IMPORTANT DRIVER EDUCATION INFORMATION
WHY DRIVER ED?
The reasons for Driver Education
are to help make each of us who participate, more skilled and safer
drivers, to provide us with the opportunity to learn about our
automobiles and to experience "driving in its purest form".
We conduct our driver education program at the Montana Department of Public Instruction Lewistown Facility. Our program is designed to give participants the opportunity to develop their car control skills at speeds and cornering forces that cannot be achieved on the street, at least not legally or safely. People of various skill levels attend our events because they have a good time and learn from their experience. But bear in mind...
High Performance driving is an inherently risky activity. You can lose control of your car and damage it, perhaps extensively. And while we haven't seen this happen yet with our program, it is possible that you can be injured or killed, even while using the required safety equipment. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage to protect you against excessive loss.
Note that many insurance companies have added coverage exclusions for events of this type. Make sure to read your policy carefully and check with your agent to make sure you are covered.
HOW DOES THE PROGRAM WORK?
Each new participant begins in the Novice/Beginner group. This includes experienced drivers who are new to our program. Such drivers may only need a short on-track orientation before being allowed to drive on their own.
Novice drivers should have an instructor in their car and can request this at pre-registration time. Instructors are assigned based on driver experience level. Novice students are encouraged to drive at speeds at which they and their instructors are comfortable in order to learn the 'line'. The goal is to teach better car control. Students are discouraged from traveling at speeds which could place them or their cars in jeopardy.
As your skill level develops you will progress from the Novice/Beginner group to more experienced run groups. You will be "signed off" as you progress. Being "signed off" means that your instructor feels confident that you can drive "solo" for novices or that you are ready for the next run group level.
Be patient. There is no need to rush driving "solo". In fact all drivers from "signed off" to instructor will be "checked out" periodically. It is one way for us to help you become a better driver, and it allows us to measure your progress and the success of our program.
It is important to note that
BSR-PCA Driver Education is not racing, nor any form of competition.
There are plenty of other venues if you wish to drive competitively.
Our program is not one of them.
Registration must be done online. Also, you may run just
about any type of car during our Drivers Education Event provided it
is track worthy (If there you have ANY question in your mind about
the track worthiness of your car, PLEASE contact us before the
event.). You MUST get your car inspected within 30 days of
Novice/Beginner - The driver has little or no experience at High Speed Driving on a Track and will probably need instruction
Intermediate - The driver has some DE experience, typically 5 or more DE days and is in the process of improving their fundamental skill set. May need some instruction.
Advanced - The drivers are experienced, usually several years of track experience, they are generally working on perfecting advanced driving skills and have the ability to drive off the line safely.
Instructor - These are individuals approved by BSR-PCA's senior instructor to teach the other participants.
Let's emphasize that there will be NO PASSING IN THE TURNS. The passing zones are clearly marked...
This is DRIVER TRAINING and NO WHEEL TO WHEEL Competition or Timing for Competitive purposes WILL BE ALLOWED!
This is a good time to go through your car and remove any articles which will not be required while driving and to secure or remove items like telephones, radar detectors etc. Also make sure your battery, spare tire and jack are secured.
Although an in-car fire extinguisher is not mandatory at BSR-PCA events, participants should be aware that at some other Region's events they are required. If you are planning events outside BSR-PCA, please familiarize yourself with the host Region's rules.
WHAT TO BRING
There are no dining facilities at the track, though soft drinks and water will be provided. It's a good idea to bring at least some snack food if you don't want to drive several miles into Lewistown for lunch.
Dress comfortably for the weather. It can be cold or hot, wet or dry. It's suggested that only cotton (or natural fiber) long sleeved shirts or jackets and long pants are appropriate for drivers. No synthetics please. Driving gloves and comfortable rubber soled shoes are recommended. Please no high heels, sandals or heavy soled shoes or boots. You need to be able to feel the pedals through the footwear. Be sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen. A comfortable chair is also a good thing to bring.
HELMETS ARE MANDATORY
Acceptable helmets are SNELL SA/M 2005 approved or later. You are responsible for providing your own helmet.
THE DAY OF THE EVENT
The track gates are open by 7:00am (unless otherwise noted) to prepare for the day. Find yourself a spot on the large paved lot. Remove all loose objects PRIOR to your grid inspection. These include floor mats, bags, tool kits, radar detectors, unsecured cellular phones, etc. Anything that could fly around inside of the car should be removed.
