The Drivers Edge (TDE) hosted the first-ever High Performance Drivers Education (HPDE) event at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Formula 1 racetrack this weekend. 140 drivers and 45 instructors spread across 5 separate run groups (by skill and experience level) greatly enjoyed their 2 days on the circuit.
Needless to say, being on the finest racetrack anywhere in the Americas made for a fabulous and unforgettable weekend. The event was simply excellent: TDE did a thoroughly professional job of running the event (as always) and COTA was simply a fantastic host. We were surprised and impressed by the sheer number of COTA personnel on hand for the event. This included the entire track safety crew; fully staffed track control center; fire, ambulance crews and wreckers (unneeded); flaggers, security; gate management; and even a large staff of restaurant and concession workers. These were the same people who had pulled off the tremendously successful Formula 1 event here last November… and we benefited from the same level of service and support this weekend. Our only disappointment (besides a dud Go Pro) was that track Ambassador Mario Andretti wasn’t present!
The event almost wasn’t able to be held. But the reason wasn’t a mysterious drama as the news reports wonder, it was simply the unfamiliar track officials negotiating an event that fit into their technical, safety and procedural requirements, as well as their own business plan. And coming to understand how such events are run. The Drivers Edge is the best group we’ve ever seen in our 33 years of doing this type of event, and we’re proud to be an Instructor with them over the past 15 years. And now that the COTA officials and owners have seen how professional and experienced this particular group is, we will certainly be invited back again.
The local television coverage on KXAN decided to call us “amateurs”. We’d guess whomever wrote this TV report wasn’t a driving enthusiast or even knowledgeable about these types of events. We’d hardly call ourselves “amateurs”: most of the drivers have been doing this for many years and many the instructors are professional race car drivers or at the very least have several years of experience doing just this as well as a demonstrated ability to teach and an exacting knowledge of the dynamics of car control at speed. HPDE events are non-competitive and are not timed: the sole purpose is skill building.
The Drivers Edge was privileged to be able to use the full 3.41 mile track, with designated (and generous) passing zones. As in our original prediction for the Formula 1 race, we expected the 130 foot climb into turn 1 to be the biggest challenge… but it wasn’t in F1 and it wasn’t here either. It is a signature turn of the track, very distinctive and great fun. As is, for example, the run up the much bigger hill at Watkins Glen. But there is so much more and that’s what makes this (and the Glen) such a fabulous track. COTA is clearly world-class in every respect.
Turns 3-5 were straightforward, but the decreasing spacing from turns 5 thru 9 were challenging. The back straight between turns 11 and 12 was a straightforward ~130 MPH in the cold rain. Turns 12 thru 17 were especially challenging (11, 12, and 15 being very sharp) and we’ll be focusing closely on those next time out. Turn 18 was obvious as soon as you saw how it exits, as were turns 19-20. Note that in the map below, the speeds given are for F1 cars – compared to what we did this weekend those much higher speeds are truly (as they say) “the laps of the gods”. It’s beyond our mortal understanding. But it does illustrate the speed differentials which we also had to learn.
We’ll post our own image gallery once we recover from the uncharacteristically (for Texas in January) cold and wet weather. Readers will undoubtedly find numerous other images from other Instructors and attendees, and should also follow the official Facebook page of The Drivers Edge.