Q: I am a new instructor and will be instructing a student with only the left seat – I can’t be in the car with the driver. What are things that you watch for with your student while you observe him/her from outside the car and standing at a corner?
A: When I read your question, my first thought is, “wow, that would take most of a day to answer!” I could just say, “the line, braking (begin and ending), corner entry speed, corner min speed, when I hear the driver get on the throttle, how smooth the driver is, where the driver is looking (noticing head position/movement), overall movement of the car on the suspension which tells me a lot about the driver’s control inputs, how committed the driver appears to be, and so on.”
Each one of those is a topic in itself, but that’s really it, at least from what I observe while the car is on track. But then the real work starts – back in the paddock, talking to the driver, asking questions, discussing my observations, and then reviewing and analyzing any data and video we might have. If a driver has spent 30 minutes on track, I can very easily spend twice that with him/her afterwards debriefing and then developing a plan for the next session. And that’s the real key – what did we (both driver and coach) learn from the session on track, and how do we use that for the next session – what should the driver be focused on.
Instructing from outside the car takes experience, as you have to get real good at noticing the very subtle movements and speed of the car, and mentally put yourself in the car to imagine what the driver is doing to make the car do what it’s doing. The more you do it, the better you get at it – just like driving.
What are the first dozen or so questions you run through with a driver debrief?
I wish it was just the same dozen or so questions, but it depends entirely on the level of driver, what they need, car/track, and so on. Every driver and situation is different when I’m coaching. It’s different from instructing in that way.