BMW CCA Windy City — MAY 2014
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The Steering Wheel
John Kelly

With the snow gone, finally, my favorite season is fast approaching – track season! By the time you’re reading this there should still be a few days left to register for the first of two Windy City BMW HPDE events this year, starting out at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet. There may even be a few one day registrations left if your schedule doesn’t permit devoting the entire weekend. But I can’t imagine what would be more important than a weekend at the track, either driving, volunteering or just spectating.

By the way, for those that want to experience what a driving school is all about, the “Taste of a Driving School” returns. Get a free (yes, free) ride with one of the very skilled driving instructors. Check out the registration on the website.

Following is an admittedly somewhat biased view of why I think our chapter offers a superior event - Instruction –1-on-1 instruction is provided for all experience levels, not just for the novice groups. Without instruction or coaching, track days can be spent reinforcing bad habits, rather than improving existing skills or learning new ones. There’s always something new to learn if you’re open to it, and personal coaching allows students to focus on areas that they are interested in.

Onsite Medical Personnel – Hopefully you will never need this service but every Windy City BMW HPDE has paramedic’s onsite if a medical issue occurs. Usually the paramedics get to catch up on some reading and generally have a pretty dull weekend, which is a very good thing for everyone participating in the event. But if there is a need for their services, valuable time isn’t lost while medical support is called in.

Onsite mechanical support – This is another great benefit that hopefully you will never need but will be really glad it’s there if you do. Bob Rauch from Rauch Auto Care attends our events to help with mechanical issues that may arise. Cars get a pretty good workout at an HPDE, and sometimes things get overstressed – brake fuid and pads, bearings, and many other things. Without onsite mechanical help, a car problem can be the end of the fun for that weekend. Bob has helped a lot of participants resolve car issues and get back on the track. He has fixed a few issues for me as well, thanks Bob!

Pre-tech – A mechanical pre-tech session is also included in the cost of the event (although the Autobahn pre-tech was already completed). Pre-tech checks for issues with brake pads, tires, fuid leaks and other wear items to see if there is any maintenance needed before you hit the track. Just one more way to keep the events safe and fun.

Does more sessions but shorter duration equal more track time? We typically run three 30 minutes sessions per group per day. Some other groups offer more sessions but shorter durations, four to six twenty minute sessions seems common. Simple math makes the six 20 minute session plan look like more track time for your dollar. Consider that each track session requires time at the start to warm up both the car and driver, then more time at the end of the session for a cool down lap and time to clear the track for the next group. More sessions means more time spent warming up, cooling down, and clearing the track. A 20 minute session can turn into 10 to 12 minutes of actual driving time. Which is not a benefit unless you really enjoy warm up and cool down laps.

Just a few things to consider when planning your next track event. I hope to see you at a Windy City BMW event, either at Autobahn on May 17 and 18, or at Gingerman in August.