Q: “I’m new to HPDE and have done 2 events so far. I live in Colorado and my first HPDE event was at Pueblo Motorsports Park. I drive a modified Miata and my instructor at the time thought I did amazing and that I took all the right lines and everything on the track. I was “in the groove” so to speak. My instructor thought I was good enough to advance to HPDE 2 and I told him I wanted to stay at 1 to be safe because this is only my first track. I then went to my second event at High Plains Raceway and had a completely different instructor. At that track I could not “get into the groove” and went completely off track at turn 10 twice. I kept pushing myself even after because I knew I could do better, but I felt I was not getting any better. What I’m saying is I was extremely comfortable racing at Pueblo and thrown off by High Plains, due to either the elevation changes on the corners or the track having, in my opinion, odd lines. My instructor had taken me in his car around High Plains to show me the lines I should ideally be taking, and I noticed he wasn’t using the entire track width. But the next time I went out I mimicked the exact lines he was using and he said I wasn’t using the proper lines, and it dropped my motivation a little bit. What I would like to ask is how I can adapt myself to become comfortable to different instructors and different tracks?”
A: You’re not the first – or the last – driver to have excelled at one track and with one instructor, then struggled at a different track and with another instructor. I read your email a couple of times, and each time the first thing that came to mind was the instructor, and how some are just really good at bringing out the best in others, and some are not. I’m not necessarily saying your second instructor was bad, but just that some are better than others – and some connect with some drivers better than others, and it’s possible that that instructor would be excellent for a different driver. Add in the fact that High Plains is technically a more challenging track than Pueblo (I’ve driven both), and it could explain it. Understand that even the very best drivers have “off days,” and do better at some tracks than others.
My advice would be to chalk that up to a great learning experience. In fact, they’re all learning experiences – the good ones and the less-than-good ones (you can never have a truly bad day at a track!).
How to adapt to different instructors? As you gain experience, notice what works and what doesn’t, then communicate that to your instructor. Sure, some will be more accepting than others of your input, but it’s the best approach. I’m sure you know how to approach people to get them to work with you, and that’s what you need to do. But obviously, you need more experience to learn what you need.
I also believe that the next time you go to High Plains, it will be a lot better. High Plains, with the elevation changes, is one of those tracks that rewards driving and then having some time for it to sink into your mind. When you go back, especially if you take some time beforehand to visualize driving it again, it will be a lot easier. Be sure to make notes on a track map (you can download a map for free at https://speedsecrets.com/trackmaps/), as that will help “cement” what you have learned, and what you will learn.
I want to be careful how you take this, but keep in mind that some instructors are better at telling you what to do than they are at doing it themselves; some are the other way around. Again, with more experience you’ll learn how to read that.
With only two HPDE events, your awareness of your abilities is fantastic. At this stage, just focus on gathering more experience, and keeping in mind that it’s all about learning. Oh, and having fun!