5 Tips to prepare yourself and your car for your first HPDE HPDE's are some of the most fun that you can have in your high performance street car and some basic rules of thumb will go a long way to making the day enjoyable. A HPDE (High Performance Driving Education) is a chance for you to take your street car onto a race track and drive it like it was meant to be driven. These events are held all across the country at various race tracks with various organizers all year long.
#1 - Pre-event check list.
Your car does not have to be a track bred vehicle to enjoy a HPDE. Enjoyment can be had from any well maintained, race track worth vehicle. A good pre-event check list will allow you time to jot down what needs to be done and keep your head straight as you prepare to enter your first HPDE event. Things on the list to include would be car prep such as bleed the brakes, check tire wear, check brake pad wear, once over the car for any loose components, perform any needed maintenance, check the fluids and in general make sure the car is in a safe condition to run over 100 mph for extended periods of time. Personal comfort at the track is very important as well to have a nice day so make a list for things to bring with you including a cooler with drinks, lunch/snacks, some shade perhaps, a change of clothes, sunscreen, etc. The more prepared you can be the less stressed you will be and this will lead to a great day at the track.
#2 - Pre-event research.
Know the track and the schedule that you plan on attending. If you have never been to the track before watch YouTube video's or if you have access to a gaming console that has the track on it use it to learn the track layout. In my experience it will not be an exact science to know where you are going on track when you get there but it will get you ahead of the curve and get some of the butterflies out for your first couple of sessions on track. Also know the event schedule and how long it will take you to get to where you need to go. Know when you are leaving for the event and what time you plan on being at registration, the drivers meeting and your schedule for classroom and on track sessions during the day. There is nothing that can lead to failure more quickly than having to rush around to arrive at your destination or scheduled events of the day. The more laid back you can be mentally the better the chance of a smooth event.
#3 - Get comfortable in your car
Most likely you are going to be using a car that you drive every day at your first HPDE event. Get comfortable in it. Work on different seating positions as you drive it around the weeks leading up to the event and move the mirrors around so that you can have a well rounded view of everything around you. These little steps will give you one less thing to consider when you are on track at speed and you can focus on what you are doing on the race track and working with your instructor. Also, give a moment to make sure your instructor will be comfortable. They are more or less volunteering their time to assist you on your path at your first HPDE. It can be a nervous situation for them as well going from car to car and student to student week in and week out so make sure the passenger seat and seat belt is in great shape to make their day comfortable as well. The more comfortable they are with you the more learning and experience you can gain from them.
#4 - Don't Over think your car mods
I hear it all the time from customers. "I am just waiting to do this or that to the car before I attend my first HPDE." Don't over think your car mods. You do not need the perfect car to enjoy it on track. It is amazing how capable modern day vehicles are and they will wow you even in stock form when you take them to the race track. This part or that part may be nice but the main thing you want to concentrate on is understanding the way the car works, the track works and the event works. Run 2-3 track weekends with only the basics done to your car and I guarantee you will be a more capable driver in the long run as you are not using tires, coilovers, power mods to cover up bad driving techniques. Yes, I know it is hard to not modify your car. We are all car guys but a little patience and actually saving money on the car here will go a long way to your on track future. Put the money you saved towards attending more HPDE events and you can watch the progression and comfort level on track far exceed the capability of those parts on your car.
#5 - Have Fun.
This is the most important part of your first HPDE weekend. This shouldn't be work. If at any point it feels like work then perhaps you need to reassess the path that led you to that point and make a change then and there to correct it. This falls back generating check lists and understanding your time management of the event. Those basic steps will set you up for success. After all we are out to have fun and enjoy our vehicles. It has been my consistent message to anyone I have spoken with regarding HPDE events that all it will take is 1 event for you to be hooked. Video's and watching trackside don't do this sport justice. The feeling you get in the car on track is second to none if you are a car person. The people and attitudes that you get at a HPDE are 2nd to none. Everyone is there for one goal, to have fun.
Here is a brief list of organizations that put on HPDE's. In general you can run with any event promoter regardless of car make. Just because the Porsche Club is putting on the event for instance doesn't mean you have to have a Porsche to attend.
PBOC Motorsports - http://pbocflorida.com/
Porsche Club of America - https://www.pca.org/
Hooked on Driving - https://www.hookedondriving.com/
Performance Driving Group - http://performancedrivinggroup.com/
NASA - https://www.nasaproracing.com/hpde/
SCCA - http://www.scca.com/
BMW Car Club of America - https://www.bmwcca.org/
Audi Club North American - http://www.audiclubna.org/
Grid Life - http://www.grid.life/
...and there are loads more once you start looking. www.MotorsportReg.com is always a great resource to find events in your area.