Beginners Corner

Topics to help the beginner understand what’s going on.

Your First Drivers Ed

So; you’ve decided to do your first Porsche Club Driver’s Ed event. Now what? What do you have to do? Do you need special equipment? What do you have to bring? What should you expect?

Well, let’s see if we can answer a few of those questions. First of all, the PCA DE program is NOT racing; it’s an opportunity for people to experience the capability of their Porsche on the track under closely controlled conditions. Safety is of primary importance. Therefore, the first time drivers must learn proper track etiquette and how to drive under control on the track.

Our experience for more than forty years in the region has been; first time drivers with the proper attitude learn these driving skills more rapidly than the highly stressed, overaggressive drivers on the track trying to make fast laps on the track. Using the teaching techniques developed by PCA, students gain valuable knowledge about driving at speed on the track. As an added benefit, many people find our DE program aids their mental concentration, discipline and overall driving capability on the public roadways.

To ensure safety while driving on the track, we utilize controlled passing and the “Two Spin Rule” to make sure drivers stay on the track during our DE events. Details of the “Driver’s Education Event Rules” are available from the “RMR/AMR Event Rules” link on our website.

The overall purpose is to have FUN! This is why so many of the PCA members volunteer their time to instruct and work at our DE events. Warning: PCA DE events can be highly addictive!

Now, what do you have to do?
Select the event you want to attend from the newsletter, from a Porsche Club friend or from the web page. Use the Motorsportreg.com website to register for the event (See “Event Registration” under the Info tab on our website). Fill out all the required information and pay on-line or mail your registration fee as early as possible to the person accepting registrations for the event. The earlier they get your registration the more time it gives them to plan for run groups and corner workers. Part of filling out your registration form is listing your car number. Each car must have a number and a permanent number can be assigned to you. To help you with this, contact the person in charge of car numbers (See “Car Numbers” under the Info tab on our website). If you want assistance with anything pertaining to the event, contact the event chairperson(s) listed in the news letter.

Next you’ll need a Tech Inspection Sheet. This will have been included in a news letter or you can print one from the web page. About 10 days prior to the event a Tech Inspection will be held at one of the local shops. The location for the Tech Inspection for your event will be listed in the news letter and also posted on the web page. Take your car there to be inspected. The inspectors will check the general working order of your car from the headlights, brake lights, turn signals, security of battery and other under the hood parts, brake fluid, coolant level, brake pads, tightness of suspension parts, fire extinguisher if necessary for your class and other safety related points.

Do you need special equipment?
To participate in a Driver’s Ed event you must wear a helmet, long sleeved cotton shirt and cotton pants. A white or light colored shirt is preferred and especially not yellow, blue or red. This is because when working corners we don’t want to cause any confusion for the drivers. A yellow, blue or red shirt may be mistaken for a yellow, blue or red flag.

About the helmet, as of June 1, 2016 Helmets must now have a SNELL rating of “2010” or later. The M rating is a motorcycle helmet and an SA rating is for special applications such as cars. The SA rated helmet is fire retardant and is approved for Club Racing also. The M rated helmet is not allowed for Club Racing. So, if you have plans to get into Club Racing in the future select the SA rated helmet. Prices for an M rated helmet start about $150.00 and for an SA rated helmet prices start about $300.00.

What do you have to bring?
The registration forms are completed and mailed in with the registration fees, the car is tech inspected, you have your helmet and cotton clothes, now what?

Now you need to prepare for a day at the track. You want to bring what you need but not haul a lot of extra stuff. Besides, there’s only so much you can fit into a Porsche. So what are some of the things you might need.

