By Carl W. Irving
(50%) Driving Events Coordinator, Houston Chapter BMW CCA
The Houston-based Lone Star Region of the Porsche Club of America has organized high-speed driver's education events at the Texas World Speedway (TWS) on a regular basis for numerous years. These events have over time gathered a reputation for being intense, fun and instructive Weekends. A number of Houston Chapter BMW CCA members were fortunate enough to be able to participate in the February 1997 running of the event, allowing us to sample this experience firsthand.
The event is designed to allow drivers of varying levels of experience lap the 1.8 mile TWS circuit (using a combination of the oval's front straight and a tight, technical infield section) at high speed yet with a high degree of safety. Drivers are assigned instructors on an individual basis that accompany them on their runs around the circuit, teaching the principles and techniques of fast, safe high-speed driving over the course of the Weekend.
Our Weekend started with a mandatory Friday evening beginner's briefing where the Chief Instructor presented the purpose of the event (i.e., a school - not a race), the safety rules followed by a short classroom session presenting the track and the general techniques for executing a rapid lap of the circuit. The following two days followed a consistent pattern where we would lap the circuit for four run sessions of twenty minutes with our instructor - most frequently driving our own cars, but sometimes with the instructor driving in order to explain a particular point or technique. The our run sessions were separated by a an hour and a half where we could watch the other run sessions and ponder our instructor's advice.
Ah, the other run sessions... The students in the event are split into color-coded run groups by experience, starting with a beginner's "green" group working their way up through "blue," "yellow," and eventually the "white" run where one sees all sorts of exotic, fast, purpose-built race cars and the like. There also is a "red" run group where the instructors get to practice their art solo. Quite an impressive sight!
All of us Houston Chapter members were unanimously impressed with the organization of the event - the Lone Star Region of the Porsche Club definitely put on a high quality event which, despite being predominantly for the benefit of their members allowed us to sample the qualities of our cars in a high-performance setting. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that we were equally impressed with our cars (much to the dismay of some drivers of another nameless sports car marque who found our hotshoe Houston Chapter treasurer Jeff Bailey following them with ease around the infield in his 25 year-old 2002!).
Of course it is difficult to describe in words how much fun we had, but as one somebody put it: "it was a blast!"
The PCA LSR high-speed driver's education event is for Porsche Club members in priority but is also open to nonmembers on an availability basis. For more information, contact Becky Laughlin at (281) 360 0123 or visit the Lone Star Region on the Web at http://www.platz.com/pca/lonestar/
Why Don't We Have One?
The question that you may be asking yourself is "why don't we have one of these events?" Well, the Houston Chapter will organize a High Speed Driver's Education event at Texas World Speedway in the near future. We still currently are in the planning stages of the event, so many details still need to be finalized before we can officially announce the date. However, our intention is to run an event along similar lines to the PCA driver's ed. course, but with an added emphasis on beginners. We feel that there is a lot to be learned from doing taking such a course as well as it being great fun. So we look forward to being able to put on our first high-speed driver's ed. course and will be keeping you updated as our plans coalesce.
NEW!: See the Texas World Speedway Serves a "BMW Special" article for information on the special offer for BMW CCA members to drive at the October 1997 TWS Motorsports Club high-speed driver's school.