By Chuck Lutz
As the colder weather moves in, it signals the end of the track season and affords me some time to reflect upon my experiences as a rookie instructor. It has been a great journey that I would like to share with the P4 readers.
It all started a little over a year ago. I had just completed my third Waterford event of the year and was looking forward to continuing my quest for track time to further hone my skills and reach that elusive state of driving nirvana. As any track junkie would tell you, nothing beats seat time to gain experience in track lines, car placement and vehicle dynamics. I had attended the Waterford events and spent time at Mid Ohio, Gingerman and Grattan. All are great tracks, but that wasn’t enough, I wanted more. About that time, Jeff Amos, our Chief Instructor, approached me and asked if I would be interested in being a rookie instructor the next year. My first reaction was – What?!?!?!? Was he not paying attention?!?!?! Did he hit his helmet clad head on something during one of his races and lose his mind? I questioned his sanity, but wanted the seat time (even if it was the passenger seat), so I agreed to do it.
According to Jeff, one of the duties of the rookie instructor is to endure the verbal abuse of the Chief Instructor as his “gopher” and whipping boy. This requirement brought back images of my frat days in college. Not sure this was a smart move on my part, but as the saying goes” no pain, no gain”, so I figured why not? On the plus side, I had another rookie instructor, Peter Rea, in my class to share in whatever grief Jeff would inflict. As it turned out, Jeff’s bark is much worse than his bite. He turned out to be a wealth of knowledge for track information, car setup and various other subjects not entirely related to cars or the racetrack.
The typical track day involves getting to the track early, placing the cones, fire extinguishers, flags and brooms in their positions before the school and then picking them up again after the day is done. You get to hang out with the other instructors for the morning meeting to discuss track conditions, student assignments and any other topics that require our attention. Then it’s into the cars and on to the track. Lots of fun for the rest of the day.
On one specific occasion, I had the pleasure of instructing Jeff Hober, a 944 owner whose passion for Porsches was shared with the P4 readership a few months ago. We had a lot of fun moving around the track as Jeff quickly found the line, “dialed it in” and spent the rest of the day pushing his car and himself to get the most out of his track experience. I enjoyed watching him progress over the course of the day and he seemed to be enjoying the experience as well. It was fun to see Jeff wandering the paddock the following month at another DE. The track bug finds another victim. I think this particular situation sums up the DE experience nicely. You don’t need to have the fastest car on the track, just the mindset to succeed at learning the line, car placement and vehicle dynamics.
There are pros and cons to being an instructor (rookie or veteran). The pros are more seat time (for me and my students), the camaraderie of the students and fellow instructors, and a chance to ride in cars I will never be able to afford (Modena 360, thanks Jeff and Randy). The cons are…..well….uh…..no, who am I kidding? In my opinion, there are no cons. Instructing is a great gig if you can get it (and if it fits your temperament).
Looking back on my year as a rookie instructor, I can honestly say that it has been one of the most exciting times in my life. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of fine people from all walks of life who have a common interest in becoming better drivers and gaining a better understanding of what their cars are capable of on the track. If you are the least bit curious, I would strongly suggest a visit to the track during one of the DE’s to see what it’s all about. You might find a new avenue for fun. Thanks for listening (reading actually) and be safe and smooth (while driving that is…).