  • directions to the track, check the web page for these
  • helmet, don’t forget it
  • hat, for protection from the sun
  • sunglasses
  • sun screen, Colorado sun can be very intense
  • white or light colored long sleeve cotton shirt for driving and working corners
  • long cotton pants (like blue jeans) for driving and working corners
  • cooler with ice, plenty of drinks and lunch or snacks. there may be someplace to get lunch at the track or someplace close by, check the description of the event in the news letter or the web page
  • a small folding chair
  • stop watch (to see how well your friends are doing)
  • paper towels and window cleaner
  • tire air pressure gauge, a better one has an actual gauge and not just a sliding rule
  • wrench to tighten wheel lug nuts, preferably a torque wrench
  • your car tool kit, jack, etc.
  • cotton towels
  • shop rags
  • Blue “removable” masking tape for car numbers. You can also have numbers made from magnetic material or sticky “post-it” type numbers that are removable and can be used many times. See the “Car Numbers” section under the “Info” tab on our website.
  • gasoline, be sure you have enough to complete the event. Some people don’t like to carry the extra weight of a lot of gas but be sure you have enough so you don’t run out. A half tank is usually not enough.
  • a couple of quarts of oil
  • air pump or an air tank (be sure you fill it)
  • something to hold all this stuff, a plastic container with a snap on top is good for this. You can leave all of your track stuff in it, always have it handy and not have to worry about forgetting something. You may want two of them, one for your track stuff and another one to hold things you bring for yourself and the lose things you remove from the car such as things in the glove box, console, tapes, CDS etc.

What should you expect?
Plan to arrive early, if the track opens at 7:00am, be there at 7:00am. Don’t get there just in time for the drivers meeting and expect to get things set up and organized before your run group or corner working session. There are always lots of things to do after arriving at the track.

When you arrive you must sign an insurance waiver for the track and for PCA National.

Proceed to the paddock area and find a place to park your car. Pick a place close by a friend who can give you pointers and help you as the day goes on.

Take all loose items out of your car. This means everything! Empty the glove box, the trunk, the door pockets, remove the radar detector and garage door opener, the cellular phone, tapes, CDs, floor mats anything loose. Place them in the plastic containers you brought to protect them from the elements. You may also want to remove the spare tire and jack to save a little more weight.

Put your car numbers on the car. If you have magnetic or sticky numbers place them on the doors. If you are using blue “removable” masking tape put the numbers on the rear side windows on both sides of the car and make them as large as possible.

Bring you Signed and Approved Pre-tech Form to registration. If you have not had your car “Teched” you will have to pay a track inspection fee unless you qualify for an exemption.

At registration you will receive your “event packet” which contains the schedule for corner workers, the run group schedule, a track map, and an information sheet, a colored dot which indicates your run group and a white dot for “Top Tech”.

Apply the run group color dot and white dot to the upper center of your windshield. In front of the mirror base is a good place for these on the outside of your windshield.

There will be a driver’s meeting prior to the event. At the meeting you will be given information about the track, any special considerations, how the flags are to be used, etc.. If this is your first time at this track you will be assigned an instructor.

Spend some time with your instructor, he/she can prevent you from becoming frustrated with all the stuff required to run in your first event. We all help each other at our PCA DE events. This is the spirit of these events. We all want to have fun and play safely.

After the Drivers Meeting there is a Novice Meeting for beginners to further explain safety considerations and provide education for driving on the track. Take this opportunity to ask about anything you don’t understand.

Check the schedule, make sure you know when your group starts. Go to the bathroom, find your instructor and arrange when and where you will meet him/her.

Be sure to get to the Grid area on time. Line you car up promptly and prepare yourself mentally. Your instructor will help you cope with the situation. Listen to him/her closely and put yourself in the proper mode to learn. So many things need to happen in a short period of time while driving on the track. Try and prepare yourself by knowing all the nuances before driving.

After you complete your run session be sure to properly cool down your car. Don’t set your parking brake because really hot brakes may cause them to lock and not be able to be released.

Check the corner workers schedule, know when you are scheduled to work corners and don’t be late. All the time it takes you to get to the corner workers truck is time taken from the scheduled track time.

At the end of the day, we assemble in the pits for “Beer Thirty”. The party at the end of the day gives everyone a chance to relax and share stories. If you don’t have a big grin on your face after your first track day, maybe you should take up bowling!

