NER Driver Education Ground School at Palmer Motorsports Park on April 23rd
Well, the weather sucked and that scared a few people away – HAH! – they lost out on a really good event! NER’s Driver Education team held the annual “Ground School” event – again at Palmer Motorsports Park – on Sunday April 23 rd . The thinking behind this is simple: we know there are folks out there who haven’t been to a DE event but might be lured in. So we chum the waters with some free food, put up a presentation with some racy pictures and then turn them loose (well, not really – there is an instructor in the car and they are parade laps) on the track. And voila! They are hooked and start to sign up for events.
There were 45-50 interested students and 30 or so instructors/regulars to guide them through the day. And despite the weather all of the “students” I talked to reported a fine time and an interest in actually signing up for a DE. I rode in the passenger seat of a 2006 Cayman S (I felt right at home, of course) piloted by JoseAlberto Betances. Very nice fellow, originally from the Bronx (we didn’t discuss baseball) who said he was new to driving a manual but acquitted himself very well and did a good job of learning the racing line in the 5 or 6 laps we did. We had time to talk about tires and the minor mods he might make to his car before he went to a DE (brake fluid and pads). I encouraged him to sign up early for Thompson since it might sell out for novices but not to miss Watkins Glen. I think we landed that one!
While the primary bait on the hook is the driving, let’s also note the strong social attraction of the DE events. There is a lot of time at a DE event for making new friends – people with similar hobbies and similar cars are pretty easy to get to know! – plus there are the beer/wine/dinner socials when the track goes cold. It was great to see my many friends after a winter of no driving events.
Thanks are due to many for putting on a well organized event and let’s start with Track Chair Charlie Kenney who put the whole thing together. Chief Instructor Dave Berman did yeoman duty in herding cats and matching up students and instructors. Stan Corbett did his usual registration chores (and reports that he already has 4 new fish in the net). Ed Mansing was responsible for the nicely done powerpoint. Dennis Mascetta was there to represent North Country Region and we had 5 NER Board members in attendance.
There were a lot of presenters who did a great job and they won’t mind that I don’t list them all. But let’s thank the food providers. David Peterman (who is now competing against my teammate Nick Shanny in SRO GT4 America racing – sorry David but I have to root for Nick) donated a ton of delicious Panera pastries and HMS Motorsports provided pizza (and Cody also presented and brought some merch for display and sale). And finally thanks to Al Sandy and Palmer Motorsports Park for hosting. And speaking of reacquainting with friends, I had noticed that Aaron Walker, a long time autocross buddy who lives near me, was signed up to go. (Let’s put in a plug for autocross – a great way to learn your car’s limits before you head to the race track.) I invited myself to ride with him in his Rivian pickup. I got to drive it home. Wow. I understand that its 115mph speed limiter hurts its quarter mile time. Think about that! Aaron points out that if he uses it to tow his GT3 to the track it might actually be able to beat it. Very impressive and lots of fancy tech as well (but let’s not talk about the range issues – there would be a lot of downtime towing to Watkins Glen). I’ll stick with what I’ve got.