PCA Southeast Michigan Region

Drivers Education from a First Time Teenager

By Stephanie Ambrus

My introduction to the Porsche world came on a trip to Florida many years ago when my Dad purchased a basket case 924. It took several years to restore proving the time worn adage that there is no such thing as a cheap Porsche. Dad got it on the road sometime in 1998 and naturally got the bug to try the Driver’s Education program from the region.

My mom and dad signed up for the September 1998 Driver’s Education at Waterford with Mom in her Turbo Ford Probe and Dad in the 924. After the day they were both hooked. Dad has gone on to be involved not only in the region’s DE program but has become a licensed PCA Club Racer in the 924 since 2001. Whenever she can, Mom does a DE at the races Dad attends.

With that background it was eventual that I would try my hand at a DE. From the time I got my drivers license, Mom and Dad kept reminding that I would do a DE in the future. From the time I was sixteen I came up with any excuse you can image why I wasn’t when I turned 18. Fortunately the last DE for 2003 was before I turned 18 so I was off the hook till 2004. The May DE I got out of because I was going on a trip with Mom and in June I was working. Dad made it emphatic that I was going to make time for the August DE. Some encouragement from Patti Door also helped me to try this unknown adventure I was going to embark on. With Dad mailing in the application and check after Gingerman Club Race there was no backing out.

Dad made sure I would be ready as possible. Weeks in advance he gave me several books to review on performance driving. Apex, oversteer, understeer became new words in my vocabulary. We covered what the flags meant. Gee, I learned that the white flag does not mean last lap after following NASCAR. Wonder what Dale Jr. would think!!! The Saturday before the DE we took the car to Munks for the tech inspection. Not a real chick experience but I survived. With Waterford so close to Munks we went for a track walk. Got my exercise in for the day along with an idea what the track looked like. Hilltop, Archers, and Swap came to life and not turns I heard about.

Wednesday night before the DE was get the car ready. Since I was using Mom’s daily drive, a 2004 Mustang, we had to change street tires over to a set of performance ones. Floor jacks are heavy and impact guns are an unique experience. Glad I am not a pit crew member on a NASCAR team or pit stops would be hours with my use of the gun. Dad was having fun taking pictures of me using the impact and torque wrench. Did not realize how much work 90 foot pounds is. At least I didn’t break a nail!!! Setting tire pressures was another fun experience.

DE day finally came!!! What does Dad mean I’ve got to be ready by 6:30am!!! This is my summer break. Girls need their beauty sleep. Fortunately Dad drove so I got to sleep the 50 miles to Waterford Hills, since I didn’t get my usual nap for the day.

Got to the track and now the unknown fun begins. Drove the car onto the Pit Lane for grid inspection along with going through registration. The Mustang passed and now the wait till drivers’ meeting. Found from roll call I was not the only female thank goodness!!! Jeff Amos conducted the meeting giving us the basics involved of the day from being on time, what the flag means and most important who my instructor was going to be. After the drivers meeting all us beginners attended a class session. Our instructor went over the basics of proper seating, passing a slower car, driving techniques, etc.… A lot to remember for a newbie. No turning back now as it was time go on the track. Go get the car and put it on the pit lane to await my instructor.

My instructor for the day was John Oscherwitz a long time SEM/PCA region instructor from the BMW Club. Found out he even instructed Dad several years ago. My first session was conducted under parade laps with no helmets so we get a feel for the track and the proper line around it.

After ten minutes the black flag was displayed and all of us came to put on our helmets and now go at it. For the first time in my life I got to drive as fast as I felt comfortable. The session was over before I knew and now I am HOOKED. Mom and Dad were right. This was fun!!!! After parking the car in the paddock I found Dad and sheepishly asked can I do DE next May when I am out of school?? I had three more on track sessions with my instructor. Each session I got more comfortable being on the track. Even getting passed was fun. The best time was the last session where the cars were spread out and I had a clear track. Following the session Dad met me in the paddock and gave me his usual Dad hug. I had a successful day, did not crash Mom’s car, and even my instructor did not throw up.

As a young teenage driver I came away with a better respect for driving at speed and car control which hopefully will make me a better driver of my street car.