Time Trial Drivers' Handbook
Porsche Club of America - Golden Gate Region
Henry Watts and Brad Maker
© 2003 Henry Watts & Brad Maker
This material may only be used for personal use, and not sold or distributed as part of an event without prior permission.
This Handbook provides a comprehensive introduction to the Drivers' Education and Time Trial Series offered by the Golden Gate Region of the Porsche Club of America. The events that comprise the series have traditionally been among the safest and most fun track events available to explore the performance capabilities of the Porsche automobile and to improve driving performance.
The first part of the Handbook provides a general introduction to the events, and then a complete rundown of the way the event operates during the weekend. After this comes a section on the process and etiquette of driving the track. Further sections deal with preparation requirements, car maintenance issues, a discussion of safety equipment, a brief primer on essential aspects of performance driving and an introduction to the GGR instructional program. Instructor editions include a complete track instructors' guide.
The second part of the Handbook is devoted to detailed driving guides for each of the tracks normally used by the event series.
A brief note about the safety equipment requiments: The GGR DE&TT series has much stronger requirements for safety equipment than most drivers' education events either within PCA or as conducted by other organizations. This should not be interpreted as meaning that these events are less safe than the events conducted by other organizations. Indeed, GGR has a safety record that compares very favorably with the typical safety record of such events. Rather, these requirements are a reflection of GGR's strong commitment to driver safety.
This Handbook is the first major revision in a number of years. Thanks are due those who helped in its preparation. More thanks, however, are due those many dedicated and diligent people who, over the 24-year history of this series, have worked so hard and so effectively in so many ways to make the series as good as it is.
What is Time Trialing?
Perhaps you have just acquired your first Porsche. Upgraded from a lesser car. And now you just know that youíll want to drive fast, the way your car is designed to be driven. Maybe youíve searched out some back roads for a little spirited driving, and come away thirsty for more. Much more. But you know youíll eventually find trouble in one form or another with the self-taught, trial and error, back roads approach. Maybe youíve always wanted to be on the other side of the fence at Sears Point or Laguna Seca as youíve watched the professionals drive by.
Or maybe youíve been actively autocrossing for a year or so, enjoying the company of excellent people, the competitive aspect and the skills youíve been developing, but find yourself hungering for more seat time.
In either case perhaps time trialing is for you.
A GGR Time Trial event is both driverís education and a competitive event. The focus for the first day and a half is on driverís education. The objective is that people can learn and practice precision and performance driving in an environment that has been made as safe as possible.
Cars are divided into run groups with similar lap times, giving everyone an opportunity to practice with their peers on the course. Thirty or so cars practice at a time for four to five sessions of about 25 minutes on Saturday and 2 sessions on Sunday.
The time trial portion of the event is held on Sunday afternoon and provides an opportunity to compete via individual timed runs. This competition is similar to the qualifying rounds of professional racing, where the winning car in each class is the one with the fastest single lap time in its class.
A thorough reading of this handbook will give you a solid grounding in the information needed to time trial with the Golden Gate Region. Additionally, please consult the time trial page on this website. There you will find current schedules, current contact lists for the TT Chairperson, Registrar and Chief Instructor, soft copies of much of the material contained in this book, current track records by class, a full copy of the time trial rules and much more.
Goals and attitudes
The time trial driving program offered by Golden Gate Region of the Porsche Club of America was developed by and for people who want to explore the limits of their Porsches in the environment where these studies belong - on a race track. Time trialers seek a controlled environment where they can learn high speed driving skills while minimizing risk to themselves and their cars. These are not wild-eyed speed demons playing bumper cars, but sensible people who share a common goal - to get the most from their Porsches by learning to drive at the limit, and to share the Porsche experience.
Club environment, driver's education, competition
Camaraderie runs high at a GGR time trial event. In the midst of adrenaline-charged driving sessions there is a strong family spirit. People share laughs, food, car parts, and even cars. Newcomers are quickly welcomed, meeting the veteran members as in-car instructors through the mandatory student program. In-car instruction is always available to any driver. In fact, instructors are commonly seen teaching each other a new line or technique.
It is key to understand that this is a club undertaking, not a professional enterprise. Rather than offering track-time in exchange for entry fees, the basic foundation of the Time Trial series is an assembly of club members who are working together to create an opportunity to learn and have fun. Because of this, the new entrants should focus on what they can contribute and how they can help the event run smoothly, rather than being focused on what others should be doing for them. When you observe the many jobs and roles necessary to make the event function and realize that essentially everyone doing the various jobs is a volunteer youíll have a clearer perspective on the importance of trying to help as much as possible. You will also find that being fully engaged in the event enhances your overall experience as well.
Emphasis: safe, fun, and then fast
The primary objective of the time trial program is to provide a safe environment for high speed driving. This is obvious from the requirement of attending the ground school, the in-car instruction provided, the presence and use of track safety personnel and vehicles, the driving safety equipment, and most of all from the attitudes of the members. But the safety concerns rarely get in the way of a good time, and the secondary objective - fun - is usually easily attained. The third objective - developing fast driving skills � is a key reason for time trialing, but is pursued within the boundaries of safety and fun.
Note that it is absolutely not required that drivers attain any particular speed or lap time objectives. All drivers should always drive within personal comfort levels (and within levels demonstrated to be safe by allowing the driver to stay on the track at all times). There are drivers who routinely attend the time trials and drive laps that are, compared to the capabilities of their cars, rather conservative. These drivers are as welcome as anyone at the events, as long as they remain safe and have fun. It is important that the beginning time trialer not feel pressured to step beyond his or her reasonable comfort level, no matter what that level is.
Who time trials?
Driving through the gates and into the paddock on the morning of a time trial, you will be amazed at the magnificent array of beautiful Porsche automobiles. It is porschephile heaven, with representation from every model. You will find everything from $5k 914s to $125k 996 Turbos fresh from the dealer showroom. There are frequent appearances by Porsche racecars as well, fielded by some of the clubís more "lucky" owners. The paddock is a great place to gather information about virtually any aspect of Porsche cars. Examples of the latest performance parts and accessories abound. And everyone - barring an occasional driver having a "bad car day" - is happy to discuss Porsches and trade advice. The paddock at a GGR time trial is not filled with bumped out, welded-up stock cars heading out for another round of sheet metal bashing, but with beautiful, lovingly prepared Porsches. And each of these Porsches, be it 914, 996 turbo, or something in between, is cherished by its owner.
A momentís reflection on the types of cars assembled will again reinforce the expectation that time trialers drive within their limits at all times.
Serious business, real risks
Despite strong efforts towards assuring safe events (and an excellent safety record over the recent years), time trial driving can be dangerous for both cars and people. While is it much safer than attempting driving-at-the-limit on public highways, the increased speed and desire to extend the limits of oneís ability involve the possibility of off-track excursion and/or impact. Every time trialer has his or her own rationale for participating in spite of the risks.
Given that the potential for disaster is obvious there is a strong effort to minimize the frequency of even minor "incidents". As a result, very few serious incidents do occur, again a tribute to the discretion and skill of the individuals in the club. However it is not entirely uncommon to see a wrinkled fender or bumper from time to time. These incidents are usually single car affairs, where a driver momentarily looses concentration or pushes a bit too hard. Occasionally they are due to a mechanical failure. On the extremely rare occasion where an incident is caused by over-aggressive or dangerous driving, the driver is asked to leave. Foolishness, carelessness, and machismo are not tolerated on the track.
In light of the danger involved, every driver on the track has entered into an implicit contract to keep your head in the game, which means that it is essential and imperative that each driver absolutely maintains a clean focus on the matters at hand while on the track. Inattention, even for a moment, is not tolerable. This matter of constant attention to immediate events is a skill that, like other skills, can be learned and it is important that all drivers understand that they are responsible for learning it.
Learn car control first - Autocross
One way to minimize risk at a time trial is to first develop good basic performance driving skills. Autocrossing is an excellent way to do this and the GGR Autocross Series is an especially effective and enjoyable venue. GGR time trial instructors recommend a full year of autocross experience before beginning time trials. Although not a requirement, the autocross experience builds confidence and driving skills that reduce risks in time trial events.
Autocross events are lower speed time trials conducted on a temporary course laid out with pylon cones in a large parking lot or airport. Sound too tame for you? Think again. Although speeds rarely exceed 50-60 mph, cars routinely slide, skid, and spin as they navigate the course. Drivers learn how to apex, slalom, brake, and chicane at (and beyond) the limits of their abilities, all at the expense of the orange pylon cones rather than Porsche sheet metal. Although autocross may not seem as daring, romantic, or exciting as time trial driving, it is great fun at very little risk to driver or car. The greatest danger in autocross is the chiding a driver may receive over the PA system as he performs a 360 degree spin and cones go flying, usually to the delight and cheers of the other drivers.
And while the number of minutes spent driving is not great (compared to a day of time trialing) the minutes are intense in focus and learning.
Autocross driving builds experience in low speed car control that does translate directly to the big track. Turns 11 at Sears Point, 11 at Laguna Seca, and 12 and 14 at ThunderHill are all driven at Autocross speeds. During the first few time trial events at these big tracks, it is reassuring to find a corner or two that feels familiar and can be driven with confidence using autocross skills. Through autocross a driver can build instinctive reactions to potentially dangerous situations. These instinctive reactions are extremely valuable at time trial events, where the time to contemplate your reaction is a rare luxury. A good example is the infamous 911 lift-throttle oversteer condition, which causes the rear of the car to slide as the driver lifts off the throttle or applies brakes in a corner. Correct reactions to these extreme driving conditions, which are difficult to develop in street driving, can be safely (and legally) learned at autocross.
GGR driving events are organized into season points contests for both the autocross and time trial series. GGR autocross events are scheduled roughly once per month, and enough other events are available with other Northern California Zone 7 Regions to make autocross driving available nearly every weekend during good (and sometimes bad!) weather.
In order for the time trial events and series to function properly there are a number of specific roles and responsibilities that are undertaken by club members. You will interact with these people in the normal course of beginning time trialing. The names of the current key people along with contact information are available here
Time Trial Chair
This person is responsible for the overall functioning of each time trial and the series as a whole. All key TT positions effectively report to the chair. Should be the final resolution point for all issues, contingent on applicable rules and GGR board policy.
Responsible for assuring the quality of instruction provided by selecting and training appropriate instructors, assuring an effective ground school and scheduling instruction as needed. Should be the final resolution point for all instruction-related matters. Co-responsible, with chief steward, for enforcing appropriate on-track behavior.
Responsible for track operations, including grid, communications, flagging and emergency response. Co-responsible for insuring that all driver on-track behavior meets event expectations.
Normal first contact for first-timers and continuing time trialers registering for each event. Assures complete processes for preregistration and at-track registration.
Tech Inspection Chief
Responsible for the tech crew that performs annual full inspections and at-track safety inspections.
Controls the flow of cars into the grid area.
Safety Worker Coordinator
Responsible for scheduling and coordinating the safety crew. The safety crew is often the first worker position undertaken by time trialers who with a worker position.
