Driver Education Instructor Handbook

The Instructor Handbook is designed to promote excellence and consistency within our instructor corps which will instill students with the proper attitude, safe driving skills and infectious appreciation for the sport.


Mission Statement

The Northeast Region/PCA (NER/PCA) is committed to providing a comprehensive program employing a safe learning environment in which our members who choose to do so may learn and experience both their own and their cars’ full potential for safe operation and car control on a closed motorsports park course. Driver Education (DE) is not a race program, nor are these race-preparatory events. Official timing is not allowed.

DE not only provides sheer mental and physical exhilaration, but also enhances our members overall driving skills resulting in their acquisition of improved car control skills that, in turn, leads to safer operation both on and off the motorsports park. Skills learned on the motorsports park are directly transferable and enhance defensive street operation.

The success of our program depends on consistent instruction and information for all participants and instructors in PCA/NER DE events. Direct, concise, and consistent instruction can not be over emphasized. To promote and maintain these high standards, the Track Committee has created the Instructor Handbook.

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with its contents and terminology. These terms and core notions should be imparted to students at all instruction meetings (novices, drivers, instructors, etc.) and during all in-car instruction sessions.

The Track Committee acknowledges and appreciates your continuing efforts to promote the enjoyment and safe learning experience provided at NER/PCA DE events.

Instructor Guide

Instructor’s Pre-Drive Check List For First-Time Students

While in the paddock or the pits (if not before) find out:

  • What is the student’s general driving background?
  • Does the student have any high-performance driving experience?
  • Has the student participated in Autocross?
  • Is the student comfortable with manual transmission in this car?
  • Can the student heel-and-toe?
  • Has the car been modified?
  • Is the car in good condition?

Brief the student on what will be covered while you drive his/her car:

  •  Correct line (turn-in points, apexes and track-out points)
  • Location of flag stations
  • Landmarks for braking points and
  • Be sure the student understands the terminology we use

Review emergency procedures:

  • If you spin disengage clutch and lock up the brakes.
  • If you are going to run out of road be sure to go off in a straight line!
  • Do not try to re-enter the track until the car has stopped and both you, your instructor, and the track are clear and ready. These skills promote safe, evasive driving techniques and are directly transferable to driving in all situations.

Review the definitions of and actions required of each flag.

Review the goals of the session:

  • Ocular driving. Your hands will follow your eyes, so the car will go where you look. Your vision must be well ahead of the car. Look where you want to go, not where you are or don’t want to go!
  • This event is not a race nor is it race preparatory.
  • The focus is on safety and learning proper driving techniques.
  • The focus is not speed for speed’s sake.

Instructor’s Check List for Students: First Time Out as a Passenger

As you enter the car:

  • Agree on where you will meet for each driving session.
  • Buckle seat belts/harnesses.
  • Point out the proper driving position.
  • Go over hand position (9 and 3, both hands on the wheel, death grip not necessary or desirable).
  • Point out proper mirror alignment and adjust.
  • Fully tighten seat belts/harnesses.
  • Doors unlocked.
  • Both windows fully down when there is a passenger in the car, otherwise just driver’s window down.
  • Check gauges. Explain that at least once a lap oil pressure and engine temp must be monitored.

When you are ready to enter the course:

  • Talk student through proper course entry as you do it.
  • Point out that the first two laps of a session are used to warm up the engine, tires, brakes and driver.
  • Point out turn in, apex, track-out and braking landmarks.
  • Talk your way around using terms: on the gas, off the gas, brake, downshift (if necessary), off the brake, turn in, on the gas, apex and track-out.
  • Be sure to tell the student where you are looking at all times. Vision is one of the keys to quality driving.
  • Point out your smoothness.
  • Ask questions to verify the student is understanding what you are teaching and is comfortable.
  • When you check gauges (do it in the same place each lap) and mirrors tell him/her you are doing it.

After two of three laps, ask if the student is ready to drive:

  • Try not to drive more than three laps.

As you prepare to enter the pits to change drivers:

  • Explain the proper way to do it (signal, ease up on throttle, etc.).
  • Set a good example, go slowly in the pits and paddock area.

Instructor’s Check List for Students: First Time Out as the Driver

As the student prepares to enter the course review:

  • The goal is to learn the line.
  • Be as smooth as possible.
  • Practice ocular driving.
  • Be consistent.
  • Maintain complete concentration at all times on the course.
  • Learn to talk oneself around the course.

As the student drives:

  • Be calm.
  • Talk the student around the course using our terms over and over, until you are sure he/she knows it.
  • Observe and offer advice and encouragement.
  • Remind the student to be aware of flaggers.
  • Be sure he/she checks gauges at least once a lap.
  • Make sure the mirrors are used and require the student to signal proper passes.

After the checkered flag has been thrown:

  • Be sure the student drives the line even on the cool-down lap.
  • When the student is ready, ask him or her to go slow enough to drive the cool-down lap without using the brakes.
  • Point out what was done well and what needs to be improved. Be positive.
  • If the student can not heel-and-toe explain it and suggest practice to make it a full-time habit on the street.

