I wrote this in August of 2015 after my first DE. I've done quite a few more since then, but this is where it all began.
I know this will be a long read, but I hope you'll plough through it and enjoy the story of my first DE. It really was an incredible time! Man... I REALLY like my car!! So here goes...
This past weekend was my first DE and I think my heart rate is STILL elevated from it.
The whole thing was just SO MUCH FUN!!! I don't really know how to recap the whole weekend, so I'll just give a bit of an overview and I'm sure many of the veterans will just be nodding their heads and thinking "Yep.... that's how you become an addict..."
I did the Introductory Driving School (IDS) back in April and have been looking forward to doing a full on DE ever since. I didn't even know until a few weeks ago whether I'd be able to do it as I was listed as "Waitlist" all summer. For the IDS, we did a session on the track but in retrospect, that was really just a tiny sample of what DE would be like.
The DE was on the same Driver Development Track (DDT) at Mosport as the IDS was held on, so that little bit of experience was at least helpful.
Firstly, I'll get one thing out of the way. Reviewers have often said that these cars can make anyone feel like a hero on the track. They're obviously very good cars and well balanced and all that, but the PSM and torque vectoring also work so brilliantly that when you get things wrong, the car does an amazing job of bailing you out. With that in mind, while I certainly wasn't the best driver out there, I was absolutely the fastest car in the green (beginner) group the entire weekend. Of the 8 sessions over the two days, I only got to point a single person to pass me. I'll explain that one in a moment as it was one of the most entertaining parts of the entire weekend.
I know it's not a race and that there's no trophy for winning DE, but it's still fun to chase people down and get by, though not as fun when you catch them and get stuck behind them for a lap or more. I was there with two friends so of course there was a certain amount of ego involved in who could keep ahead and who got passed. One was a member here driving a 2.7L 981 Cayman with X73 and PDK. The other drove an E92 M3 manual. We're all beginners but we're all enthusiasts, so we figured our skill levels were probably about on par with each other. Going in, we were all interested in whether the PDK and X73 suspension would be enough to make up for the 55 hp difference up to my manual GTS and whether the extra 84 hp of the M3 could make up for the big weight advantage and cornering abilities of the 981's. As it turned out, the answer to the first question was "no" and the second was more of a "maybe". The M3 was the only car all weekend that I pointed by me. It happened in the 2nd to last session yesterday in what was an extremely fun run that definitely didn't leave either of our instructors very impressed.
It's worth mentioning that my instructor was really really good. So much so that I'm thinking about requesting him again for the next time, especially if I go out on the big track. We had a discussion about it at the end and he suggested that using different instructors can be a benefit as different people teach different things, so if I do the DDT track again I'll take the luck of the draw, but if I go to the big track, I think it would be good to have him keep building on the things he was teaching me.
So let's get to the good stuff here. According to my instructor, every session I did was better than the previous one with the exception of the 7th one so I'm proud to have made improvements all the way through. He said my last session was the best of the weekend, so at least I made up for it. My instructor was happy with me, so the whole thing was a success with respect to driver development. After my 2nd session on Saturday, he took me out in his car for one of the yellow group runs. Having him show me where he wanted me to be rather than just telling me made a world of difference. There was a couple of corners that I was approaching completely wrong because I clearly wasn't understanding what he was saying. Seeing him do them, I knew that even if I'd accomplished exactly what I was TRYING to do, they would have still been very wrong. My 3rd session was a huge improvement because of that. As a bonus, it was my first time ever riding in a 911.
Now... about those last two sessions. With friends at the track, there's always going to be a bit of trash talking and a certain amount of ego involved. That's just part of the fun. By the end of Saturday, I was flaunting the fact that I hadn't yet been passed but the M3 was getting quicker and quicker and his instructor seemed to be getting more comfortable with him pushing harder. We thought that if anyone was going to pass me, it would probably be him. In the 3rd session yesterday, I noticed him coming up behind me and that's when things started to get silly. You experienced guys know that trying to go faster will often slow you down. Seeing him lingering behind me, I started pushing harder and consequently started making mistakes. Meanwhile, he was doing just about the exact same thing behind me so the end result was both of us starting to make a hash of the corners and sliding around and having a whole lot of fun that didn't impress anyone except ourselves. Now he was very clearly screwing up the corners less than I was and after at least a full lap he was still out there behind me. I hadn't pulled away. I told my instructor that if he was still there after the next set of turns, I'd point him by. My instructor thought that was a great idea. He kept up and I pointed him by and then proceeded to chase him down in just about the same manner for the entire rest of the session. There were a few times that we got caught behind slower cars and had to wait to get through, but when it was just him and me out there, hilarity ensued. I was amused at how aggressive and slidey some of his turns were, and then followed them up with my own that weren't any better. We ended that session with huge grins and fairly unimpressed instructors.
This brought us to the 8th and last session of the weekend. I'd worked on a number of different things with my instructor so going out for the last time I talked with him and told him I had just one goal in mind. The M3 was first in the pit lane and we got in line right behind him. My goal for the session was going to be to completely ignore him and just concentrate on everything I'd learned so far. I figured that if I just did everything as best as I could without getting aggressive or competitive that I'd end up getting around him. He got released, and I was let go 10 seconds or so later.
About three quarters into the first lap I was coming up behind him and my instructor asked me if I'd remembered that this was just a warm-up lap. No. That had completely slipped my mind. I backed off a bit. Then it was on. I actually did fairly well in hitting my marks and driving smoothly and was able to catch up to him and keep with him but we quickly came up on lap traffic. We didn't both get through right away, so he got through first and started building a gap again. Once I got through, again I did well and was able to close the gap but once I was behind him for a couple corners, I messed one up rather significantly and my instructor piped up and said he thought I was going to ignore the BMW. I'm not sure whether I was getting aggressive or had simply made an honest mistake, but I sheepishly acknowledged that I was doing my best to. The instructor then told me to slow down and drive at around 3/4's pace or so for the next 30 seconds.
I thought I was in trouble. I know that he knew that ultimately I wanted to get past the M3. I thought maybe he thought I was going to be stupid about it and didn't want to be in the car with me when we ultimately went off through the grass into a wall or something. I thought he was going to put some distance between us so we could go back to concentrating on the basics without the M3 being any part of the equation. As it turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. I backed off and the M3 started to drive away. Then, for however long it took, my instructor proceeded to go through all the actions I needed to keep in mind if we went off track. Straighten out the wheel and keep the car straight in the grass as I try to stop as roll-overs happen when you get sideways. Don't try to get back on the track right away. Just ensure we stay safe and hopefully don't wreck the car. Once he got through what he wanted me to know, he basically cut me loose to go back and try to make the pass. Over the next two laps we caught the M3 and he had to throw in the towel and let us by. It was very satifying. We knew he'd want to get us back if he could, so my instructor told me that from that point on, I didn't need to check my mirrors anymore. He'd keep track of the BMW and I should just concentrate on my driving. We actually put a bit of distance between us and him by the end of the session.
So that was my first DE. If you've read this far, you can probably tell that I had an incredible experience and can't wait for the next one. It looks like it won't be until next year, but I think it's fairly certain that I'll be signing up for a few of them next year and looking forward to them like a kid looks forward to Christmas!!
Thanks for reading!!