Competition and Safety Director
GGR Board of Directors position, responsible for guidance for all GGR competitive events and series
How to use this Handbook
This Handbook follows the logical flow of learning about time trials and what you need to do. The first chapter covers the schedule of events so you can see what youíll be doing. Next the process of driving the track is covered; this is not a chapter on performance driving, but rather the procedures for being on the track, attendance to flags, passing, warm-up laps, cool down laps and the like. Then we turn our attention to preparing for the event followed by a brief primer on basic car maintenance. Required safety equipment is covered next, followed by an introduction to the essentials of performance driving. The final section of the introductory handbook reviews the basics of the instructional program. The rests of the presents detailed descriptions of the best approaches to driving each of the tracks we normally visit.
Schedule of events
First a general disclaimer, which applies to the schedule of events, the passing rules and any other rules governing the events. There is an official GGR Time Trial and Autocross Rulebook, available on this website and sometimes in preprinted form. The rulebook is updated annually, whereas this Time Trial Handbook is typically updated much less frequently. Wherever there is a conflict between the official rules or the procedures legitimately established for events by event administration, the rulebook is the governing document, not this handbook. Nevertheless, the vast bulk of what you read here should be taken to be reasonably accurate and current.
This section, "Schedule of events", discusses the general order in which things happen to orient the reader to the flow through time of time trial activities.
The time trial series typically includes only five or six events per year, visiting tracks such as Sears Point, Laguna Seca, ThunderHill and Buttonwillow. These latter two tracks, both of which may be run in either direction, are wonderfully forgiving to off-course excursions, and are recommended to new time trial drivers. In particular, the delightful ThunderHill track offers 15 turns of pure pleasure, with examples of nearly every type of corner found on a pro circuit. The only barriers available for fender tuning at ThunderHill are the pit walls along the front and back straights. Much more on track layouts can be found later in this manual.
You can see a typical GGR time trial event schedule, a copy of which is included in each driverís registration packet. It is obviously a full schedule designed to maximize track time for all drivers. Drivers are assigned to color-coded run groups, which cycle onto the course as indicated in the schedule. Over the weekend, each driver will typically receive six practice sessions of 20 minutes or more, for a total of about two hours of driving time.
Many drivers arrange to arrive at the track on Friday in preparation for a Saturday/Sunday event. While this is in no sense required it provides a more gentle rhythm to the weekend for those whose schedules permit the extra day being devoted to the time trial
In some cases drivers who already have a GGR certificate may, for a fee paid to the track, run the track for a half or full day on Friday in open practice sessions. Note, if you elect to do this, that Fridays are normally run by the tracks, under their rules. Although open to PCA-GGR drivers, these practice days are not PCA-GGR events. The sessions may be open to a very wide variety of equipment, including open-wheel cars, SCCA racers, track-trucks and such. Procedures normally provide for open passing. Be sure youíre comfortable with the rules in effect before signing up for a test day. Signup is normally not in advance, but at the track when you arrive.
Friday late afternoon and evening
Some drivers arrive on Friday simply to get a head start on the weekend. They can find a preferred spot in the pit area, unload their cars (either by removing the stuff theyíve brought in the car or by taking the car off the trailer upon which it was transported to the event). Any remaining preparation can be completed.
By about 4:30 on Friday the time trial at-track safety tech (done each event) will be open, allowing this to happen before the small time window provided for tech Saturday morning before the driverís meeting. Registration will also be open, so drivers can sign in and get their event packet (which includes a great deal of information for the specific event) and sign the release form.
Starting when you get to the track and continuing until the end of the event it is highly polite and reasonably strongly expected that you wear a name badge. Each PCA region normally makes such badges available to members and, absent some better approach, the regional badge is the preferred route, but any clearly readable badge is acceptable. The badges are a way for people to learn your name and address you by name when talking to you. You will quickly appreciate how nice this is as you meet so many new people.
Saturday morning is a very busy time for everyone, especially students. Gates open early, often before 7:00, and a long line of cars is usually waiting. Upon arrival, drivers find a spot in the paddock to park and unload their cars. The first task is to prepare the car for track driving by removing all loose items from the interior, such as carpet, glove box items, spare tire, and other items from the trunk. Next, track equipment must be added. This includes applying protective tape to the headlights and any other glass (not plastic!) lenses, applying car numbers, and possibly changing tires and adding other track-only accessories. Most drivers will also adjust the seat from the normal highway-cruising position to be more upright and somewhat closer to the steering wheel. Drivers who did not register and tech on Friday then proceed to registration and tech inspection stations.
Whether you do it Friday afternoon or Saturday morning before the driverís meeting, you must register. When you sign the release (in addition to the one you signed at the entry gate) youíll get your packet, which you should review very carefully. Included will be the event schedule, a list of cars, drivers, and run groups, student/instructor assignments (a key item if you have an instructor for some part of the day), a track map, and often a registration form for the next event. There may be special enclosures as well.
Note that there will not be a packet (nor will you be participating) if you did not register for the event. Advance registration is required, and should be done early to ensure a spot at the event. A mail list available on the website provides drivers with timely announcements as to when registration opens for each event. The opening of registration is normally 4-6 weeks before the event.
Following registration, a "safety tech" inspection is required at each time trial. All drivers must bring their cars and all safety equipment to the designated tech inspection area. This inspection covers only safety equipment - helmet, driving suit, car numbers, harnesses, fire extinguisher, wheel bearings, throttle cable, etc. Passing safety tech earns each car a tech sticker, which allows access to the starting grid. Safety tech inspections take only a few minutes, and are typically available either Friday night or Saturday morning.
All of this activity takes place before the Saturday morning driverís meeting, which, depending on the schedule for the day, begins somewhere between 7:45 and 8:30. This mandatory meeting covers flags, etiquette, and local rules of the road. Passing zones are indicated and passing rules are reiterated. Passing is generally allowed only after the lead car signals out the window, and only on a straightaway. At some tracks open passing is allowed on the main straight. Passing in the corners is never allowed.
After the driverís meeting, the first driving session is for students and drivers who are new to the track. This is a short session run under yellow-flag conditions; it does require full safety gear (helmets, 5-point belts, driving suits for those required to wear them). Since all drivers who are new to a track (or track direction) are provided instruction, essentially all of the cars in this session will have instructors. The instructor normally drives the studentís car for at least the first few laps. This is not a matter of the instructor showing the student what the car is capable of. To the contrary, the pace will be relatively sedate.
What is being taught is the driving line, with specific techniques and visual cues demonstrated at each corner. This session particularly focuses on turn numbers, flag station locations, shift points, and offers the student an example to follow when he or she takes the wheel for the first time. As this session is typically the first opportunity for a student to experience the track in real life it is helpful to not have to drive while learning the turns.
The next day and a half are filled with practice sessions. Before the event, based on lap times from previous GGR events, cars are divided into five color-designated run groups: Yellow (students and slowest), White (next fastest), Green, Blue, and Red (fastest). These groups of 25-30 cars each cycle onto the track for a series of 20-25 minute driving sessions. As soon as the first group takes the track, the next group is called to the starting grid. As the last car takes the checkered flag and reenters the paddock, the first car in the next group receives the green flag. In this way, drivers have roughly an hour and a half of rest time before heading to grid for their next session. Surprisingly, perhaps, this is usually barely enough time to rehash the session with the other drivers in your run group, clean your windshield, have a snack, and calm your nerves. The time trial events are fast paced!
Practice sessions are normally paused for a lunch break and for two short worker breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
It is normal procedure for the first lap or two of the first practice session on Saturday to be run under a full-course yellow flag which means that passing is not allowed and speeds should be reduced. Normally this does not indicate any problem. It is simply a way to give the drivers who havenít seen the track in a while a chance to get reacquainted with the track for a few minutes before the intensity of the driving increases.
During the practice sessionís drivers may not take passengers. The only time there will be two occupants in a car is when one of the people, either the driver or passenger, is a certified current GGR Time Trial Instructor. Instructors have both official instructor name badges and bright-colored instructor tags to clearly identify themselves as instructors. There are no exceptions to this rule and failure to comply would be deemed an extremely serious offense.
Once the practice sessions are done for the day a different mood takes over. As long as there are no immediate car-related challenges that must be met, drivers get out of the driving gear and enjoy a little social time. After a while there is normally an organized dinner, signup for which was available on the original registration form. The dinner may be at the track or at some other suitable local venue. In recent years the vast bulk of the registrants have elected to attend the dinner. Its an excellent way to have the time to get to know the other time trialers without the hustle and bustle and time requirements that are present during the day when the practice sessions are running.
During the time after the practice sessions conclude and before the group dinner is an excellent time to walk the track. Depending on your walking speed this will take, at most tracks, 40-60 minutes. Be sure to secure permission for this from the Time Trial Chairperson or Track Steward, as track maintenance vehicles may be on the track and need to be informed of your presence. Even though youíve seen each part of the track 30 times or more each full day of practice, the slower pace of walking the track will show you surface features, turn camber and track surfaces in ways that just donít seem to happen when driving at speed. This is highly recommended, at least once for each track you drive.
While Sunday morning runs pretty much as Saturday did, with rotating practice sessions (though often the sessions are a little shorter), Sunday afternoon is for timed runs.
It is important to understand that taking timed runs is not mandatory. They are fun, challenging and offer a few additional laps of the track, and are the competitive part of the event. However, a fraction of the time trial entrants, perhaps 25% or so, normally opt not to do this, preparing their car for the trip home, perhaps hanging around a bit to visit with people, perhaps heading back early to beat the traffic and get home in time to be ready for the ensuing week.
Before the timed runs there will be a drivers meeting that is mandatory for those who will be driving the timed runs. The meeting is used for last-minute announcements, presentation of driving certificates to newly certificated time trialers and to review the timed run procedures, both general and specific to this event.
The timed runs are the actual time trial portion of the event. Timed runs are normally organized to allow one practice lap followed by two timed laps. The better of the two timed laps is used for scoring.
To help prevent overtaking, cars with similar lap times run together. Saturday afternoon all drivers who will be time trialing submit a best estimate of their single lap time. Based on this "estimated time", drivers are assigned a spot in the starting grid sequence. This ordering of cars according to lap time allows several cars to be stagger-started onto the circuit at once. The effect is that there will be five or so cars on the track, but they are spread out around the track and will normally not even see each other.
If an incident occurs during the timed runs which will hinder a driverís performance, such as debris on the track, the entire group of cars will receive a black flag. Cars then proceed to the head of grid to be restarted.
Cars that suffer a mechanical failure during timed runs may have the tech station verify the failure. The driver then has 15 minutes to correct the problem and be ready for a rerun. If this time limit is exceeded the rerun will not be allowed. Any times aleady "in the books", say a first-lap time, will count. If there are no times in the book the driver will be recorded as DNF (did not finish). Running out of gas is not considered a mechanical problem.
In may sometimes happen that, during the timed runs, a car catches another car. This can be because one of the drivers has seriously mis-estimated his or her normal lap time but is more frequently because the car ahead is having some sort of difficulty. The only fair thing to do is to give the following car another attempt at timed runs.
