So, you signed up for your first PCA Driver Education Event. Now what!?
We can all remember our first Porsche Club of America Driver’s Education event. I remember every detail of mine. They say that adrenaline helps burn things into your memory. I guess so! What a mosaic of sights, sounds, smells and feelings. Of course I came completely unprepared. Sure, I remembered my helmet, my Tech Form, and of course my car. But I wish someone had given me some advice on “the other stuff” to bring. Remember your feelings at your first Driver’s Ed. Event? Why was it that everyone else knew exactly what they were doing and I was the only one who didn’t have a clue? How could I look somewhat clued-in so as not to look like a total loser? Everyone else seemed to have stuff I didn’t. How did they know to bring that stuff? How do you learn this stuff?
Well, here are a few thoughts on getting ready for your first driver’s ed event. Hopefully, they will reduce stress and increase the fun. First of all, this is supposed to be fun. The purpose is to learn how to safely control your car in a safe, learning environment. This is not racing or race preparation! This is not an event to “show off” how great you can drive. The purpose is not to go fast. The purpose is to learn how to properly drive your Porsche and to enjoy it!
You need to get your car ready ahead of time. It needs to be inspected by an approved Tech Inspector. When you receive your application back from the PCA Region sponsoring the event they will refer you to a Tech Form. Take this to an approved Tech Inspector and have your car inspected. Fix anything that requires attention. It is important that you start this process well in advance of the event. Do not leave this process until the last few days before the event. What if you need something repaired on your car? You won’t have time to get it done. Don’t set yourself up to have stress increased. A few things to think about
When was the last time the brake fluid was flushed?
Do the brake pads have at least 1/2 or more wear left in them?
Does everything work?
Do the tires have tread to meet the event rules?
Is everything in proper working order?
Does the event require a fire extinguisher installed in the car?
Get this inspection out of the way early and freshen up the car as needed. Then you will feel that everything is in working order.
Do you have a helmet? Seems strange to ask that. But often this is overlooked until the last minute. Get a good helmet such as Shoei, Bell, or Simpson. Don’t buy a used helmet. It may have been dropped (this can permanently damage them). Who knows what’s happened to it. Helmets must fit properly. There are guides for measuring your head to assure proper fitment. If you are buying a new helmet now, check out our tech requirements.
Read the Driver Education Student Manual. It contains lots of good information for what to do during your session on the track.
Look at a video of the track. You can obtain driver education videos of what it looks like to drive around the track you are going to. Ask a friend. Chances are they have one you can borrow. This will help you know what things are going to look like ahead of time. This takes away the mystery and reduces information overload that first day at the track.
Packing for the Event
So, your car is all inspected and is A-OK. You have your helmet and have completed all the necessary forms. You even looked on a map to see how to get to the track more than one day in advance. (Don’t laugh.) Now, what should I bring with me so I am prepared? On the one hand you don’t want to bring everything in the garage. On the other hand, it would be nice to have what you really need.
First and foremost — pack a friend! What you say? Pack a friend? Yup. Basically, everything will go much better if you know someone else in the club who is doing this and you can hook up with them beforehand. Chances are, it was was someone else in PCA who got you to overcome your apprehension and sign up in the first place. Ask them to show you the ropes. They will be thrilled to do it. Really! Trust me on this one. They really will want to help. Someone helped them their first time and they still remember it. Ask them what they bring with them, how they prepare their cars, where they have them tech’ed, what time to leave to get there on time, etc., etc.
Don’t make the mistake that I have by leaving the packing until the morning of the event. Pack the day before. Try not to pack the night before because before you know it it’s 1:00am in the morning and you are supposed to leave for the track at 5:30 am. Been there. Done that.
So, what to bring with you? Here are some thoughts:
For Your Car
Paper towels and window cleaner
Tire pressure gauge
Torque wrench to tighten wheel lug nuts. By the way, those “soft sockets” which you use not to mar the finish on the alloy lug nuts will melt, literally, if you attempt to loosen/tighten lugs after having been on the track. So, if you use a steel socket it won’t melt. However, it may break off the alloy lugs nuts on the first turn. Then you will have your wheel stuck on your car. The broken lug can be removed without damaging the wheel. But it is major surgery. So, if you have alloy lug nuts on your car then let them cool completely before attempting to loosen them. Or, you can put on open-ended steel lugs and have no problem. This is what most people do. You can purchase these through aftermarket Porsche suppliers.
Your car tool kit, jack, etc.
A cotton towel or two
White shoe polish in “wipe-on bottle” or thin duct tape for car numbers. You were assigned a car number when you applied for the event.
Your entry confirmation which you received back in the mail has this car number on it. Did you find it and remember it!?
Gasoline! It sounds funny; but make sure you car has a full tank of gas when you arrive at the track. I will admit publicly that I almost ran out of gas on the track at my first event!
