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Phun with Photoshop Corporate letters Bear Notch Road Emails from Heck

 

So you say that you're the hotshoe in your driving school class? You're continually passing more powerful cars and you never have to give a point by because there's never anything but clear track or rapidly disappearing headlights behind you? Can you visualize the racing line in your sleep? Have you refined trail braking and heel-and-toeing to a dance of purity and beauty? Has it all come so naturally that there have only been minor missteps followed by precise corrections? Have you never really scared yourself?

Yet?

Imagine, if you will, coming hot into your favorite turn at your home track. The turn that you own; the one you have oh-so-dialed. As you are entering the corner, something holds your attention for just a moment. It could be an errant fly, it could be a naked Heidi Klum doing yoga on the tire wall,  it could be absolutely nothing, but before you realize it, you find yourself deep into the corner with far too much speed. The brakes are pushed beyond their limits, you've missed the apex and you are suddenly heading unequivocally, inexorably into the weeds. You are chest deep into your first off track experience.

Never, you say? Not you? Couldn't happen? Well, little skipper, if you are pushing it as hard as you say, it is going to happen. Think of all the professional drivers that you've seen go agricultural for no apparent reason. Do you think that you are a better driver than they are despite their years of careful preparation and training? Don't bust a rotator cuff patting yourself on the back because the truth is the big boys do this kind of stuff seven days a week and they still make mistakes.  But, like any other automotive experience, if you plan and prepare carefully, you can not only keep your dignity and car intact but you can actually impress your instructor and spectators alike. There are just a few key items to remember and functions to perform when you do finally lose it.

  1. Do not panic. There is nothing that disturbs an instructor more than having to reach over, turn the key off and remove it from the ignition while your foot is still glued to the gas pedal as you are hanging upside down from the seat belts a good 75 yards from the track. Also, blubbering like a baby is generally frowned upon too. Speaking of crying out loud, don't let go of the wheel and cover your eyes. It's just not good form.

  2. When you realize that there is no recovery from your situation and you are committed to going off, focus on where you want to go, not the obstruction that you want to avoid. Many times, even though you are heading off the track, you do have a choice on your course of exit. Focus on the area that has the most run off and, in all likelihood, you will steer toward that spot. Fixate on the abutment just before the safe zone and you will definitely auger right into it. It's exactly the same as what occurs on the track.

  3. Try to drive off the track rather than slide. As you leave the track straighten the wheel and the car. If you are sliding on dry pavement and you are suddenly transferred to slick surface you will loop it faster than you can think, much less react. So as you are leaving the tarmac, turn the wheels straight and just drive it off the track. This will ensure that you remain in control.

  4. Put both feet in. Clutch in. Brake in. ABS is a wonderful thing and, if you let it, it will stop you amazingly quick even in loose gravel.  Let the car do what it does best. The clutch is very important and can save you a lot of damage to your engine, especially if you spin. You can actually turn the engine backwards if you leave the clutch out and spin the car.  Since things like oil pumps have reverse threads they can spin themselves right off. Not a happy thing at all.

  5. Come to a complete stop. Completely. Stopped. Not moving. Halted. As in not trying to drive back on the track. I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough. If you go off and try to drive back on without stopping you are putting yourself and your fellow track drivers in far more peril than you realize. Trying to return the trace without stopping will only serve to impress your instructor that you are far more talentless than he was led to believe.

  6. If you have done steps 1 through 4 correctly, you will have come to a halt some paces off the track and your car will be intact. Barring tire barriers, walls, bridge abutments, the odd naked jogger etc.  Now is a good time to take stock of your situation. Count your fingers and toes. Check to see if there are any warning lights on the dash that you should attend to. Turn the radio off.  The reason for this is not only to make sure that your car is ok, but also to wait for the wave of adrenaline to pass. You may have noticed that time seemed to slow dramatically down when you lost it. The same chemical that created that feeling will leave you weak-kneed and trembling after it passes.  So wait a moment or two. Think about what happened.  Take a moment to let the feeling pass. Don't drive the car until it does.

  7. Listen to your instructor.  He had a front row seat and is in a position to tell you what to do.  Don't worry, he/she has seen this before, done this before and will do it again. Listen and learn, follow the instructions.

  8. Watch the corner workers. They will tell you when to re-enter the track. Do not proceed without their and your instructors signals to return.  This is critical.  There may be someone thundering down the track at you that you are not aware of and driving out in front of them will be disastrous. So wait for the signal.

  9. Take it easy. Don't push it. You aren't racing. Remember that you are still wired and operating under the influence of adrenaline. It's too easy to make a mistake now so just drive it to your next destination.

  10. Pull into the pits. Talk to the steward, he'll probably want to have a word with you. Check out the car to make sure that it's okay. Pull the tumbleweeds from the radiator.  Relax for a moment. Heave a huge sigh of relief. Take this moment to count your fingers and toes. While youíre at it, you might just want to give the seat a quick scrape too. Return to the track only when you feel ready.

 

See? That wasn't so bad. Hopefully all you did is scare yourself and provide a powerful lesson on how to pick the corners where you want to push it. Remember, this isnít racing, itís just driving and unless you are willing to sacrifice your car, you had best keep it below 10/10ths especially on the corners that have donít have much runoff. Besides, thereís always your instructor to think of and, you may find this difficult to believe, the last thing he wants to do is have you go cartwheeling off into the scrub brush. Heís got kids too.