To become eligible for a re-run, the faster car, once it is close to the car ahead, must signal with an arm raised out the window until acknowledged by a corner worker. Failure to signal an impede will forfeit the chance for a re-run. Once the impede signal is acknowledged, the faster car will enter the pits at the first opportunity and proceed to the head of grid for the rerun. If the impede occurs during the second timed lap, the first lap counts as official, and during the re-run (which will be a full three laps) only the second timed lap will be scored. In this case the driver may waive the re-run if he or she is satisfied with the first lap time.
Driving The Track
This section covers the proper procedures for driving the track, rather than the techniques for achieving fastest lap times.
After all of the preparation, orientation sessions, and familiarization rides, new students finally get down to the business of learning to drive the track. A cautious approach is mandatory, starting with safety issues and working toward driving lines and techniques. Faster lap times ultimately follow.
A couple of key vocabulary items are needed at this point.
Grid: This is the area adjacent to the trackís start/finish straight, and separated from the track by a barrier wall. At our events cars gather and organize themselves on the grid before going out for practice sessions.
Pits or paddock: This is the part of the track where cars are parked between sessions and includes offices, classrooms, fuel service and meeting areas.
Before heading onto the track be sure that you and your car are ready. In addition to appropriate general car preparation, be sure that your seating position is comfortable, that you have all the required safety equipment (including helmet and gloves), that you are snuggly belted in and that the interior and exterior mirrors are adjusted so that you have good vision to the sides and rear.
Grid, grid speed and entering the track
A 5 mph speed limit is appropriate and enforced in the paddock and on the starting grid. This may seem like a snailís pace, especially with all of the safety equipment you will be carrying and wearing, so a conscious, determined effort to keep your speed down is required. The reasons for this caution is that there are other drivers, friends and families, children and pets in the paddock and on grid. They are not expecting a speeding car.
Once on grid, pull up into line on the proper side of the pit lane and park behind the other cars in your run group. While on the starting grid, watch for cars entering the pit lane from the track and proceeding all the way to the front of grid. These cars may have been called in by a black flag, or perhaps are looking for a clear window in traffic within their group. Such cars are in the middle of their practice session, and should be given the right-of-way as they move through the grid.
When you gain some experience in driving the track and some knowledge about the cars in the group you normally drive with, youíll know that some of the cars tend to be faster than you and some slower. It is good practice to try to position yourself on the grid behind cars that are faster than you and ahead of cars that are slower than you. If you tend to be one of the faster cars in the group (and this doesnít necessarily mean you should be in the next-faster group . . . every group has to have a fastest car) you should come to grid as soon as the previous group heads out onto the track so as to be at or near the lead position in your group. If you tend to be one of the slower cars in your group you should either delay coming to grid until shortly before your group is to go out, or, if you come to grid earlier, park at the back of grid and waive other cars by. Most of the advanced groups are able to do this with surprising success and it reduces the amount of passing and sorting out that otherwise has to happen in the first few laps.
While on grid, stay near your car and be attentive to the starter at the head of grid. The starter will signal two or three minutes before the green flag to allow time for final preparations. You will also usually be able to see the flaggers at the start/finish line using a signed paddle to signal the cars on the track: two more laps, one more lap, and finally the checkered flag lap. By this time you should be belted in with all safety equipment in place and your car warmed up to operating temperature.
Raise your hand
When itís time to enter the track, raise your left hand out the window forearm pointed up, hand closed, to signal the starter that you are ready, and then watch carefully. This hand-out-the-window signal is used in several cases during track driving. In this case it is used to signal that you are ready. It is also used when you exit the track, beginning 50 to 75 yards before you exit, to signal to other drivers and course workers that you are going in. Finally, if your car is partially disabled and you are slowly driving around the track to come in, you would keep your arm out and up during that entire time, to indicate to overtaking cars that you are disabled and should be passed, carefully. Even under yellow-flag conditions it is permissible to pass disabled cars.
As the green flag waves and cars begin to pull forward, move slowly and steadily, allowing some space between the car ahead of you. Do not spin your tires as you leave the grid, as this blasts grit into the paint job of the car behind you. Watch the starter as you approach, and you will be waived onto the track. Acknowledge with a thumbs-up and proceed in a measuredly increasing speed onto the track.
Worker stations, flag acknowledgment
See figure for a description of the flags used at GGR time trials. The first lap of a session is often run under yellow flag - all passing is prohibited, alertness to traffic and flaggers is increased, and speed is reduced. This is a good time to review the locations of each worker station as you pass. Make a mental note of the section of the track each station is protecting, since flag stations are typically located near blind corners and hills. Some drivers try to develop a habit of glancing toward the flag station at some point during their approach to the corner, while others watch for the color and motion of a waving flag using their peripheral vision. Once aware of the location of a flag station most drivers will notice a waiving flag even if all current attention seems to be focused on driving the line.
When passing a worker station where a flag is displayed, it is good to acknowledge the flag in some way. If possible, a thumbs-up sign or waive will let the flagger know that he or she has successfully signaled your car, and they can turn their attention to the car behind you. Even a subtle gesture such as a raised finger or nod of the head is easy for a flagger to see, and should not disrupt your driving.
Open, contested passing is not allowed at GGR time trial events. Passing is never allowed in corners, nor when the lead car is braking for a corner. Passing is generally allowed on the straights between turns, but only after the lead car signals by pointing his arm out the window. Once the lead car gives a passing signal, only one car may pass. A second signal must be given before a second car may pass. There are generally one or two straights per track where open passing is allowed, but signals are still appropriate and encouraged. In some cases, passing is only allowed on a specific side of the lead car, but generally passing can happen on either side. These local rules vary, and are described in detail at the driverís meeting.
Passing discipline is a very important issue. The topic of letting people pass is often discussed among drivers and at drivers meetings. It is a featured topic at the ground school which every new time trialer must attend. If cars turning slower laps do not cooperatively let other cars by, the drivers of the blocked cars will have a much less effective and enjoyable weekend than they should have. It isn't enough that "some" or "most" of the drivers understand and obey the passing rules. We must all do this. Any driver who does not let others pass promptly is degrading the quality of the other driverís weekend. A few general rules for passing are as follows:
The proper signal is with the arm fully extended out the
window, pointing towards the side on which the following car should pass.
Drivers should never assume that hand motions inside the
car are a signal to pass. Passing signals are given outside the driverís
window. Initiating an unexpected pass when the driver was only adjusting
cockpit controls or gesturing to an accompanying instructor may seriously
surprise the car being passed and can easily lead to car-to-car contact.
Likewise, it is not appropriate to expect the following
car to respond to barely-discernible gestures with parts of fingers outside the
window. This leads to drivers making ultra fine distinctions about what was or
was not a signal, again leading to the possibility of car-to-car contact.
If there is a car behind you that wasn't behind you a
while ago itís not because Scotty beamed it there; that car drove a faster
lap than you did and you should let it by at the first safe opportunity.
By rule, drivers not letting others pass will be black
flagged [GGR Rulebook, 2.5T (e)]
It does not matter if you can pull them down the straight.
The fact that they catch you soon enough in the turns, despite whatever led you
achieved during the straights is clear proof that they are turning faster laps.
If they catch you and fall back and then catch you again, this
is not an indication that they are unsure about passing. It means they
caught you TWICE.
All the time they are behind you, they are losing lap
time. They would be going faster if you were out of the way. Which is to say,
they would be pulling away from you and getting out of your life. And having a
good time doing it.
Passing another car
You are not required to accept a passing signal. If
you arenít comfortable passing at the point you are signaled to do so, simply
waive off the pass (waiving your hand from side to side inside the car works OK
for this). The driver should soon give you another opportunity at a spot you
may find more suitable.
Do not anticipate getting a signal to pass. Do not
pull up along side a car hoping for a passing sign. It is very easy for the
driver of the car in front to decide that he or she wishes to be passed on the
other side. What will happen is the driver will give the signal and pull over
directly into your car. Wait behind the car until you get a passing
As a student, passing as many cars as possible should not be a concern. Instead, look for opportunities for clear sections of track for practice. These can usually be found by letting a few faster cars pass as soon as possible. It is common to be able to arrange your car in traffic with 100 yards or more of clear track between you and the nearest cars.
If driving becomes congested a little logic suggests that, since so many of the cars in your group are here with you, there must be other sections of track that have almost no cars at all. You can get to that section of track. Simply raise your hand out the window as you approach the pit lane, exit, drive (slowly!) to the head of grid, and ask the starter for a "window". When cars become bunched together, a clear section of track is certainly available, and the starter will waive you back onto the track away from traffic. Ask the starter to be sure to let you sit for about half of your normal lap time, or you may catch that group again quickly.
The open passing areas - long straight always - are perfectly adequate for relatively powerful cars to pass cars that have limited acceleration (all the 914 1.7 drivers can easily attest that people who need to pass can drive by at will on the straights.) However, it is often the case that the lead car is strong in acceleration but the car/driver combination is somewhat slower in the turns. In those cases the straights don't help the following car to get by.
In a majority of cases, when passing problems are discussed in the pits after a session, we discover that the blocking car is driven by someone who is a good-hearted soul and is honestly surprised by the accusation that they didn't let someone by. Even though they had another car behind them for most of most laps, they didn't realize that they were blocking. They thought that by pulling ahead a little on the longest straights that meant they weren't blocking. They just didn't understand.
So, if you see a car that falls back, and then is on your tail for a while, then falls back, then closes again, this does not mean you're going about the same speed. It means that during the fallback and catch-up cycles you're averaging the same speed, but all the time he/she is behind you, they are being held up. If you see the same car behind you at more than one place around the track, you must let them by.
It is truly stunning how ill understood this concept can be among otherwise reasonable people. One gray area. If (and ONLY if) you believe the only reason they caught up with you is that you, yourself have been held up for a while, you may want to pass the car in front of you before letting the car behind go by. On the other hand, if the car behind was gaining on you when you were both running free, you should let them by before you deal with getting around the car in front of you.
If you are being blocked
Try to solve the issue, but try not to let it get to you.
Challenges are a part of life. Misery and frustration are optional.
Drive closely enough that the driver and the turn workers
can see that you would like to pass, but do leave a decent space between your
car and the one in front.
You may turn on your lights, if you have lights, to get
the attention of the car in front. Do not flash them, just turn them on and
leave them on until you get signaled by. Be sure to turn them off thereafter.
Remember the car number of the blocking car.
You may come in for an open window of track. This will not
always work out well, but sometimes it will.
Try very hard to line up in front of the offending party
on grid. Then, each session, it won't be a problem until you lap him/her.
After the session, talk to the blocking driver. Ask an
instructor or the chief instructor to accompany you to this chat if you like.
Be calm and polite, listen to the other driver's perspective, then make sure
the driver understands your perspective and the extent to which you were being
held up. Wait long enough that you've had a chance to cool off, but not so long
that the other driver won't remember the session.
8. Remember what the experience felt like and don't ever do it to another driver.
If you want wheel-to-wheel racing, venues exist for that. You won't have to point or let people by. They can either get by or not, their problem. That is not what is happening in the GGR time trial series. For the practice sessions to work, we must cooperate with each other. This is not optional. And it is important.