One or two quarts of oil
Optional: Racer’s tape or duct tape to cover headlights
Optional: 12v air pump (Someone will probably have one at the track or the track will have an air pump in case you need air.)
A canvas bag or duffle bag or milk crate or box, etc. to hold all this stuff
Completed Tech Inspection Form
Directions to the track
Your PCA membership card and driver’s license
Copies of the Event Schedule, Worker Assignments, and Track Map printed from the website
Umbrella (not red or yellow)
Rain coat or jacket you could wear in the rain (not red or yellow). Always bring this. You will be glad you did when that summer thunderstorm comes through on what was otherwise supposed to be a sunny day.
Long-sleeve cotton shirts (required if you’re driving, no matter what the weather)
T-shirt, sweatshirt, etc. as the weather demands
Long cotton pants (like blue jeans) required if you’re driving
Tennis shoes (not jogging shoes with their big, wide bulky soles)
Small cooler with ice, and plenty of drinks. Drink lots while at the track. You don’t want to get dehydrated. Adrenaline, sun, exercise, etc. All this excitement makes you need fluids. Don’t leave home without them.
Light lunch. There may be someplace to get lunch at the track. Some have it. Some don’t. Know this ahead of time!
Optional: A tarp to put over your stuff in case it rains
Optional: A small folding chair
A canvas bag or duffle bag or milk crate or box, etc. to hold all this stuff
Finally, don’t forget to leave your ego at home. You’re there to be safe and to learn, not to impress anyone.
When You Arrive
Get there early. Talk to people. Find out what’s going on. You will need to do the following:
Sign in — You will be required to sign an insurance waiver for the track and for PCA. There may be a small track entry fee to be paid (more taxes). Remember to collect any forms they have for you.
Park — Find a place to park your car which is not in the way of everything.
Empty your car — Take everything out of your car. This means everything! Empty the glove compartment, the trunk or trunks, the door pockets, remove the radar detector, the cellphone. (If it’s permanently installed turn it off! Yes, someone’s did ring while driving around the track at speed!). Remove the floor mats. Remove the coke cans and empty coffee cups from underneath the seat.
Get in line for Tech Inspection — There will be a final tech inspection of your car and equipment. This is usually near pit lane. Bring your car, your helmet, your completed Tech Inspection Form and get in line. Get there early! Remember to have your car numbers put on your car before you get into line. When you received your application back for the event you were assigned a car number. Did you notice what it was!? Put the car numbers on with either white shoe polish or thin duct tape. I prefer the thin duct tape on the rear side windows since it doesn’t wash off if/when it rains. Put the numbers on both sides of the car as well as on the front.
Get set for the driver’s meeting — There will be a driver’s meeting prior to the event. This will take place after all the cars are inspected. Make sure your car is all set, your equipment is all set, and you are all set. Relax. Go to the driver’s meeting and pay attention. Don’t be late. They will tell you about the track, any special considerations, how the flags are to be used, etc.
Meet your instructor — You will be assigned an instructor. You probably were told who he/she is via email and hopefully you have connected with each other before the event. Get to know this person. Find out where they are parked.
Novice meeting — Beginners and novices attend a classroom session prior to driving. You will be told about this at the driver’s meeting. Ask questions!
Get in line — Make sure you know when your group starts. Go to the bathroom (really). Get to the grid on time. Make sure your instructor finds you or you find him/her. Arrange where/when to meet ahead of time. Have fun…
Get to work — Chances are you will have to work in some capacity while at the event. Usually this consists of working at staging or pit-in or pit-out. Make sure you go to the bathroom before heading out there. (Sorry to nag about this but you’ll be there for a while and you cannot leave your post at all.)
Bring stuff to drink, your hat, jacket, etc. Remember to close the sun roof (and perhaps windows) in your car before you leave for your assignment unless you are 110% sure that there will be no rain. Of course at my first event, a brilliant sunny summer day, I left my sunroof open and it rained in my car. Of course I had taken my keys with me so no one could close it for me, even though many people looked in the car to see if they could! Some nice soul finally put a tarp over the roof. Keys. Many people just leave their keys in their car while parked for eventualities such as this. I won’t tell you to leave your keys in your car. It’s probably all right though. But it’s your choice. Sometimes I take mine. Sometimes I don’t.
Well, that’s enough to get you thinking about what to bring. I hope this helps and doesn’t cause your trunk to fill up with too much junk. But don’t worry. If you forget something, there’s always one of those “over the top” people who trailer their cars at the event. They bring all sorts of junk with them. They love to lend it to you because they feel so guilty for bringing too much useless hardware that they never use. (Been there. Still doing it.) So, don’t feel shy about asking to borrow something! Most of all have fun, be safe, and learn what Porsches are really like…