High Performance Driver’s Education (HPDE)
To start, this is not a racing school. So what is it?
It’s a chance to drive your car in a fun, safe, controlled learning environment, on some of the best tracks in the country. It’s a chance to learn more about yourself, your driving skills, and your car. It’s even a chance to meet and socialize with a diverse group of people who really enjoy their cars.
First time students at driving schools run by the Glacier Lakes Chapter of the ACNA will spend the morning of the first day in a short classroom session and three driving exercises. The class and exercises are designed to enhance car control skills and knowledge of your car. The remaining time in the two day event is spent in lapping sessions on the track. Students get to drive the track at speed during 20 minute sessions with an instructor riding along. This provides an excellent opportunity to apply, and practice, the skills learned.
The Novice and Intermediate students attend classroom sessions that covers many of the basic concepts providing a foundation for the driving skills taught in the exercises. Some of the many topics covered would include, car prep, driving position, attitude, vision, weight transfer, tire adhesion and cornering techniques. The details of club and local track rules for the lapping sessions are also covered in the classroom.
In addition to lapping sessions on the track with an instructor, Novice and Intermediate students have hands on driving exercises. During all driving exercises the students drive their own cars and are coached by club instructors after each pass through the exercise. This provides helpful input to ensure the students gets the most out of the experience, while maintaining a safe environment. Helmets and seat belts are required during all driving exercises and lapping.
Slalom – The slalom course is where the student can get a feel for their car’s weight transfer during cornering. This is also an excellent chance to develop steering inputs that are smooth yet sufficiently assertive for higher speed cornering.
Braking – The braking exercise gives students a chance to see how their car handles under hard braking. In this exercise the car is brought up to highway speed and then stopped as quickly as possible in a target area, roughly the size of a parking space. This is designed to give the student a better feel for the stopping ability of their car. Most new cars are equipped with anti-lock brakes, so many students get their first experience with this feature on dry pavement. Threshold braking techniques (talked about in the classroom session) can also be practiced in this exercise, especially on cars without anti-lock brake systems.
Lane Toss or Accident Avoidance – This exercise is for many the most challenging, and for some the most fun. Its designed to mimic an accident avoidance situation. The students drive down a single lane at normal street speeds of around 30 mph. This lane is lined with traffic cones on either side. Holding the 30 mph speed, the car approaches 3 lanes (also delineated by traffic cones) with one lane straight ahead, and one on either side. At the end of each of the 3 lanes is a traffic signal light with all lights green. As the car approaches a short section where there are no cones separating the lanes, 2 of the 3 lights go red. At this point the driver must make a decisive move to change to the lane with the green light, and then stop the car. This exercise emphasizes the importance of vision and assertive steering inputs, as well as getting the turning operation done before using the brakes.
Lapping – Running laps on the track makes up the rest of the ‘seat-time’ at the events. Run groups are established to allow students to run laps with other drivers of similar experience. Novice students always have an instructor in the car during lapping sessions until the student and the instructor (and a second instructor) are ready for the student to solo on that track. Passing is only allowed on straight sections of the course, and under controlled circumstances, making for a very safe environment. Lapping on these tracks provides a great opportunity to safely learn advanced driving techniques and explore the capabilities of both car and driver.