Marker pylons and the late apex line
As you drive the circuit, you will notice orange pylon cones at some turns. These mark the entrance, the apex, and/or the exit points for the turn. For the first few laps try to drive rigorously "to the cones": Position your car on the proper side of the track and brake as you approach the corner, begin to turn at the entrance cone, reach the inside of the track at the apex cone, and drift to the outside of the track at the exit cone.
The cones are placed to indicate a conservative "late apex" driving line. This line is conservative because braking is done early, before turning into the corner. The car can then be accelerated through the turn. This allows a driver maximum opportunity to correct or avoid unexpected circumstances. With the late apex line, the driver accelerates to build speed through the corner rather than struggling to scrub off excess speed carried into the turn on an early apex line.
For a number of reasons the cones may not mark the exact perfect entry, apex or exit for you and your car. To the extent that this is so, use them as reference marks, but drive to the points you have selected. Over time most drivers will gravitate towards slightly earlier turnins and apexes (though, for most turns, the apex will normally be neutral or slightly late) than the cones show. This is an adjustment that should be made very slowly and only after substantial experience.
Note also that cars with extreme acceleration capability (the 911 Turbo most notably among them) will tend to stay on very late apex lines as the ultimate optimal solution.
Learn the line, then experiment in small changes
The first order of business for every new student (and for every driver at a new track) is learning the driving line. This means memorizing the sequence of turns and where to position the car in each section of the track. In some places, the car should be on the extreme left or right edge of the track, others the middle is best. The proper driving line should be accurate to is a matter of a very few inches. A fundamental objective for every driver is first to learn where the driving line goes, and then to drive it consistently. During your very first laps, this will probably mean driving from one pylon cone directly toward the next, in a connect-the-dots fashion. Later, smoother arcs will develop as you transition between corners.
Consistency is the key concept here. It may seem easy to follow a particular path on a paper track map, but in a Porsche at speed things are very different. A good lap for a first-time student may only include one or two corners that were actually driven correctly - on the driver's intended line. Frequently one substandard corner leads to several more as your rhythm is broken. But gradually certain corners will emerge as "easy", and throughout the event this list will grow.
As consistency begins to develop, the in-car instructor becomes tremendously helpful. Instructors will offer suggestions and mental or visual queues to help you develop a good overall driving line. This can be the most rewarding experience of student driving, as an instructor finally finds the right set of queues to add another corner to your "easy" list.
It may require several events before every corner in a course can be confidently driven at speed. Once confidence and consistency begin to develop, you can experiment with variations on the recommended driving line. Enter a corner with an additional 100 rpm on the tach, or a few feet deeper into the corner. Whatever changes you make must be made cautiously, in very small increments. In-car instructors are a huge help at this stage as well, pointing out good spots for experimentation.
Driving off the track
Some drivers go for years without an off-track incident (in GGR, at least one driver survived six years without going off, obtaining numerous class lap time records in the process.) With a cautious, patient approach, you can do the same. Driving off the track is bad, both for your car and potentially for yourself. Nonetheless, you must be prepared with the knowledge of what to do if the situation arises.
The best approach is to recognize early that going off the track is inevitable, and then deliberately drive off. Viscous spins and worse can result from fighting too long to keep your car on the pavement. Once a tire drops into the dirt, its traction will be virtually lost. This includes the tire's ability to provide lateral force. In the common case where a rear tire drops off first, the rear of the car will tend to spin quickly off the track. To avoid snapping around and heading back across the track backwards, the correct countermeasure is to give up trying to stay on the pavement and steer the car smoothly off into the dirt.
It may not be necessary to take all four wheels off into the dirt, but be prepared to do so in order to prevent a spin. Once off track, be patient and regain complete control of the car in the dirt. Serious spins can be initiated during the transition back onto the pavement by attempting to re-enter the track too fast. In cases where your car does spin or stop off course, stay in your car and signal to a corner worker that you are OK. Then wait for their direction before driving back onto the track.
When re-entering the track, watch for traffic and prepare to receive a black flag for an inspection and conference at the head of grid. The chief steward will discuss your driving incident, and his safety crew will inspect your car for damage. In general, the chief steward will be doing most of the talking.
Be prepared for unexpected events
While driving the track each driver needs to be ready for any number of unexpected events that may occur. To be able to respond effectively drivers need to maintain complete focus on the events at hand at all times. Events that may happen (have happened at one point or another in events like time trials) include
Most of these events are actually handled more effectively and safely than you might imagine, but it is essential that you be ready for surprises.
Cool down lap and the Worker Waive
At the end of each session the checkered flag will waive at start/finish, signaling cars to exit the track. Since the start/finish is beyond the exit, this gives each car one final lap. Although not mandatory, it is strongly recommended to use this as a cool down lap. Concentrate on staying off your brakes, allowing the airflow to cool them before parking. Another common courtesy is the acknowledgment of each corner worker with a friendly waive. During this lap, watch for other cars trying to run at full speed, and waive them by when necessary.
When you get near the track exit, raise your left hand outside the car, closed hand up, to indicate that you are exiting.
Brake components can reach their peak temperatures after parking in the paddock. At this time, cooling airflow is removed and heat dissipates from the pads and rotors into the calipers and bearings. This can cause brake fluid to boil, and adhesive balancing weights to drop from the insides of wheels. The cool-down lap is designed to give drivers an opportunity to reduce these problems. Once the cool down lap is complete, park your car in gear but without using the parking brake.
Preparation for the Events and Requirements Summary
This chapter reviews the types of preparation that are needed or useful before the event. The week prior to a time trial event is often very busy. Take care of as many tasks as possible before the event, allowing your full concentration for driving rather than last-minute problem solving.
Read the rules
The first order of business is to insure that you comply with all of the GGR rules and will be allowed to participate in the time trial. Read the rule book (available on-line or as a PDF). It doesnít really take all that long to do so. Pay particular attention to the safety equipment section. Cars require approved 5 or 6-point safety harnesses, properly mounted fire extinguishers, and car numbers. Driverís need approved helmets and gloves, and in some cases a good close shave (those with facial hair require use of a balaclava). Students are allowed to drive two events before purchasing an approved driving suit. Several other safety requirements apply, depending on your car.
Classing the cars
The rulebook lists car classes. Cars are grouped first by model, then by level of modification. As modifications increase, additional safety equipment is required. For example, adding stiffer torsion bars will put most cars in the third or "production" performance category, where approved roll bars are mandatory (by the third event). Students are allowed some exemptions, so check the rulebook carefully and avoid Saturday morning surprises.
You must register for the event. Registration forms and instructions are available on the website. The GGR-Announce email group will give you prompt notice when registration forms are posted on the site.
On the registration forms you will find a student fee. This fee covers GGR�s direct costs for first-time students such as materials and the ground school. It needs to be paid only once, no matter what.
Worker positions available
A time trial event requires a fantastic amount of work to be successful. In spite of this, you may never witness another event of any kind involving 120 participants which runs so smoothly. Cars reach the starting grid at the correct times, instructors and students synchronize driving schedules, worker crews form and disband, some every 20 minutes, and everything flows more-or-less according to schedule without argument or confusion. This efficiency is a direct tribute to the caliber of each individual Porsche participant. Though there are hired people at the event (such as the medical crew, the tow truck operator and the professional turn workers) every event also includes several pre-assigned worker positions. These include registration, instruction, tech inspection, flagging, and safety crew.
All drivers are required to support the work effort. This can be done in one of three ways. You may sign up for a worker position (if there are positions available), you may bring a friend to the track (minimum age 18) to work for one of the two days or you may pay an extra fee (currently $75) to pay for one of the hired workers.
Donít underestimate the possibility of bringing a friend. He or she will only have to work one of the two days and have the rest of the time to enjoy the event. On the other hand, by the time you pay for the workerís hotel, meals and other treats you might find itís not necessarily a lot cheaper than paying for a worker.
Attend ground school
Each student must attend a ground school before their first event. These schools are typically held two weeks prior to each time trial. The course covers in detail much of the material presented in this handbook. Most students find the course entertaining and useful. More details about the ground school can be found here.
Among the safety preparation items for you car is the requirement that your car have numbers on it for the event. These need to be on the doors, hood and rear of the car. Consult the rulebook for required dimensions. Graphics shops can supply magnetic material that allow numbers to be repeatedly put on the car and removed. In such cases the leading edge of the magnetic material should be taped to prevent the number from peeling off at speed. (A list of numbers that have already been assigned is available here.)
All cars are required to pass a comprehensive "full tech" inspection before the first event in the car and at least once per year thereafter. See the Tech Inspection Checklist Form. The car is raised on a lift and thoroughly examined. The Tech Form shown nearby lists the items that are checked during the full tech. This inspection must be completed prior to the first time trial event of the year by an authorized inspection facility. Inspections are recorded in a driver logbook provided by the club. There are usually opportunities for free full tech inspections at the start of the season during club sponsored tech events at several Bay Area Porsche shops. Contact the technical chairman for a schedule and list of these facilities. Other Porsche-oriented repair facilities are authorized to do technical inspections at any time, but may charge for this service. See the website for a downloadable copy of the inspection form.
Generally, full inspections are not done at the technical inspection sessions at the track on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The at-track inspections are a separate and different inspection, verifying logbook status and safety equipment. If you have a special need for technical inspections, contact the current Tech Chief (contact information available on the website).
Driving on track in a high-speed environment adds considerably more stress on your cars components than street driving. Consequently it is advisable that your car be thoroughly checked often during the season for the items noted on the tech inspection form; the check should be performed by a qualified inspector (experienced tech reviewer or qualified shop). It is your responsibility to make sure that your car is properly maintained.
You don't have to be a mechanic
Porsche cars are very durable, and well suited to time trial driving. As a result, you can expect very few mechanical problems from a generally well-maintained car. There are always examples of drivers (and their mechanics) wrenching on cars in the paddock, but these tend to be more highly modified cars running in advanced classes. If your car is in generally stock condition, it is not necessary to travel to the event towing your car and a trailer full of tools. Instead, bring the tools necessary to perform simple tasks youíre able to do; a tire pressure gauge, perhaps tools for brake bleeding. In the rare case where you experience a breakdown, you will usually find help arrange to get your car home. We canít recall anybody ever left stranded at the track on a Sunday afternoon.
Packing for the event
Since the week prior to an event is typically busy, making a checklist of what to pack for your event is an excellent idea. You can download an example checklist. If you are driving rather than towing your car to the track, space for equipment may be limited, so test-fit the larger items beforehand to avoid surprises. At the track, weather conditions can be variable and are often windy, so, if you have room, one or more large equipment containers are handy to keep your stuff together.
While Porsche club members are certainly trustworthy, the paddock is generally open to the public, so covering your equipment pile with a small canvas or car cover when you are driving enhances security as well as visual appeal.
Lap timing systems
As a new driver in the time trial series lap times should not be your most major concern. You should be focused on learning the line, learning to stay focused and learning to manage your car through a time trial weekend. However, as you build experience with driving you will naturally want to see your lap times improve. In earlier years it was common for drivers in different groups to agree to time each other with hand stopwatches, showing times with large boards held up near start/finish or reviewing them later from log notes or memory-equipped stop watches.