Grid inspections begin around 7:30 am
Remember, it is the responsibility of the driver to bring a track worthy car to the track.
You and Your car will be inspected at the track for the following minimum participation requirements:
Mechanical issues may develop as the day progresses. Consequently our event officials observe all cars for the duration of the event in order to maintain the best event possible. Any existing or evolving mechanical issues including, but not limited to: fluid leaks, loose body panels, bent wheels, or any other condition that track officials deem inappropriate will require correction before you will be allowed to continue to participate. You are the most connected with your car. If you sense anything out of the ordinary, our advice it is pit immediately and check it out. Don't continue to drive your vehicle if you feel that it is not performing at 100%.
There will be no event fee credits issued for tech inspection failures or mechanical breakdowns during the event.
A mandatory drivers' meeting will be held prior to the first run at which announcements will be made regarding that day's event, including track conditions, any announcements about the schedule that may be necessary and driving rules and practices. The use of flags will also be discussed. This starts around 9:30am. If you don't understand something then ask. The only poor question is the one not asked.
There is no fuel available at the track. One station in Lewistown has 92 octane pump gas. Be sure to have enough fuel for at least two hours of hard running on the track. Fuel consumption on the track can be far higher than in normal driving, with fuel economy for some cars as low as 5 MPG, so plan accordingly.
Both you and your car must comply with the following regulations. Failure to do so will result in your disqualification from the event. Meeting these regulations does not guarantee that you will experience a safe event.
CHILDREN AT THE EVENT
BOTH PARENTS of children under 18 MUST sign the liability waiver or those children will have to leave the event. This is a "no exceptions" PCA national requirement. If you need a copy of the waiver form so that a parent not attending the event can sign it beforehand, please contact the event chairman. The forms are available for download on the PCA web site.
Because safety is our number one
concern, the regulations reflect this concern (though we cannot
guarantee a safe event). The event officials reserve the right to
disqualify any participant who fails to abide by these regulations
or in our judgment is operating his vehicle in an unacceptable
BSR-PCA allows passing at certain specific passing zones. Passing in any other area of the track will end your event with us. These zones will be explained at the drivers' meeting just before the event.
In the event that your car is disabled, pull off the track as close to a flagging station as possible and away from the driving surface, stay in your vehicle unless it is on fire. Do not attempt to make repairs. In the event that another vehicle is stopped, do not stop to offer assistance yourself. The event officials will deal with the situation.
Fast Dry - Watch the line for rubber fragments and oil, use the wet line if it feels slippery.
Wet - Move off of the line a full tire width or two, this will improve the available traction. Many of the curves collect puddles of water in the apex areas. Be alert and adjust your line appropriately.
Tires - Use air pressures setting prescribed by the manufacture. When on the track, tire stresses and temperature will rise dramatically. Be sure your tires are in good shape. Always check your tire pressures as soon as you can after you leave the track. Tire pressures grow with tire temperature and on the track your tire will reach temperatures that they will never achieve on the street. Any of the instructors can provide advice on tire pressures for you but it is your responsibility to keep you tires properly inflated..
Driver Education events place stresses on braking performance never experienced on the street. It's extremely important to make sure that your brakes are in tip-top shape!
Brake fluid can boil on a hot
day, indicated by a soft pedal. Often, you might feel a soft pedal
for the first time, and the NEXT time you apply the brakes the pedal
will go to the floor (real scary!!) Slow down and cool down until
the fluid has returned to functional temperature. Exit the track as
soon as possible and have the issue corrected. Brake pads can become
brittle and chunk through excessive heat cycles. This is detected by
vibration during hard braking. ABS systems will set up the same
vibration but they do less harm to the brakes. Complete your lap at
reduced speed when the brakes vibrate and pull into the pits to
inspect your pads. If you are not sure what to look for, ask a tech
inspector or any of the driving instructors. You should always make
sure you have any brake issues corrected before continuing to drive
Listen to your body. Drink a LOT of water, don't eat excessively, and do not exceed your limits. Most experienced drivers will not stay on course for more than 20 minutes during hot days and hot laps. Body and mental fatigue can set in very quickly at a track event. The lapse of mental focus is the first sign that you are wearing down. You will notice that it becomes more difficult to execute the line through turns, and shift/brake points become erratic. Slow down for a lap or two to regain strength. As in distance running or any athletic event, a short break will allow the body to rejuvenate. If, late in the day, you feel yourself drifting off of "the line" and having a harder time driving smoothly, you are probably tired and it would be a good choice to pull into the pits and call it a day. Driving at speed is the most cerebral and physically stressing thing you will do.
