When you mention you are heading to “driver’s ed” it makes it sound as if you are back in high school or, if you reside in a state that mandates it, to a punishment school for those who have been ticketed for speeding.
Registration and Technical Inspection
The registration itself is a bit daunting. You are usually asked to complete registration, a medical form and a technical inspection form for your car. The registration will ask for general information about you and your car, including your address and the make and model of your automobile. FYI, when they ask whether you are “novice, intermediate or advanced,” they are not asking for your opinion of your driving skills. You may think you rule the roadways, but if you’ve never done a DE before, you are a novice. And even if you have done a few DEs, you are still a novice. And once you have done a few, you will understand why being moved to the intermediate group too early is not always a good thing (more on that later).
Completing items on the tech inspection form may initially seem like a headache, but you should consider it insurance for when you push your car’s handling, brakes and tires to the limit. Prior to the event, you should take your car to a mechanic for a thorough inspection. When you arrive at the track, your car will be inspected once again and if all things are not found to be up to par, you won’t be allowed to run.
If you don’t own a helmet (and most novices don’t), you may ask the DE organizers to hold a “loaner” helmet for you. Eventually, if you decide DEs are something you’d like to do often, you may consider purchasing a helmet for yourself. Your decision may be hastened if you do an August event and borrow a sweaty, manly smelling helmet.
Arrive a bit Early
Arriving at the track the first time is both exciting and intimidating. DE events usually ask that you show up early for setup, inspections and a possible classroom session prior to your time behind the wheel. When you arrive, other drivers will be filing in. Some drive up in cars that look like yours, and others will arrive towing race-ready vehicles. The parking lot at my first DE was a beautiful sight, full of Porsches old and new.
After you arrive and park, you’ll register and receive your instructor assignment and event schedule. Your instructor serves as your event guide, and as such, it is important that you feel comfortable with him/her. Instructors ride with you in the car and offer you level-appropriate feedback to help you become a better driver. If you do anything at your DE, it should be to listen to your teacher. Some of the suggestions offered by the teacher may seem senseless at the time. The instructor will encourage you to go faster, brake later, turn later, etc. If you develop trust in your instructor, following his/her advice will yield surprising results and a thrilling experience.
Check your Ego at the Door
On that note, let me stress that the worst thing you can bring with you to a DE event, be it novice or advanced, is an ego. If you’re there to hear praise on your driving skills, or to drive aggressively to prove how fast you are, you won’t learn much. At best you’ll annoy those around you; at worst you could hurt your fellow drivers. Leave your ego behind and you’ll leave the track a better driver.
In part II of this post we'll explore what happens after registration and tech inspection and go through an actual day at a DE event.