However, the availability of affordable in-car timing systems makes previous approaches obsolete. A popular system is the "Hot Lap" timer, which consists of a receiver and display module mounted in your car, and a tripod-mounted transmitter aimed across the track. Your in-car system notes the exact point at which you pass the timer each lap and shows you the lap time. It also remembers previous laps, up to 50 or so. Enough members use the Hot Lap system that you can be assured of finding a transmitter already set up at each event, so you need only to buy a receiver/display unit. The sender is usually placed on driverís right at an apex where there will not be passing, so you should mount your receiver on the right side of the car. However, other clubs sometimes use the left side, so you may want to mount the receiver such that it would not be too much trouble to switch it to the other side for an event, if necessary.
GGR has recently been moving towards using car-mounted transponders for timed runs. These are mounted under the car so that they have an unobstructed view to the pavement. The timing system consists of a sensor embedded in the track surface and a computer that recognizes each transponder individually. Some clubs use these for timing practice or qualifying laps. In these cases you can often get a printout of all your lap times immediately after the practice or qualifying session.
Another popular in-car electronic system is a movie camera. Surprisingly high quality video and audio can be obtained with standard hand-held recorders mounted to your harness or roll bar. You will likely be shown one or more of these in-car videos during the ground school, and will see that in addition to being a valuable instructional aid, the movies can be quite entertaining. Affordable lipstick camera units (that plug into modern video recorders) can be taped on the car windshield or bumper, providing an excellent view of the track and the laps.
If youíre selecting a camera, look for debounce capabilities and the ability to plug in remote video feeds and a remote microphone. Despite best efforts to mount the camera in a stable manner, most cameras have a tripod mount of metal set into a plastic body and are designed to sit quietly on a tripod or be hand-held. They are not designed for the kind of bouncing around that will be provided by a car with hard suspension being driven aggressively on even a relatively smooth racetrack. So be reasonable in your expectations or use a remote lipstick-cam, which easily can be mounted quite securely.
One other caution: your friends and neighbors, despite what they say, will likely be weary of watching in-car footage after the first three or four hours.
One of the effects of traveling around a racetrack with other cars close by is that a fair amount of track grit and debris is raised by the car in front. This can accelerate paint chipping on the front of your car. It is more an issue in the advanced groups, but of possible concern to anyone with a pristine paint job. The use of a car bra to protect the front paint can be an effective solution.
Summary of Student Entry Requirements
This is only a summary of key requirements covered in the rulebook. The rulebook provides more complete explanations of the requirements and is the governing document.
You must attend our mandatory ground school. This is a classroom event without driving exercises. You do not need to bring your Porsche. Schools are normally scheduled two weeks before each Time Trial. Contact the Chief Instructor after you receive your entry information. You must have a current Driverís License.
Your car must pass tech inspection. There are annual tech inspection events held before the beginning of each season at various locations in Northern California. After the season begins, new time trailers must take their car to one of the approved tech inspection locations, normally a Porsche-oriented service and repair shop. There is normally a fee for this service.
In any case it is your responsibility to insure that your car is safe and in top mechanical working condition and that you conform to the GGR competition rulebook at every event.
Snell-95 is the minimum rating for helmets. DOT certification is not sufficient. M-class helmets are acceptable for GGR events but may not be acceptable for other clubs. Drivers of cars without windshield must wear full-face helmets.
Initially, long-sleeve, long-pant leg non-synthetic clothing is required. After participating in two events, a student must have a 1- or 2-piece fire-retardant driving suit.
Fire-retardant gloves are required at all times.
Required for long hair or beards or moustaches.
No open toes. Uppers must be primarily non-synthetic
Minimum 10BC rating. This will normally be 2.25 to 2.5 pounds for dry types, 5 pounds for Halon.
Belts and Harnesses
5- or 6-point harnesses for both driver and passenger, 3" except that sub straps may be 2". Must have cotter keys, double nuts and/or locknuts. All cars must have the capability of an Instructor riding in their car.
Not required for non-open cars in Stock or Improved categories. Required for Production category at a Studentís third event. Required for all other cars. See rulebook for details. Roll bars must be adequately padded.
DOT tires must have HR or higher rating with 2/32" measurable tread across the tire. Racing slicks allowed.
Car number must be on all four sides of the car. Minimum 8" high on both doors and hood. 4" minimum on the rear of the car. Class designation (minimum 4") is required on both doors. Women driving in the ladies classes add an "L" to the class designation. An orange square for first-time drivers will be applied front and rear. These squares are provided in the student registration packet.
Headlights and glass turn signals, side markers, etc. must be covered with tape. Do not tape over your brake lights!
Student Certification Requirements
Driverís Certificates are earned by completing the student program and safely completing two GGR Time Trial / Driver Education events within a 12-month period. Students fulfill the program requirements by completing a full day of in-car instruction at their first event and a checkout session at their second event. Key criteria for satisfying the requirements are: student comfort level & attitude, observation of all flags & rules, and good driver technique & car control. The student fee is paid only once � at the first event. To renew the Driverís Certificate each year, you pay only the nominal renewal fee. For more information contact the Chief Instructor.
Car Maintenance & Tuning
A carefully maintained car is essential for your own safety and enjoyment at time trial events. Many drivers bring their cars in to their mechanics for pre-event servicing, so tech inspections become mere formalities. However, a few basic maintenance operations do need to be performed at the track. These simple tasks are usually both an enjoyable means to keep in touch with the pulse of your Porsche during the event, and good nervous energy burners.
Fuel consumption is much higher than normal, since the car may be using full-throttle acceleration much of the time on the track. Itís not only embarrassing to run out of fuel during a practice session, but the necessary car-retrieval procedures impede the practicing of other drivers. Be sure to keep a good eye on the fuel gauge.
At first glance, time trial drivers seem remarkably infatuated with their tires. You will quickly realize what a strong effect a pressure changes of only a few psi can have on your carís handling. As a result, you will want to monitor and adjust your tire pressures during the event. Bring a good quality tire gauge, preferably a dial-guage type with an air bleed button.
As you drive aggressively on the track, your tires can heat to temperatures of 200 degrees or higher, causing the air inside to expand and increasing pressure as much as 10 psi. This is a more pronounced effect than you can experience in even "spirited" street driving. Accompanying the temperature rise is an improvement in traction from the hot rubber (up to a point!), which for many tires is an equally profound effect.
Keeping a written record of tire pressure and car handling characteristics will help you to "dial in" your car quickly at the next event. Record the cold pressures at the start of the day, the hot pressures immediately after returning to the paddock from a session, your modifications to pressure and their effects on handling, and the final cold pressure after the event. These basic data will give you a good idea of starting and operating pressures for the next event.
You will need to keep a close eye on the wear of your tires. Unlike autocrossing and certainly unlike highway driving, tire wear can be quite rapid on the track and tires that started the day in acceptable shape may be unusable by dayís end. It is good practice to do a quick check of tire wear after each session.
In particular, if you have noticed an increase in the roughness of the ride of the car, you may have created a flat spot on one or more of the tires. To check for this you need to roll the car slowly forward or back while you or someone helping looks at each tire for evidence of spots of much thinner tread. The tread depth at the flat spot determines whether the tire is safe to drive on.
Tires have arguably the most significant influence on the performance of your Porsche of any component on the car. For this reason, car classes are designed with strict requirements on tire size and type. Three basic types of tires are available: performance street tires, which must be at least "H"-rated but typically carry "V" or "Z" ratings; street legal "sticky" tires constructed with stiff sidewalls, soft rubber compounds, and some minimal tread pattern; and full race slicks. Many time trial drivers begin with their standard street tires, and later invest in a second set of wheels on which to mount sticky tires for track use.
One big advantage of street tires, at least for students, is that they tend to make a lot of noise, offering an audible indicator as they near their traction limits. This can be very helpful in judging how hard to push the car. The bad news concerning tires is tread life, which is never long enough. It is not unusual to wear 1/32" of tread off of a street tire during a time trial weekend.
Torque the lug nuts
Another paddock fascination is the attention drivers pay to their lug nuts. This is because the additional stress and heat of performance driving can work lug nuts loose. Loss of a wheel on track is a serious hazard, so setting and checking lug nut torque is commonly done several times during an event. Of particular concern are the attractive factory "alloy" lug nuts, which seem more prone to loosening than the ugly old steel versions. The latter are probably a good investment at a dollar or two each, along with a decent click-type torque wrench of appropriate capacity.
It is obviously crucial to maintain the engine oil level during a time trial event. Some engines show increased oil consumption during track operating conditions, so be prepared with an extra quart or two of your favorite oil. Most cars should be operated with the oil level near the middle of the allowable range; obviously avoid empty but also overly full oil reservoirs.
In addition to monitoring oil level in between practice sessions, it is a good habit to check the oil pressure gauge as you drive the course. Many drivers find a moment to glance at the oil pressure and engine temperature gages as they run down the front straightaway. Large red low-pressure warning lamps are also available which fit into existing openings in the dash.
Cars subjected to 20 to 30 minutes of hard acceleration will run hotter than they normally do in street driving. Further, California tracks are hot in the summer time. Keep a close eye on the temperature of the car and donít be slow to park the car if itís getting too hot. Conventional wisdom is that Porsche engines are not damaged by temperatures of 250 F or less, but your car will be much happier running below 230.
Brake pad level
It is possible, with just a little training, to inspect the remaining amount of brake pad material by just looking through the spokes of the wheel into the brake caliper. If you came to the event with pads that have any substantial wear, check the remaining pad material from time to time to be sure that enough remains.
Time trial driving places great demands on brakes. There are few other occasions where you will brake HARD every 15 seconds for 20 minutes at a time. Fortunately, Porsches are well equipped for this, but even very good brakes may eventually succumb to such aggressive use. Brake problems are caused by heat, and come in three basic forms: deterioration of the padís coefficient of friction, boiling of the brake fluid and warping of the rotors (usually the front rotors). The first problem is relatively less serious, since braking ability returns to normal once the system cools down. Symptoms are a gradual loss of braking ability, requiring progressively more pedal pressure. This brake "fade" can be tremendously reduced by using a competition type brake pad. Race pads are available which maintain friction coefficients at temperatures above 1200 F. They are not cheap, but can last an entire five-event season.
Boiling of the brake fluid is a more difficult problem to combat. Symptoms are a soft brake pedal, which in extreme cases goes to the floor without significantly slowing the car, but which becomes more firm when pumped rapidly for a few strokes. These symptoms may remain after the brake system cools. Beware that a common time for brakes to boil is after the car is returned to the paddock and parked, as cooling airflow is removed and rotor heat propagates into the caliper. For this reason, check for a soft pedal before the start of each session!
A first line of defense against brake boiling is to renew the brake fluid, thereby removing any water from the system. This raises the boiling temperature from waterís 212 F to that of the pure brake fluid, which is typically 450 F or higher. Select a good quality brake fluid, and flush the system at least once per season. ATE Blue Racing is a popular choice that has been used by the factory in new Porsches for many years.