Run Groups Explained
If you are new to the PCA Driver’s Education program, you may not know what color run group you should be in when you fill out your track registration form.

RMR-PCA Driver’s Education (DE) uses 4-6 run group colors, Black, Orange, Blue, Green, and Yellow which are used to group drivers according to driver experience and their track lap times. The run group colors are arranged in descending order starting with the fastest drivers in Black to the slowest cars in Yellow. Depending on the number of participants and the size of the track facility, the number of run groups may be adjusted for specific DE events.

The Black and Orange run groups have the most experienced drivers and DE instructors. These drivers have accumulated many years of experience on the track and have the skills to run with other cars of similar speed in their run group. Just because you have a really fast car doesn’t mean you can run in these groups. Only after a considerable amount of learning and track experience will drivers earn the opportunity to move up into these faster run groups.

First time drivers are normally placed in the Yellow run group. Drivers with some track experience usually are placed in the Green run group until they have demonstrated the skills to be moved into a faster group. Blue and Green run groups are composed of intermediate drivers who are acquiring more track experience and utilizing DE instructors to sharpen their driving skills.

So, fill in your preference for your run group, it will help the person processing the registrations and the Chief Driving Instructor set up the run groups. Be practical when you choose your group though, don’t get yourself into a group that’s too fast for your car or experience. If you do, it takes away from the enjoyment of the drivers who are being held up by you and takes away from your enjoyment because you have to be concerned about being passed and having to slow down to let the faster cars and drivers go by. So, choose your run group wisely and have a great time.

Flags Explained

If you are going to participate in Driver’s Ed events it would be a good thing to understand what the flags mean.  The flags are the way the event control people communicate with the drivers while they are on the track.

Green Flag Green Flag – Used only by the starter at the starting line in the grid.  The green flag is the only signal or permission, under any circumstances, for a driver to enter the track.  A driver can never enter the track unless signaled by the starter with the green flag.
Yellow Flag Yellow Flag – The yellow flag is used to indicate there is a hazard ahead, some reason to proceed with caution.  It does not mean to stop, only to slow down and proceed with caution.  There are two ways the yellow flag is displayed to the driver.

Standing Yellow (not waving, held still) -The driver should exercise a large degree of caution, but continue to move on the track. The flag is displayed in this manner if there is a hazzard that drivers have seen
before but continues to be on the track and may continue to be there for some time, such as a car stopped ahead but off of the track.

The other way the yellow flag may be displayed is Waving – The driver should exercise more caution, but keep moving.  For example, a car has stalled on the track or is off the track in a hazardous location.

Passing Flag Passing Flag – This flag is used to alert a driver that he/she is obstructing traffic.  Faster cars may be wanting to pass or the driver is
not slowing enough to allow equal speed cars to pass.  At the first opportunity, the driver is to allow passing in the designated passing areas.
Debris Flag Debris Flag – This flag indicates there is debris ahead on the track that could create a hazardous situation, such as oil, car parts, dirt, cones, etc.
Black Flag Black Flag – The black flag may be displayed open or furled; it signifies something is wrong with the car, the driver has violated track etiquette, or for some other reason, the starter wants to see the driver in the pits. The driver is to slow down, finish the lap, and enter the pits. He/she is to then see the starter to find out why he/she was black flagged.
Red Flag Red Flag – This flag is displayed waving only. It may only be displayed on the call of the “Control”.  The red flag is more serious than the yellow and means there is an obstruction of traffic on the track and the situation is hazardous, such as fire or possible injury.  The driver should stop on the track as soon as safely possible, watching for other traffic in his/her rear view mirror.  He/she should move to the shoulder or off the track if possible rather than stop in the middle of the road.
Checkered Flag Checkered Flag – Used only by the starter at the starting line in the grid.  This flag is used to indicate the groups track session is over. The driver should complete the lap at a slower speed to cool the car and the brakes and proceed to the pit area..