Q: I recently crashed my track car coming out of turn 12 at Mid-Ohio. While I have been doing HPDEs for 10 years now, this was my first time at Mid-Ohio, and my 5th different track that I have been to. I am writing this not for sympathy, but to share with your readers some mistakes I made, and also to learn from it. I’m hoping you can help with that last one.
This is my second season in a modified 2007 Cayman S, after driving 911s for the previous eight years – they handle different. I requested and was given an instructor – he was a good one and an especially good communicator. I asked if I could go out with him in his car (a 993 911) and “see” his line. We did and then his communicated line made more sense to me. I then asked him if he thought the Cayman should follow that line too? He had never driven a Cayman so I asked him if he’d like to and he did. He dialed it back a bit but drove it 5 laps using the same line. Then we swapped seats and on the very first lap I lost control on the exit/track out of turn 12 (Thunder Valley).
His line was a very early apex (riding on the right-side curbing, almost off the track) whereas I had been doing a mid to late apex. The turn finishes with a crest and downhill and you track out to the left curbing, but stay off of it, as it was known to be slippery. As I tracked out and made a very slight right turn my car oversteered or maybe “power oversteered” which a Cayman can do easier than a 911, and the disaster began. The car made four fishtail oscillations and the 4th ended with the right front hitting the wall on the right just past the tire wall on the right. We came to a stop 180 degrees from the contact angle directly under the pedestrian bridge. We were okay, minus some minor lower back soreness and mild headaches. The car, not so much.
So what can I learn from this. Well first, I admit that I had not studied the track or even watched any track videos. I was busy with family commitments for the two weeks before, and a 3-day DE the weekend before Mid-Ohio. Two, I should have tried my instructor’s line with it dialed down a bit, though I do remember saying to my instructor, “I’m not going to go try and emulate you right off”. And three, what was I thinking with less grip in the back than I was used too?
A: Sorry for your crash. But, as you know, there are two kinds of drivers – those who have crashed, and those who will. It happens, and it happens to the very best. Hey, Lewis Hamilton crashed in a practice session for a Grand Prix this year. So you’re in good company.
I agree that perhaps you were trying too many “new” things at one time – new track, relatively new car, new line. Add in the fact you hadn’t had time to prepare the way it sounds like you usually do, and your brain got into a very slight amount of overload. So, driving with a bit more in reserve would have been good – and something to keep in mind the next time you’re in that situation. Most important is how you move on from it.
I like the way you’ve reviewed and analyzed it, and learned from it. The key, once you’ve determined what you’ve learned from it, is to move on. Okay, it’s hard not to think about it. It’s like when I say, “don’t think about a pink elephant.” You can’t help but think about a pink elephant. The key is to have a trigger word or phrase that you can use to focus you on what you want whenever the thought you don’t want enters your head. For example, “eyes up – look ahead.” Any time you begin to think about the crash, you say “eyes up – look ahead,” and instead focus on looking farther ahead and back on the act of driving in the moment. With practice, that becomes your go-to program, and it gets easier and easier to let go of past “crap.”
You’ve now become an even better driver. I really mean that. We learn the most from our mistakes, which is why I call them “learning-takes.” The likelihood of you crashing again has actually been reduced – you’re a safer driver now.