The second line of defense is to bleed the gas from the brake system. Depending on the vehicle, this typically involves removing the wheel, attaching a clear tube to the bleeder fitting, running the tube into a heat resistant container, and alternately opening and closing the bleeder screw as a helper depresses and releases the brake pedal. Several other bleeding methods are available. It is a good idea to practice this simple procedure before the event, and bring the necessary equipment to the track. Able-bodied assistants at the track are easy to find.
Rotors may warp when subjected to excessive heat. This produces a wobbling (sometimes quite severe) under hard braking. When cooled the rotors may return to a flatter shape, but they will, in most cases, wobble again once brought to operating temperature. Warped rotors should be replaced.
The best line of defense against brake problems is to install a brake cooling duct system. These work remarkably well at eliminating heat buildup in the first place. Simple cooling systems are allowed in the Improved classes and higher, and attach to the car without permanent modifications.
Brake pedal adjustment
In order to facilitate the heel-toe (or, rather, left-side-of-foot and right-side-of-foot) ability to maintain braking pressure while blipping the throttle, some drivers are tempted to adjust the brake pedal lower so the throttle and brake pedals are more nearly on the same plane. This is possible as Porsche brake pedal levels are adjustable, but it is not recommended. The brake pedal level will drop as brakes become overly hot. Starting out with a lowered pedal simply hastens the point at which the pedal goes all the way to the floor. If you need to adjust levels, add a block of some kind to the top of the throttle pedal.
After tires and brakes, suspension components are probably the most common Porsche upgrades, delivering the most performance for the dollar. Stiff, perhaps adjustable, sport shocks are allowed in all classes. Adjustable sway or anti-roll bars offer improved roll resistance as well as a convenient suspension tuning tool for eliminating cornering problems. The ultimate suspension upgrade involves installing stiff torsion bars or coil springs, pushing cars up into the Production classes where roll bars are required. Demo rides in instructorís cars are a great opportunity to experience the improvements that suspension modifications offer.
Keeping a log
It is a good practice to keep a log of your events and sessions, noting the amount of time you run, the ambient temperatures, any issues with the tires, brakes, handling, motor or other aspects of the car and your lap times. This can provide good data when you want to understand better what has happened with the car and make decisions about required maintenance.
Helmets are required at both autocross and time trial events, and are available from a variety of manufacturers. Drivers in a GGR Time Trial may use open face or full-face helmets (unless the car has no windshield, in which case a full-face helmet is required).
There are two main categories of helmet certification: DOT and Snell. DOT certification is not sufficient for the Time Trial series; the helmets must have Snell certification. DOT certification is often on the lower outside rear of the helmet. The Snell certification will be found inside the helmet, normally under a flap of padding. As in the picture shown, the Snell certification carries a date. The date is changed every five years. For example, helmets constructed between 2000 and 2005 will carry the Snell 2000 sticker. The current rulebook will indicate which certificate years are still valid. In general, the helmet must have a date no more than 11 years old to be used in time trials and no more than 16 years old to be used in autocross.
There are two types of Snell certifications. These are "M" for "motorcycle" and SA for "special application." Both are acceptable for use in GGR Time Trials. In most ways the tests and manufacturing requirements are the same. However, there are these differences between the two
The GGR Rulebook recommends the SA helmets.
A key aspect of the choice of helmets concerns weight. For reasons of fatigue and having as little mass as possible added to oneís head in the case of impact, a light helmet is strongly preferable. This tends to argue for the more expensive carbon-kevlar formulations and also means that the open-face helmet might be considered. The other key argument in favor of the open-face helmets is the reduced sense of being highly confined. These factors must all be balanced against the obvious advantages of a full-face helmet under conditions where oneís face may impact parts of the interior in extreme cases. It is up to the participant to reach his or her own conclusions as to Snell certification type and basic helmet type (open-face vs. full-face).
Personal: Gloves, Shoes & Socks
Fire resistant driving gloves required for time trials for all drivers at all events. Gloves offer improved grip while driving, and fire protection. Several brands are available. Racing shoes are not required, but the driverís shoes must have have primarily non-synthetic uppers and closed toes. Non-synthetic socks (cotton, wool or fire-retardant material) are also required.
Personal: Driving Suits
Fire resistant driving suits are required for all drivers except first and second-event students. These are available in two basic materials: Proban, a chemically treated cotton; and Nomex, a naturally fire-resistant material. Suits are constructed using one or more layers of material which are quilted together for added fire protection. If a single-layer suit is worn, fire-resistant Nomex underwear is recommended, but not required. Suits may be single-piece or two-piece but buyers should be aware that some other organizations that require fire suits do not allow two-piece suits.
Personal: Neck braces
Foam neck brace collars are also available to help absorb energy, especially in side impacts. These are not required, but are easy to use and may offer some advantage in an impact. These work best with closed-face helmet designs.
Personal: Arm restraints
The Time Trial series does not require arm restraints, but some other organizations do. These tend to keep the drivers arms inside the car in a rollover situation. They do this without compromising the arm movement necessary to operate the steering wheel, gearshift and other controls.
Restraint harnesses are an important and required safety item. A big additional benefit of harnesses is that they reduce driver fatigue and improve driving "feel" by holding you firmly in the seat. Harnesses come in two basic designs. The 5-point design includes two shoulder straps, a lap belt, and a single crotch or "anti-submarine" strap designed to keep the latch buckle low across the driverís hips. The 6-point design utilizes an anti-submarine strap with two attachment points. These are commonly attached behind the seat at the lap belt anchors, which may avoid drilling additional holes for submarine belt mounting. The anti-sub belts are then passed through from the rear at the base of the seat, and the driver sits on the belts before fastening them into the latch. Lap and shoulder belts must be made from 3" wide webbing, while anti-submarine straps must be at least 2" wide. Harness webbing is date stamped, and must be no more than 7 years old.
If there is a difference between the driver-side belts and the passenger-side belts (which is, in any case, prohibited in the rules), the superior belts must be on the passenger (instructor) side of the car. People in the ground school laugh when told this, but itís quite serious. There is simply no way you can invite an instructor into a seat that has safety equipment inferior to what you have selected for yourself.
A variety of release mechanisms are available, from the simple latch type to the more convenient cam lock designs. Although some mechanisms may be more convenient to assemble than others, all designs will release easily and quickly with a single simple motion. Cam lock designs require carefulness when putting them on. It is possible for the tabs to be inserted into the central mechanism and seem to be locked in, but not be so. Each must be pulled on to assure that it is securely fastened.
With certain very specific exceptions for Improved and Production Categories (see the GGR Rulebook, section 3.3T.h.ii) belts must be securely mounted to the body of the car itself. The shoulder harnesses must either attach to a roll bar or pass over a harness guide bar before mounting to the rear seat belt locations. The purpose of the bar is to maintain a horizontal angle in the belt as it passes behind the driver, thereby eliminating spinal compression as the belt tightens in case of impact.
A provision must be made to ensure the shoulder harnesses will not slip off the driver or passengerís shoulders. This can be done by passing the harnesses through holes in a race seat, by utilizing "H" style harnesses with a cross-web attaching the two shoulder belts, or by including a sternum strap which connects the harnesses across the occupantís chest. Choice of options here varies with car and seat type, and is subject to the approval of the safety inspector.
Once the belts are installed, go through the following drill for both the driverís side and the passenger side.
On-Car: Latching the belts
The sequence of latching the safety harness is simple but very important
On-Car: Fire bottles
Each car is required to have a fire bottle within reach of the driver. It is not required that the driver be able to reach the bottle while belted in. The fire bottle must have a 10BC rating. This is normally achieved through a 2.5-lb dry-type extinguisher or a 5-lb halon extinguisher. The halon extinguisher is larger, heavier and more expensive. However, it leaves no residue when used, an important advantage, as the dry chemicals used in dry-type extinguishers will rot Porsche engines that contain magnesium.
On-Car: Window Nets
Window nets are not required, but do offer protection for arms in case of rollover. Window nets must be installed such that the driver may still offer a proper passing signal with the arm fully extended outside the window.
On-Car: Roll Bars and Cages
As modifications are added to the car, additional safety equipment becomes required. Production Category cars require roll bars at their third event. All other categories besides Improved require roll bars from their first event. Roll bars and cages can be constructed of mild steel or chrome moly alloy steel, the increased strength of the latter allowing thinner wall thickness tubing to be used. Inexpensive roll bars can be bolted into a car for track use, and removed later for street driving. Examples of the many styles of bars and cages can be found at the time trial event, along with owners who will share their experiences. Consult the current rulebook for structural requirements before installing a bar or cage.
Essentials of Performance Driving
It is important to build an understanding of a few essential elements of performance driving before you arrive on grid. This section provides information that will give you and your instructor a common starting point for your first few sessions. Further information is available in the sources referenced in the first part of this section.
The pavement is more than just a guideline
It is strongly expected of all Time Trial drivers that the car remain on the paved track (and pointed more or less forward) at all times. All desired learning about performance driving is available within this expectation.
Fast driving is conceptual
Almost anyone can push pedals and move the steering wheel. What distinguishes precision driving is the knowledgeable intentionality applied by the driver. Knowing what you are attempting to do is an essential first step. For this reason you will make much more rapid progress if you supplement your driving experience with appropriate reading and study. Several excellent books and videos are available: All are available from Motor books International or Amazon.com.
Going Faster; VHS video, 1987, Skip Barber
Secrets of Solo Racing, Henry Watts, 1989, Loki Publishing
Driving in Competition, Alan Johnson, 1973, W.W. Norton
Sports Car and Competition Driving, Paul FrŤre, 1963, Bentley Publishers
Going Faster, Carl Lopez, 1997, Bentley Publishers
As you near the limit, you need to make very small changes in your approach to the track, lest you step over the line, expecting more of you and your car than can be delivered. To make any sense of "small changes" you have to be driving each lap exactly the same, all the time. If each lap, each turn isnít the same, there is no baseline from which to make small changes. If you take a given turn differently each time, what would a small change mean?
Because of the need for small changes, it is critical that you, early on, develop the ability to drive consistently, each turn and lap pretty much like the last time you did it.
Smoothness & eye control
Smoothness in controls is a key skill for the performance driver. As ou approach the limits of what the car will do tires become heavily loaded and any abrupt input is likely to break one or more tires free from its currently-tenuous grip on the pavement. With adequate smoothness you can approach and explore the limits of what your car has to offer. If you are rough or jerky, youíll have a difficult time keeping the car under control even though it might be, in general, operating well below its capabilities.
The key determinant of smoothness is not a steely resolve to be smooth, or practice in being smooth, but simply looking far enough ahead of where you are. This is a simple concept, easy to understand, but hard for most people to fully implement. As you drive with increasing aggression, many interesting things are happening very close to the car. You focus intently (and certainly appropriately) on turning in at the right point, hitting the apex very precisely, then tracking out smoothly. There is so much that is trying to get you to be looking closely in front of the car.
The problem with looking right in front of the car is that everything coming down the track at you comes as a surprise. This will make your controls jerky as you respond to the new input. The solution is simple, but somewhat difficult. You must force yourself to look further and further ahead.