Instructor’s Check List for Students with Some Driver Education Experience

As you enter the car with the student, observe:

  • The student’s habits as he/she buckles in and watch him/her check seating position, check gauges, mirrors, etc.
  • Did the student check to see that you are safely strapped in and ready?
  • Ask him/her to tell you the safe way to enter the track.
  • Be sure the student uses the warm-up laps properly.
  • Is he or she driving the proper line?
  • Is the student paying attention to the flaggers?

If the student is sloppy, ask him/her to slow down until he/she is consistent and precise.

Observe the student’s response to traffic as well as his/her passing skills.

Go over the finer points such as heel-toe if the student needs it.

Be positive.

When To Approve A Student For Solo Driving

  • A student is ready to drive alone when you would be comfortable having him or her directly in front and or behind you on the course.
  • He/she must know the line, and drive it every lap. The student must practice ocular driving and be smooth in steering, braking and accelerating out of turns.
  • Checking mirrors several times per lap and gauges at least once per lap should be second nature. The student should know the meaning of all the flags used and regularly watch for them at flag stations.
  • The student should demonstrate confidence and common sense in traffic and express a desire to begin driving alone. When all these criteria are met the student should be approved to drive solo.
  • The student should be encouraged to use instructors throughout his/her driving career to double check skills and identify bad habits. The true joy of the sport lies in the continuing learning experience.

Novice Meeting Outline

Welcome Drivers

Explain to new people/first timers that anxiety and anticipation is normal. We’re here to have fun but this is a serious sport. Maximum effort must be applied to learn new skills.

Driver Education Objectives

  • To learn and consistently drive the proper line of the course.
  • Learn to use turn-in, apex and track-out cones.
  • Ocular driving (the car will go where you are looking).
  • Point out turn and straight names and passing zones.
  • Review track safety.

The Role of Instructors

  • Help you
  • Talk you through the line
  • Teach technique and
  • Answer questions.

Instructors will drive your car for a minimum of three laps while describing the course and any other key items to remember.

Feel free to ask questions.

People learn in different ways. Be sure to tell your instructor what works for you.

If for some reason you and your instructor cannot agree on an effective process, please tell the Chief Driving Instructor, Track Chair, or one of the Track Committee members, and we will try to switch you to a more compatible instructor.

All About Staging

  • What it is;
  • Where it is;
  • How to get there:
  • When it is:
  • The need to listen for announcements; and
  • What to do.

Exiting the Pits

  • Wait for the flagger to signal that it’s safe to enter the track.
  • Stay inside the blend line and avoid crossing the track until you have merged with those on the track

Track Terminology and Technique

  • Use the diagram to explain the line of the track.
  • Emphasize the process of; off the gas, brake in a straight line, downshift when needed, off the brake, turn in towards the apex, squeeze on the power and track out.
  • Explain the most important technique of ocular driving. The car will go where you look.
  • Explain the importance of smoothness.

Entering Pit Road

  • Use the cool down lap to cool both the car and yourself.
  • Demonstrate the fist up and outside the window signal.
  • Turn in, apex, don’t track out, stay to the inside and slowly drive in and remain alert.
  • Stay inside the blend line.

Problem Handling

  • If you feel you can’t make it through a turn, be sure to drive off in a straight line!
  • If you spin, both feet in. In a spin, simultaneously disengage the clutch (left foot all the way down) and lock up the brakes (right foot all the way down) until you come to a full stop.
  • If you drop a wheel off the track do not force the car back on. Slow down gradually, until the car is settled and then slowly re-enter the course.

How to Pass

  • The passing car is responsible for making safe passes and must go off line to do so.
  • The passing car must wait for the signal (demonstrate the signal).
  • The car being passed should lift slightly (do not slow down suddenly, the driver behind will not be expecting it).
  • The passing car should move smoothly and pull back on line after checking mirrors.

The Importance of Flagging

  • Flagging is one the most important activities of the event. While NER/PCA has professional flaggers, some regions do not, so one needs to know how to flag properly. This, in turn, reinforces understanding of the flaggers when one is on the track.
  • One flagger should look in each direction and one mans the radio at all times.
  • No unnecessary talking on the radio. Communications should be short and to the point.
  • Review flags, be sure to emphasize that the red flag is never thrown without direction from the tower. The passing and caution flags are the only flags thrown at the flagger’s discretion to assure safety on the track.
  • Explain when standing and waving yellow flags should be thrown.
  • Workers must remain alert. They are our primary safety system on the course.

What To Do in Case of Questions

  • If students have questions they should seek out the Chief of Novice Development, Track Chair, or any other member of the Track Committee, or an instructor.
  • Our instructors will help students to remember procedures.

Have a Learning Experience That Will Enhance Your Life!

Originally authored by Douglas W. Adams & Russell Castagna, both former Track Committee members, this document has been revised by the 2004 Track Committee.