slow down.

R) Teach the student to listen (feel) to what the car is telling them.
Working on threshold braking is a good exercise to get the student
"feeling" the car.

S) Sense the students mental state. If they lose their concentration, just
slow down and work on the line.

T) TALK AHEAD, THINK AHEAD, LOOK AHEAD. This is the best way to drive, and
this is the best way to instruct. Analyzing the previous turns can be confusing
to a student who is wound up with all of the sensory and factual information.
Keep discussion of the previous turns short, you can go into more detail on the
cool down lap or after the practice session end.

U) Use tone of voice as a communication tool. If you are emphasizing
smoothness and rhythm, then talk smoothly and with rhythm. If you are
emphasizing spirit and aggressiveness, then talk with excitement and enthusiasm.
Tone of voice in many ways is a more powerful tool than choice of words.

V) If you are with an intermediate or advanced student, and you plan to keep
quiet for a few laps to see how the student drives, be sure to make it very
clear to the student that this is what you plan to do and why.

W) Keep commands in the car SIMPLE, especially with a less experienced student.
Most beginners experience "sensory overload" at times, and most have
very busy internal conversations while they are driving. To get past these
internal conversations, use repetitive simple commands. As an example, "Now
smooth brakes, brake, firmer, brake, brake, ease off, and turn in, and a little
gas, gas, more gas, good, gas, good!" This can be accentuated with simple
hand motions.

If a student refuses to listen to instructions and insists on driving in an
unsafe manner, instruct them to enter the pits and stop. If necessary, contact
the chief instructor, safety chairman, or starter to speak with the driver.

All of the techniques in this section are not expected to be mastered in a
single weekend. Usually you identify one or two things to practice with a

For the novices, smooth changes in vehicle dynamics, and staying on the
proper line are the most important, so concentrate on those topics with
first-time students.



Steps to follow in training:

A) Teach visualization. Visualization techniques allow the student to
increase the amount of practice time available during a driver’s school weekend.

After coming off of a practice session, ask the student to take some time to
sit in the car and visualize driving around the track. This helps them
concentrate on the line and begins to make the braking and shifting automatic.

An exercise to work on while visualizing is to time an imaginary lap. With a
little practice, it will be possible to visualize a lap that takes the same
amount of time as an actual lap on the track.

B) Make every effort to work a corner with a student, use the opportunity to
critique other drivers on the track. Later follow up with the student to see if
they were able to use the information gained in observing other drivers on the

C) Ask the student to describe the track. They can do this before getting on
the track or during their first few laps. From their description you might
determine if they don’t "know" the proper line and techniques or they
just aren’t using the line techniques.

D) To move a student over the threshold where they must begin to slide the
car, you begin by practicing the slide in slow corners (such as #3 at Aspen).

E) To improve corner speed, instruct the student to tighten up the exit. If
they can change the exit point of a turn so the car completes the turn in the
middle of the track instead of the outside edge, then they learn the turn can be
taken faster.

This is not something that should be tried for every turn, but it can help
identify turns where the full potential of the student/vehicle combination is
not being realized.

Another technique for corners is to tell students to "Enter
conservatively, exit aggressively."


Intermediate Student Techniques

Students who have the basic line down and are smoothly driving the car can
often improve their performance by learning a few techniques such as:

1. Using all the throttle and all the brakes
2. Driving until braking
3. Trail braking
4. Checking for maximum speed through the turns
5. Modifying the hand position for extremely tight turns
6. Heel-and-toe. Show the student how, then recommend the student experiments
with heel-and-toe in a safe place off the track (such as parking lots or empty
streets). The student should then be ready to refine the skill on the track
7. Finding the "right" gear for a particular corner


Advanced Student Techniques

Experienced drivers still can benefit from your observations while they are

1. Here the discussion centers around alternative lines,
2. Optimizing traction by adjusting the slip angle of the tires.
3. Teaching where the driver could be smoother,
4. Refined turn set-ups allowing earlier throttle
5. Adjusting the suspension may be very valuable.


General comments about instructing

Please keep the following in mind when instructing:

· Communication is needed
BEFORE-DURING-AND-AFTER! What to do before and during is covered in the
preceding section. What to do after is to ask the student how they felt, and
to leave the student with a few key points to remember. The key points ideally
should be one or two successes that they should be happy with, and one or two
areas to focus on in the next practice sessions.

may sound more like advise for spouses, but it has a place in instructing as
well. Find a way to care for the individual (not just act like you do) and
your instruction will be received as valuable.
COMMITMENT in instructing
means giving the extra effort to ensure that the student has a positive and
memorable experience.

· Always remember that as
a PCA instructor, you are a primary influence to the atmosphere and longevity
of the club. You set the tone, you make it safe and fun, your influence makes
people come back. Don’t underestimate the impact you have on our members!


PCA Instructor’s glossary

Apex – the point at which the car comes the
closest to the inside of the turn. Same as clipping point.

Turn in point – the point at which a car begins a turn. Same as the entrance
to a turn.

Exit point – The exit point of the turn.

Understeer – a condition where the car continues relatively straight
ahead even though the front wheels are turned. This is caused by the front
wheels losing traction and sliding toward the outside of the turn. Also
referred to as pushing or plowing.

Oversteer – a condition where the car is turning more that the front
wheels are turned. This is caused by the rear of the car losing traction and
sliding toward the outside of the turn.

Weight transfer – The apparent change in weight seen by the suspension
when an acceleration force is applied to the vehicle. Weight transfer can be
minimized by stiffer suspension components or smoother driving.

Heel-and-Toe Braking – Using the right foot to depress the brake pedal
and blip the throttle for a downshift at the same time.

Geometric Apex – the point at which an arc of constant radius (the
largest that will fit) will touch the inside of the turn.

Early Apex – Any apex that occurs before the geometric apex.

Late Apex – Any apex that occurs after the geometric apex.

Line – The path taken through one or more turns.

Slip Angle – The difference between the direction a tire is pointed and
the direction it is traveling. May also be applied to an entire vehicle.

Trail braking – continuing to apply some brakes while beginning a turn.

Lift – A lift of the gas pedal to reduce speed slightly and to set up a
turn by settling the suspension.

Tap – A quick smooth use of the brakes to reduce speed slightly and to
set up a turn by settling the suspension.