Under braking you should be looking for the apex, even if it is out of sight, beyond some obstruction. There is this sense of your eyes clawing their way around the turn to locate the apex. Once you turn in towards the apex, your attention needs to shift up from the apex to the exit. Certainly keep some sense of the apex in your soft focus, or peripheral vision, but focus your hard attention on the exit of the turn. You will be amazed at how much this seems to open up the track, revealing to you that (if youíve done the turn properly so far) itís OK to proceed with enthusiasm. Once you are on a clear path to your exit, look even further down the track and begin to locate your braking or turning point for the next turn.
The most essential concept in performance driving is the late apex. This cornering technique will provide you a safe, reliable approach to a new or unfamiliar turn. This approach will minimize the risk of spinning the car or driving off course. The procedure is diagrammed in the figure and involves four stages: braking, turn-in, apex, and exit. The driving line is shown, with a dashed region representing the braking zone. Cone symbols represent turn-in and exit points. For reference, a very light line shows a neutral apex driving line. The late line uses a later-than-neutral turn-in, and exits farther down the track.
Late apexes are the safest initial approach because the turn is entered slightly slower and the greater part of the rotation of the car is done early in the turn. By the time the car is at the apex it is facing pretty much down the next section of track. Finally, if some error has been made early on, there is normally time to correct for this. By contrast, taking an earlier apex leaves the car at the apex facing the outside of the turn (rather than down the track) and leads to an easier possibility of running out of room and off the track.
Braking: In most late apex turns almost all braking is done before entering the turn. Maximum braking force can only be applied when the car is driving in a straight line. In most cases it is possible to create a straight braking line before entering a corner, even if the course curves slightly, by setting up the car properly on approaching the corner. Once a straight braking line is established, you are faced with three simultaneous challenges: to brake as firmly as possible without locking a wheel, to brake the car sufficiently to reach ideal entry speed for the corner, and to time the braking sequence so that maximum braking causes the car to reach the ideal entry speed at the correct point on the track � the "turn-in" point. These challenges are exceedingly difficult to master, so a conservative technique should be adopted at first where brakes are applied earlier than necessary, speed is reduced below the cornering limit for the car, and heavy braking is completed before the turn-in point is reached. With this as a starting point, the process can be adjusted in very small increments each lap, using progressively later brake points, braking progressively harder, and carrying more speed into the corner at turn-in. But at first, over-brake.
Turn-in: There is an optimum point along the track where the car should begin to turn into the corner. At GGR time trial events, this location will often be marked with an orange pylon cone. For a late apex turn, the turn-in point is relatively far down the track, or "deep" into the corner. At the turn-in point, turn the wheel smoothly and move the car into the corner, aiming for the apex. In fast corners such as turn 1 at Thunderhill, a smooth turn-in is absolutely essential - avoid upsetting the car with jerky steering inputs. Some cars require a half-second or more for the body to roll over and settle onto the suspension after the wheel in initially turned, before more aggressive cornering can be performed. Feel your car sway on its suspension, and turn harder once the carís weight has transferred onto the outside wheels. As you turn the car, begin to squeeze on the throttle and accelerate into the turn. Applying the throttle will stabilize most cars, especially rear-engined 911s. Ideally, you will reach full throttle at or before reaching the apex point.
Apex: The "apex" is the point on the track where the car reaches the edge of the pavement on the inside of the corner. Before the apex, the car is traveling across the track toward the inside of the corner, and after reaching the apex the car is traveling back across the track toward the outside edge of the pavement. At most corners, a cement berm will be located on the inside of the corner. An orange pylon cone may be present to mark the proper location for a late apex, which is more than half way around the corner.
It is critical to reach the inside edge of the track at the apex point. If you are carrying too much speed to do this, DO NOT GIVE UP! Turn the car and hit the apex anyway. You will likely be pleasantly surprised that your car performs beyond your expectations. Missing an apex can easily lead to a spin or off-course excursion at the exit of the turn, as you realize your mistake with no track left for corrections. It is generally better to get to the apex even if you must allow the car to get somewhat sideways. This will leave you more track in front of you. You must then gather the car up before reaching the exit. Beware that slowing the car by lifting off the accelerator will transfer weight off the rear wheels, reducing their traction and possibly initiating a spin. If the throttle must be reduced, do so gradually, perhaps only to neutral throttle rather than lifting completely and decelerating, and be prepared to counter-steer if a rear wheel slide develops.
Exit: If the braking, turn-in, and apex portions of the turn are completed properly, a clean exit should follow naturally. The exit is the point on the track where the car once again reaches the outside edge of the pavement, and may be marked by an orange pylon cone. In a late apex turn, the exit is far down the track past the corner, and you are generally fully on the throttle and cornering hard as you pass the apex and head for the exit. In this situation, last minute adjustments can be made safely. If you have carried too much speed through the corner and will not be able to stay on the track at the exit, you can smoothly lift off the throttle and "breathe" the engine, decreasing your acceleration and using weight transfer to rotate the car through the corner. If you are not carrying too much speed, gently unwind the wheel and drive out to the exit cone. By turning less vigorously, the front tires work less against the engine, and more power is available to accelerate the car.
In ideal conditions, all four tires will be loosing traction (not completely sliding, but a more controlled sideways motion due to tire deflection and some scooching along the surface) simultaneously as a car reaches its traction limit in a corner. Unfortunately it doesnít always work out quite that way. Commonly either the front tires will slip more (under steer), or the rear tires will be slipping more (over steer). In these cases, modulation of the throttle can be used to transfer weight in the fore-aft direction to help control the sliding. This technique is called throttle steering.
A common application of throttle steering in a late apex corner is to reduce acceleration or "lift" off the throttle. This will transfer weight onto the front tires, increasing front traction and reducing rear traction. Lifting tends to rotate the car in the direction of the turn. However, excessive lift can transfer enough traction from the rear of the car to the front to initiate a spin. Just how much will be excessive depends upon many car factors and the current speed and state of traction of each tire.
In a controlled throttle lift, once the car gently rotates towards the correct direction, the throttle can be smoothly reapplied, creating rearward weight transfer which will act to stabilize any rear wheel sliding. This advanced technique must be carefully practiced to develop a feel for the limit point where a rear wheel slide becomes an unrecoverable spin. Throttle steering is best practiced first at autocross.
On the racetracks, locate a relatively safe area to practice, such as a familiar, wide, low speed turn with no traffic and plenty of run-off room. Enter the corner at a speed where you are confident that you can complete the corner, and briefly lift partially off the throttle as you pass the apex. By "lifting" in this situation, you will be able to rotate the car to an imaginary exit point which does not reach the outside of the track. Working up in small increments, you will soon recognize how the car feels as it begins to slide.
Sequence of learning:
There is a reasonable sequence in which you should master various aspects of driving the track. This is not absolute, in the sense of completely mastering one skill before learning anything of skills listed later. However, in general, later-listed skills are best learned when the earlier-listed skills are well mastered. These steps are targeted towards extracting the optimal performance from the car. In all cases you should drive within limits with which you are comfortable and which will allow your car to always remain on the track.
Learn the event rules. Without
this you will not be able to get the most out of the events and will create distracting
Prepare your car. Be sure that your car is
mechanically ready for what you are expecting of it and meets the requirements
of the events you are attending. All systems should be sound.
Prepare the car ergonomically. Be sure
that you are comfortable in the car, can use the pedals, steering wheel and
gearshift without awkwardness and are sitting in a comfortable position.
Learn the flags and flag stations. The
flags are the only way the event has of communicating with you while you are on
the track. You should be fully familiar with the meanings of all flags and
should, in your first lap or two of a track, note all flag stations.
Get on line. The right line wonít
necessarily feel right to you at first. You may find yourself having to force
yourself to drive out to exits or puzzled at the reasons behind the turn-in
point. Assuming you are being properly instructed, all this will become clearer
as you are able to increase the intensity of the driving. Driving the right
line, even when you are not at the limits of the performance of your car,
trains your eyes about where to be, what to look for.
Use the whole course. This is
really a part of being on the right line, but verify that you are using all of
the available course. There is no sense in paying $270 for a weekend of driving
and then driving on $140-worth of track. Except where linked turns force
certain compromises, you should be very close to the outside of the track when
you turn in, within a couple of inches of the apex at the apex, and tracking
out to near the edge of the track to finish the turn.
Understand slip angles, over steer and under steer. You
should have a good sense of the definitions of over steer and under steer, be
able to tell when your car is under steering or over steering, and have a
natural reaction to counter these conditions as necessary. If you do not have
this at this point, you should find further intensive instruction.
Be expert at shifting. You
should by now be very smooth with the gearshift and have a decent mastery of
Exit speed. The next step is to focus very
clearly on exit speed from each turn as a clear goal. Nothing else will, at
this point, do as much to lower lap times and focus your attention on the most
salient issue. Try to find the best methods to make your speed at the exit of
each turn as high as safely possible.
Eye training � exits. Focus
your attention on being sure you are looking up from the apex to the exit soon
enough. Keep trying to do this sooner, as soon as you have the car reasonably
pointed towards your apex.
Eye training � apexes: Extend
your concern about eye control back to the beginning of the turn, being sure
that you are looking for the apex as soon as you begin braking or, where
braking isnít involved, as early as reasonably feasible.
Optimize turn entries: Except as
turns are linked, turn entry should be from very near the outside of the track.
In general the car should begin moving towards the apex with certain firmness,
turning, not just drifting in. If trail braking is needed the turning will
normally be somewhat more aggressive. The car will not be jerked into the turn.
Find the line and speed that makes full use of the carís turn-in capability,
Throttle control: The next area of mastery
is the ability to use the throttle with finesse, from breathing out (slight
lift of the throttle) to complete throttle lifts to tighten turns as needed.
Work on being able to apply partial throttle as aggressively as possible when
full throttle is not possible.
Trail-braking and left food braking: Optimal
performance involves being able to trail-brake into turns as needed (which is
when, on a reasonable line and speed, the car is unable to maintain sufficient
grip with the front tires). This can be a tricky balancing act and normally
takes some time to learn. It is used at slower speeds and, when needed, is a
Aggressive braking: It is important to be
able to brake at the limit of the tireís adhesion, but this skill is less
important in lowering lap times than the skills earlier in the list. However, a
few additional tenths of a second per lap are available and can be gotten by
learning how to wait a little later and brake a little harder, until the full
braking capability of the car is being used. Avoid using threshold braking when
only a little speed must be lost The destabilizing effect of the heavy braking
will often lead to over-braking, increasing lap times. When working on braking
later, move braking points forward in very small increments.
16. Earlier apexes: The final area of work involves learning earlier apexes. Late apexes are taught and used in driverís education events because they offer the safest way to negotiate a turn. However, earlier apexes (not, for almost all turns, an early apex, just less late or more neutral) offer rounder and more uniform paths through the turns and therefore the possibility of higher speed through the turns. However, there is less possibility of correcting when too much speed is brought into the turn for the traction available. The apex should be moved back in very small increments until there is only the required amount of safety margin left at the turn exit. For drivers of 911 Turbos this skill is not a fruitful approach. Cars with massive acceleration capabilities will want to be turned early and then the engine power unleashed.
