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In our last article, we left off with Logan having fully prepared his car for his first performance driving event. His 2007 325i was completely upgraded and gone over in order to perform without issues in NASA’s HPDE program. Where previously we focused a lot on the build process, here we will shift focus to the driver and the full individual experience of his first weekend in performance driving school.
The race weekend began with an exciting arrival at Homestead-Miami Speedway on a cool South Florida evening. The weather was forecasted to be perfect for the entirety of the weekend and that only added to the already electric atmosphere of the race track on a Friday night. The well-prepped car passed tech with ease.
The first introductory classroom session was bright and early Saturday morning. Here, Logan and other HPDE1 first-time participants were briefed on track safety, passing procedures, flags, and much more. This would be one of the most important parts of the whole weekend. Knowledge and understanding of the basic rules, regulations, and procedures would be crucial to having a good weekend. Above all else, some of the more reiterated portions of these classroom sessions were passing/point-by procedures, how to enter and exit the track correctly, and how to safely handle specific high-risk corners in the event of an incident or spin.
Following his first classroom session he was now able to get his E90 on track. This would be the first of four 20-minute on-track sessions accompanied by his instructor Don Stevens, who is a friend of the Condor crew and also an extremely knowledgeable long-time instructor & Spec E30 racer. Don has also contributed a great write-up on Road Atlanta to our track guides section.
Once the car was warmed up, the helmets were on, and the safety belts tightened, Don was careful to explain where the flag station locations were located in specific corners and “point-by” passing procedures as they made their way around Homestead the first few laps. They would also go over braking points and rehearse where and when to turn in to make sure those concepts were fully understood.
As the session progressed, Logan felt more and more comfortable with the car and his knowledge of the track. Before he knew it, the session was over. He was eager to get back in and turn more laps almost immediately.
Lucky for Logan, it wouldn’t be long as they soon would start their second on-track session. This is where he began to get more comfortable, all of the iracing practice paid off. The weather and track conditions were optimal and the car was running flawlessly.
Immediately after lunch would be another classroom session where a head instructor would further explain all of the aforementioned safety procedures to the drivers. Here, they referenced videos showing the importance of having on-track awareness in relation to passing and being passed and studied specific corners of Homestead, particularly Turn 10, and how to handle a spin or off-track excursion in that section of the track.
In the next session, Don drove a few laps in Logan’s car in order to show him some of the more technical aspects of driving a car on a racetrack like Homestead. His advice to Logan became more specific as Logan eased toward the limits of the E90’s on-track abilities.
The day’s final session is sometimes referred to as “Happy Hour” and once it was over, Logan was ready for a well-earned, good night’s sleep. Learning, growth, and progress all occur during sleep, and this case was certainly no exception.
The next day his communications with his instructor during on-track sessions became intermittent as he continued to apply all of the concepts he learned and use his own on-track awareness while driving. By Sunday afternoon, Don decided to simulate a “check ride”, which is the on-track test a driver would receive in order to advance to the next level of performance driving. In Logan’s case that would be HPDE2. This would allow Logan to drive on track with the same passing rules but without an instructor. Logan passed this simulated test with flying colors, though he wisely chose not to take the actual test in order to continue driving in HPDE1 to gain knowledge from future instructors for some of the other tracks on the upcoming schedule.
All in all, it was an immensely rewarding albeit fatiguing experience. The amount of energy spent on maintaining a high level of focus is unmatched by most normal day-to-day activities, both mentally and physically.
With no issues to speak of mechanically, Logan is excited to participate in March’s event which is also at Homestead, followed up by a Sebring event two weeks later in April.
Stay tuned for more updates as Logan continues his effort to rise through the program of NASA’s HPDE ranks.