Too Cold For Teacher

This past saturday was one of the most exciting yet tiring experiences of my young driving career. I have run with Schattenbaum PCA for about 1.5 year. Through their advanced level, my driving has increased exponentially. I went from an intermediate driver to an advanced driver in the course of one year. Advanced driving is not only based on the pace at which you can drive, but more along the lines of track etiquette and also track awareness. It also is a place where one must understand how and where one can improve their driving. This includes altering your braking zones depending on your speed, learning advanced techniques, as well as being able to adapt to a much quicker pace.

I contacted the Schattenbaum officials in the middle of this season to inquire on how to go about becoming an instructor for their group. I had plans of becoming an instructor next spring w/NASA Mid Atlantic or BMW CCA. Considering I attended all but 2 Schattenbaum Events, I said, why not become an instructor with the group that I run with all the time! I was told that I would need a ride along or have an instructor follow me on track – in order to check me out. This happened a few times when I was running in the advanced group mixed in with the red (instructor) group. I contacted them previous to this event to get the OK to instruct. I was told that I would get a tame student in the beginner run group. I was excited, but also slightly nervous at the same time.

Prior to the event, I headed over to my local race shop, Stable Energies in Garfield NJ, and had them fit a Chatterbox radio set up in my helmet. The day had arrived – new clutch, OEM flywheel, back to nylon motor mounts – AND a student. I got up at 3 am and left the house at 4:30 am. We got to the track by 7 o clock after gas and some WaWa breakfast. I met with my student at the start and it was a whirlwind from then on.

I did 3 25-minute sessions back to back. 25 minutes in my car, 25 minutes riding in my students car, and 25 minutes in my car driving around with my student. That knocked me out.

Overall, instructing was an interesting experience. Here is what I liked and what I disliked

Likes:
– helping out students
– meeting new HPDE’ers
– getting a ride in different type of cars
– being a source of information

Dislikes
– no sitting around and reflecting on your session – its constant go go go – i did not even get a chance to check my own tire pressures since i had to get into my students car asap
– the idea that you don’t really get to enjoy your drive – i was too tired to drive! so tired that I missed 2 of my own sessions to just sit down and relax.
– you really get beat up driving in other peoples cars – especially not having the hans device to keep my head straight – my neck is sore and my lower back is killing me from bracing
– it seemed like a job – it was a discounted rate, but was the money I saved worth the inability to leisurely experience a track day?

Overall, it was a great learning experience. I enjoyed helping out my student and I also enjoyed learning from my student. It was cool to interact with someone while on the track and also show someone how much faster they might be able to drive the car on the track.

Now the big question – did i like it? yes and no. As I described above, there were some parts of instructing that I really loved. There are also parts of instructing that I despised. I really did not like running around non stop. I come to the track usually to beat my previous lap time. By doing so, and having consistently faster lap times, I believe that I am improving as a driver and my skill is growing. I did not have time to EVEN think about that this event. Sure I was up since 3am, but I still was struggling to keep focus and enjoy my day. I also disliked that I was not able to hang out with my buddies while track side – which is something I truly enjoy doing.

This experience was awesome, but the lack of calmness and relaxation and reflection of driving that I enjoy at the track was not there this time. Sure I enjoyed saving money by being an instructor, but honestly, I would rather pay the additional $ in order to be able to just chill after a session and not have to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The perks of being an instructor are nice though – helping others and getting to give rides to students. Would I do it again? Depends on the situation – saving money is nice whenever you can, but if you’re spending money to enjoy something, its nice to be able to get away, drive, think about what you did, and try to improve your driving – rather than just hurrying around!

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