Instructional Program Overview
This section provides an overview of the Time Trial instructional program. The GGR instructional program is perhaps the strongest aspect of our track events. Every student is provided with free in-car instruction as often as desired. This personal, one-on-one communication ensures that each student understands and abides by the rules and safety standards of the club, and ultimately protects all of the drivers. Instruction is a very enjoyable process for most people.
Who is a student?
Essentially all people new to GGR time trialing begin as students. Waivers may be granted by the chief instructor in exceptional cases. The student fee (a line item on the registration form) is paid only once, when registering for the first event.
The first step in the Time Trial instructional program is the required ground school. This may be held in a home or at a public meeting place such as a room in a pizza parlor. It is normally scheduled for Saturday two weeks before each Time Trial and runs roughly 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Food and refreshments are provided. This is a classroom activity, not a driving activity. Cars are not teched at the ground school.
New time trialers must attend the ground school before their first event (no more than one year in advance). Drivers who wish may re-attend the ground school at any point. The ground school covers an introduction to time trialing and performance driving. It will normally include some video footage to illustrate various techniques and to orient the students to the upcoming track. It is required because, in the interests of safety and enjoyment, we need all beginning time trialers to hear and understand all of the vehicle, safety and behavioral requirements. Driverís education carries with it certain risks which we all want to minimize.
Because the main focus of the ground school is on how the events run and what is expected of rookies and all drivers, certificates or licenses from other driving organizations are not a substitute for attending the ground school. Waivers are issued only in very special circumstances.
Included in the registration packet is a listing of student/instructor pairings. On the first day of the students first event - typically Saturday - each new student will normally drive with two instructors. The morning instructor will drive at least part of the orientation session then ride for the first two practice sessions. A different instructor will be assigned for the afternoon practice sessions to provide a fresh perspective. The registration material will indicate the instructorís car numbers and run groups. If possible, track down your instructor and introduce yourself before your session. Otherwise, your instructor will meet you in your car on the starting grid before your session begins.
Instructors will often offer to take students with them as passengers during their practice sessions. This valuable opportunity should not be missed, as it provides a first-hand demonstration of driving technique, as well as doubled track time.
Note that expectations may be higher in the afternoon practice sessions than in the morning, as your instructor begins the process of deciding whether it is safe and proper for you to drive alone on Sunday.
All GGR instructors use amplified communicators. The student will be provided with a headset that slips between the face and helmet. These allow instruction at normal voice volumes. Though the fit may be tight, it is almost always possible to slide the headset into place. Removal is easy: simply take off your helmet. The communicator headset will fall into the removed helmet.
Instructors on Sunday
Once a student has developed sufficient confidence and driving skill, he or she will be authorized to drive alone. This is normally done Sunday morning but in some cases may require several days of track experience. The decision is made by the chief instructor with input from all instructors. The guiding principle is that students are instructed until the instructional staff is satisfied that they are safe to run alone. Having an extended period before soloing does not mean that the student is a bad driver. Any driver who is trying to operate extremely near his/her personal limits is likely to receive continued instruction.
If the student is authorized to drive alone, the instructor may sign his/her name across the orange "student" sticker marking each studentís car to indicate to the Chief Steward on the starting grid that the student may drive alone. Optionally, a list of signed-off drivers may be given to the Grid Chief early Sunday morning.
Instructors after the first event
At each new time trailerís second event he or she normally will have an instructor assigned. This is both a checkout for the track and a checkout for issuing certification. If certification is not achieved the driver will continue to receive at least Saturday morning instruction until a certificate is issued. Instructors are also automatically assigned to each certified time trialer who is running a track with GGR for the first time. "First time" in this context includes running the same track in a different direction.
In both these cases the instructional assignment is normally for Saturday morning and may include optional instruction in the afternoon. Saturday morning instruction for certificate checkout or track orientation always includes the first-session driver around with the instructor driving the car.
Time trialers may request instruction at any event. As GGR Time Trials are primarily driver education events, drivers are encouraged to seek instruction as often as they wish and believe they can benefit. Instruction is normally requested on the event application, but drivers may contact the chief instructor at the event to see if unscheduled instruction is available.
After completing two time trial events students are eligible to receive a GGR Driving Certificate. These are normally issued mid-day Sunday of the second event. This certificate entitles the student to participate in future driving events without instruction, and generally welcomes the student as a new member of the GGR time trial crew.
To receive a certificate the driver must complete two events within a 12-month period, drive in a safe manner (this means, among other things, that the student is expected to stay on the track), exhibit good car control, respond correctly to course conditions and flags, follow all rules and secure the recommendation of his or her instructor. One key test is whether the instructors would be comfortable if the student were running in the instructorís run group.
To provide feedback to the first-time student, instructors fill out an evaluation sheet at the end of the event which is returned to the student in the mail. These evaluations are honest impressions by each instructor of the studentís driving ability. They should not be regarded as negative or critical, but are intended to help each student honestly assess and improve their driving skills.
The backside of the sheet is used for instructor text comments and has areas for the instructor to take notes on track to help in filling out the form later
Similarly, all drivers who receive instruction are required to fill out brief written evaluations of each instructor. The instructor corps is composed of excellent drivers who are eager to improve their own skills, both in driving and in teaching. Take the time to recall particularly positive and negative aspects of each instructorís performance. They will appreciate your feedback.
There must be a need for additional instructors. People are not made instructors simply because they have reached a certain level of driving ability.
An instructor should be an expert driver. Indications of driving expertise include relatively quick lap times (close to the reasonable limits of the instructorís car), smoothness and consistency, a high level of car control (tending to remain on the track and pointed forwards at all times) and a generally safe approach to time trialing. People who understand the theories of fast driving but do not actually drive fast will have a difficult time safely and effectively instructing the intermediate students.
An instructor must be personally mature and responsible, able to keep a clear perspective on the needs of the time trialing activity as a whole; able to maintain an even emotional approach in the midst of highly charged activities; able to interact constructively with a wide variety of people; and willing to assist the smooth functioning of the events by following all rules.
An instructor must be able to instruct a wide range of people in a wide range of car types and levels of preparation. While being able to speak effectively is widely understood as a necessary instructor skill, the ability to carefully and accurately perceive what is happening to the car and within the driver are more important skills.
Because there is a learning curve to sitting in the passenger seat while students drive the car aggressively, prior driving instruction experience (such as instructing at autocrosses) is helpful for time trial instructors. Additionally, to be properly familiar with the instruction program, the ideal instructor candidate will have taken a great deal of time trial instruction.
Because continued effort and practice is required to continue learning and developing as instructors and as an instructional team, instructors must be at essentially all events. Prior instructors who now show up less frequently may be used as alternate instructors.
Anyone may apply to be an instructor. If the applicant is not selected, feedback and, where appropriate, guidance on a useful path of skill improvement, will be provided.
Instructor applicants will be evaluated on their driving skill by providing an on-track riding session for the chief instructor and/or his delegate. Instructor applicants will also normally be evaluated on their instructional skill by being provided an opportunity to instruct, on track, one or more instructors who will play the role of student.
Instructors who conduct the on-track instructional sessions are selected to be able to drive as students drive while maintaining the utmost in safety. Their cars are, during these sessions, marked as student cars. The sessions occur mostly in the White and Green groups, with occasional use of the Blue group. That such sessions are being conducted is stated in the driverís meeting (with cautions that no one should follow another car in an attempt to replicate its lines, most especially a car marked as student-driven).
All instructor selections are contingent on the approval of the chief instructor.
Use your best judgment in this; consult with the chief instructor if and as needed.
Consult with the chief instructor before allowing a student to go solo before the scheduled instruction has been completed
Determine the safety of each car you get in. The adequacy of the carís safety equipment is your call.
Be diligent about following all event rules.
Fill out student evaluations for first-time students, when requested and as you deem needed. A blank form will be in the packet of the morning instructor of all first-time students. The morning instructor will hand it along to the afternoon instructor when he/she introduces the student to the afternoon instructor. The afternoon instructor will review the form with the student, then hand it in to the chief instructor at the instructorís meeting. A form may be used for any other instruction session, either because the instructor feels it would be worthwhile or at the studentís request. Note that the standards on the student evaluation form are intended as absolutes, not relative to being a newcomer. Students marked as expert should be as good as or better than the instructor for that skill. Also note, and clarify for the students, that standards might be higher in the afternoon; in the morning we are generally providing a lot of Primary instructors are expected to be at essentially all time trials and to inform the chief instructor if they will not be at a time trial. Alternate instructors should confirm when they are planning on attending a time trial.
All instructors are expected to attend the annual instructor meeting.
Complete the probationary period.
Have and use an amplified communicator.
Handle a normal instructorís load: one student each Saturday a.m. & p.m (2 sessions with each student plus the Drive-Around with the morning student), occasional instruction on Sunday, various requests you will get directly to ride with someone and requests to take someone for a ride in your session. Be on time for instruction assignments and stay with the student long enough to complete the instruction.
Drive studentís car during Saturday a.m. drive around.
Know clearly the approved student line for all tracks and teach it.
Let the students learn at their own pace, but keep them safe insofar as possible. This means, among other things, that, at the limit, you must maintain absolute control of the situation. Bring students back into the pits if they are not capable of adjusting their driving and/or attitude enough to be safe.
Instructors are called on to decide when a student may safely drive a track alone. The basic criteria relate to safety -- will the student and those around the student be safe if this person drives alone � but there are additional considerations. There are no minimum lap times for being able to solo. The following issues should be considered:
Instruction. In the afternoon we are becoming quieter, seeing what the student does with less guidance and preparing to decide whether the student is safe to be on the track driving solo.
Help students talk to other drivers when there are potential conflicts. The appropriate response, when there has been an incident such as a failure to allow a car to pass or some series of moves that brought cars too close together, is to accompany the student in finding the other driver(s). This presumes the instructor has had the presence of mind to remember the car number(s) of the other car(s) involved. The appropriate start to such conversations is extremely non-confrontational, something like, "Gee, that really surprised us when you passed us at the apex of turn 3," or, "Was there something more we could have done to let you know we would have liked to pass?" By demonstrating proper interpersonal approaches in the pits the instructor will help the student learn an important aspect of time trialing.
Where Time Trial drivers (students or not) are exhibiting on-track behavior that is insufficiently skillful or otherwise outside of the bounds of what we expect, report this to the Chief Instructor. This is a matter of safety. As appropriate, the Chief Instructor will confer with the Chairman and/or Track Steward.
Guide students in appropriate event behavior and in attending to adequate personal care, especially hydration.
Use extremely late apexes for 930s (as the proper way to train in the car and the proper way to drive the car).
Attend instructorís meeting on time. This is normally 10 minutes after the end of the last run session.
As needed, recommend student run group switches to the chief instructor.
Understand this guide entirely.
Continue to improve your driving and instructional skills.
You may ride in any car and take as a passenger any registered entrant.
If you're instructing but have not entered a car in the event, you may use any entered car to take each student on one brief track demonstration ride.
You may commandeer the right-side mirror to monitor traffic behind.
The Sequence of Teaching Driving Techniques to Newcomers
After the session