Your instructors are experienced in performance driving at Lewistown and other tracks. Many of them have driven hundreds of laps around the course at speeds and cornering limits above those which you will experience during your driving sessions. Your instructors will be most impressed by smooth driving and following the proper line.
They have been instructed to attempt to keep you from getting in over your head and may ask you to slow down so that you can better follow the line. If you are not comfortable with your assigned instructor feel free to ask for a different instructor at any time--simply pull into the pits and indicate to the senior instructor that you'd appreciate another perspective. You instructor has the same rights as you do, of course.
You may wish to ask an instructor to drive your car to demonstrate the techniques he or she is trying to teach to you. You can learn a lot from this experience, but are not expected to do this and should feel no obligation to do so. If you do choose to request this, the instructor is expected to drive smoothly and under control, not abusing your vehicle in any way. He or she is not obligated to drive your vehicle either and can choose not to even if you request it.
Your instructors are given track time during the day, and may agree to take you as a passenger in their vehicles. This can be a very informative experience.
One last note about Instructors: It's not a good idea to scare them.
In the end, you are solely responsible for driving your car on the track. You make the choices and operate the controls. Your instructor can only provide guidance to help you make the decisions that lead to correct vehicle operation.
PROPER CORNERING SEQUENCE
Correct cornering requires a conscious and repeatable sequence of driver actions to properly enter and exit turns. This sequence must be smooth and flowing and requires regular practice to make it a habit. The sequence is as follows assuming turn entry from a straight section of the course.
LIFT -- While driving in a straight line and looking ahead, smoothly lift off the throttle.
BRAKE -- Smoothly and progressively apply the brakes in a straight line. Not all turns require use of the brakes.
DOWNSHIFT -- Using heel-toe technique downshift to the appropriate gear to maintain torque to provide for acceleration out of the turn. Not all turns require downshifting.
OFF THE BRAKE -- While looking ahead to the apex and beyond, smoothly release the brakes when you're ready to turn in. You generally should not be braking while in the turn, and you want to have given your suspension a brief moment to settle before turning.
TURN IN -- Practice ocular driving. Never look where you are. Always look ahead to the next point by physically turning your head. Slowly and smoothly turn the wheel to initiate the turn. Let your hands follow the eyes and use progressive steering.
ACCELERATE -- After the turn is initiated smoothly, apply maintenance throttle and progressively increase as you pass the apex and begin to track out to the exit point.
TRACK OUT -- As you pass the apex smoothly and progressively unwind the steering wheel. Let the car unwind to the exit point. This is not always needed. Your instructor will explain when and how.
TALK YOURSELF AROUND THE COURSE IN THE FOLLOWING WAY
Lift off the throttle
POST RUN ROUTINE
At the end of the run group, as you slowly return to the paddock, review the session with your instructor. Identify areas and skills you feel comfortable with as well as turns and skills you need to work on.
Be absolutely sure you have the course memorized turn by turn in order.
Use the course map to review the session and talk yourself through each turn over and over. Lift, brake, downshift, off the brake, turn in, on the throttle, track-out. Visualize every turn in order and include any improvements needed. Visualize and memorize one perfect lap after another. Recognize mistakes but do not dwell on them. Always visualize a perfect lap.
COMMON STUDENT ERRORS
POOR DRIVING POSITION. Check to see that fully depressing the clutch pedal doesn't require maximum leg extension. Check to see that reaching the steering wheel still leaves a slight bend at the elbow. Check the seat belt and helmet strap.
POOR HAND POSITION. Depending on exact steering wheel design, probably about "9 and 3 o'clock." Failure to maintain this hand position once on the track: "crossing over" when making turns and not returning to the steering wheel after shifting.
ABRUPT USE OF CONTROLS: Steering, brake and throttle. Smoothness is a basic skill/minimum requirement.
