In this special write up we see two DE perspectives, one from NER’s OG Bill Seymour and also from Jose Alberto Betances, a newer NER member – read on to get the full scoop!
Another One Starts Down the Slippery Slope!
Author: Jose Alberto Betances
The Porsche brand has fans of all kinds, from those who enjoy the casual comfortable drives, to spirited drives, to true performance drives. I have been in the first two categories, looking from the outside at that third category, for a long time. I decided that this year, a year after getting a 2006 Cayman S, would be the year I added that third category to my repertoire.
I have to believe there are many others out there like me, and after this experience, I highly recommend they take this step as well! The “Ground School” at Palmer was a fine introduction. Through this experience, I was encouraged to try out the first Driver Education event at Thompson. I had never been on a track before, aside from the parade laps on Palmer, and so I prepared to do so. After getting my first helmet, and tech inspection, I was ready to go. But, admittedly nervous. So much so, I almost backed out (as I have before), prepped some excuses just in case. But I went anyway with a “now or never” mentality.
The folks who volunteer their time for this are really quality people – I can’t say enough about how welcoming and friendly folks were to me. While there was plenty about which to be intimidated, (just the line of vehicles there for this was incredible) it ended up not being so. The focus for my “Green” group was learning some fundamentals. Basic terms, flag meanings, and safety were essential and the day would be mostly about “the Line.” Then it was out to the track for the first run of the day.
I was fortunate enough to be paired with Bill Seymour and he guided me through an exhilarating experience. Just being on the track was good enough for me, but I was also there to learn how to become a better driver. I remembered a quote from the Desiderata: “there will always be greater and lesser people than you” at anything. Learn from those who are better and help those who may not be is my motto everywhere else. It just so happened here that there were lots of people from whom to learn. Yes, there were much better drivers (and cars!) out there, but Bill helped me focus on what I needed to do and learn, at a pace and manner that worked for me, personally. And yes, passing signs were given – AND accepted.
As an added bonus, Bill found another member, Chip Wood, who was kind enough to give up some of his track time and car (a track-prepped orange Boxster) for me to ride-along. With Bill in the driver’s seat, I saw what can REALLY be done on that track (and how far I have to go – but as they say, “the journey of a thousand miles…”). I laughed so hard. It was amazing. I really should have done this sooner.
At the end of the day, I could not believe how much time I had on the track at Thompson. Four rounds (five if you count the ride along), about 27 minutes each – so much more than I could have imagined for a first-timer like myself. I learned a great deal about my limits (and beyond) and those of my Cayman. I could feel the gradual improvement, and the opportunities to improve even further. I know at least one way I can do so: more track time. But first, let me prepare a strong case for my wife about the concept of “consumables….”
(Comment from Bill Seymour…”What Jose doesn’t explain – but you all should know – is that he would have had the same experience with any of the great NER DE instructors. The only difference is that they might not have talked him into writing up his experience for our website!”)
By: Bill Seymour
NER’s first Driver Education event of the season took place over Memorial Day weekend at Thompson Motorsports Park. Apparently all of us Track Rats had been very well behaved because we were rewarded with absolutely perfect weather – dry, sunny, not too hot – perfect!
The weekend featured three special events. First: on Friday, which was “advanced only,” the National Instructor Training took place. Matthew Wallis organized the day which involved classroom sessions followed by on track role play (candidates in the right seat with mentors driving and pretending to be naughty students). Dan Dazzo, PCA National Safety Chair, flew in to do the classrooms and share lots of interesting stories. As a result there are now 17 new National Instructors in our region.
On Saturday morning there was a special parking lot session for Green and Yellow drivers. Chris Ryan, Autocross Chair, and his colleagues Ed Moschella, Bill Aubin and Bob Cantor, set up braking and skidpad exercises. Think a braking exercise sounds silly? You’d be surprised how many new track drivers never had their Porsche fully into ABS. And of course the watered skidpad was hugely helpful. (By the way – a plug for Autocross – go to Ft. Devens and find the limits of your Porsche in a safe and entertaining way.)
On Saturday night there was the usual beer/wine social in the garage but this was followed by a buffet dinner at the Thompson golf course restaurant. (Sally and Mel got out all fancied up!) Thanks to NER DE Social organizers Pam Mascetta and Judy Mansing! And welcome to the social crew a new volunteer: Jen Hall. (Author note: I quite enjoyed the Hall family. I had a nice ride with Steve and daughter Emma was very complimentary of my car selection and driving.)
The rest of the weekend involved lots of great weather and lots of track time. We had a somber moment each morning of the Memorial Day weekend when we recognized our fallen heroes with a moment of silence (and Stan Corbett once again brought poppies and flags). Track Chair Charlie Kenney managed to make the driver meetings short and amusing while not compromising any safety issues. Chief Instructor Dave Berman did his usual masterful job of herding students, instructors and arranging check out rides – there were a lot of promotions…
Placements (drivers who haven’t ridden with us before but had experience elsewhere):