OF CONTROLS: Getting
on and off the throttle unnecessarily
FAILURE TO USE ALL OF THE TRACK to get biggest (fastest) radius.
"CREEPING IN" from the edge of the track near turn-in point.
EARLY APEXING Early turn-in caused by too much pressure/over-driving. ---failure to recognize the "acuteness" of the corner (angle.)
"DROPPED" CLUTCH AFTER TURN-IN POINT. Too late with all the decisions, putting this one after the turn-in instead of before! Big spin risk if the car's near the actual limit.
SHIFTING GEARS WHILE IN A CORNER, unnecessary/risky.
"LATE" TURN-IN. Usually caused by failure to recognize that the turn is (probably) less than 90 degrees. Spin risk as student tries to wrestle the car to the proper apex (anyway.)
BRAKING TOO LATE. Problem is at its worst when consequences are at maximum! Largest errors are made when the difference between straight-away speed and cornering speed is large. Students tend to enter slow turns too fast (and fast turns too slow.)
FAILURE TO BUILD BRAKING (PRESSURE) SMOOTHLY ENOUGH to prevent "locking" of tires. If the fronts lock first, the student will lose steering control. If the rears lock first, there will be immediate directional stability problems.
POOR USE OF RPM's. Failure to use tachometer to shift neither early or late, missing up or downshifts completely.
FAILURE TO "BALANCE" THE CAR AT THE (TURN) ENTRANCE:
Over "rotation" of the car with too much trail-braking and/ or
sudden and jerky steering motions. (Oversteer.)
POWER OVERSTEER. Too much power applied, too abruptly, with car already near critical grip limits. (rear wheel drive)
FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE MISTAKES. Failure to accept the necessity for full concentration and discipline. Symptom: inconsistency.
FAILURE TO ANTICIPATE/AND ADJUST as speed changes require.
PREMATURE EMPHASIS ON LAP TIMES. Failure to realize/accept that nobody starts "on top" or gets there easily.
FAILURE TO DO MINIMUM CAR PREPARATION. Basic vehicle safety demands appropriate tires, suspension and brake pads/brake fluid for the intended usage. Significant re-checking at track (i.e. tire pressure, fluid level and brake pad wear) is necessary to ensure your vehicle is ready for the rigors of track use. We highly recommend a pre-DE mechanical inspection by a qualified mechanic. This can help to enhance your day be ensuring your car is in good condition.
We hope these pointers haven't overwhelmed or confused you. It is important that you realize that it's the laws of physics that determine what your car can and can't do; if you try to break those laws, you'll get caught every time, and the penalty you pay can be very high.
REMEMBER, SMOOTHNESS, CONSISTENCY, CONCENTRATION AND MOST IMPORTANTLY--HAVE FUN.
FLAGS AND THEIR MEANINGS
Flags are used to communicate to the drivers. Flags may be used to warn drivers of changing conditions, a problem ahead, a faster car behind or the end of a session. It is imperative that all drivers commit the meanings of all flags to memory. A simple rule of thumb is that a waved flag indicates a more serious problem than a stationary one. Two waved flags indicate an increased level of seriousness.
YELLOW FLAG - The caution flag will be displayed for the first lap of each session. No passing is allowed when the YELLOW is displayed. If the flag is waved it indicates that there is a problem just ahead. Slow down, and proceed with caution!
RED FLAG - This flag means something is blocking the track. When red is displayed you must come to a complete controlled stop at the side of the track, then proceed at a "walking" speed to the nearest flagging station, being careful of cars ahead and behind you. You will be advised by the corner worker when you may proceed. Stay in your car!!!
Black Open - This flag means there is a problem with your driving and/or car. Slow down and come into the pits and stop at the black flag station. If you are not sure if the black flag is meant for you, it is prudent to come in and check with the pits. If a black flag is shown at all corners slow down and proceed with caution to the pits.
Black, Furled - If this Black Flag is pointed at you, it's a WARNING that you broke a rule or drove inappropriately. Don't do it again!
BLUE FLAG - This flag means that you are being overtaken by faster cars. Watch your mirrors. Signal and allow them to pass at the next passing zone.
- This flag means the
driving session is over. Slow down and allow your car to cool down.
Exit track at the end of the lap. You will be advised where this
flag will be displayed at the drivers' meeting. No passing after the