I participated in the Windy City BMW Drivers school event at Gingerman Raceway this past weekend, and had a great time.
My personal objectives were to have a good time, learn more about what my car could do at higher speeds, to improve my driving techniques, and to be able to say that I have driven my MINI to my limits on a racetrack.
The emphasis of the school is on safety and control. Our cars were inspected a few weeks before the event to ensure everything is ready and up to snuff. The pit lanes and racetrack corners were monitored by workers, passing on the track was only allowed in marked areas, and then only after the lead car gives the go-ahead signal. We prepared for the event ahead of time by reading a short manual on car control to understand the dynamics of what we will be doing.
After arriving at the track early Saturday and getting checked in, I prepared by removing all loose items from the car, and making sure the car was ready. I got an unexpected extra of a pair of Windy City BMW driving gloves in my registration packet, which will be perfect for our next MINI club kart racing event.. We were broken up into 4 groups depending on ability and experience. I was in the novice class with about 20 people. Each person was assigned an instructor for the weekend. We had a brief classroom orientation and hooked up with our instructors for a few slower speed sighting laps to learn the line of the track. I was then able to ride along on the instructor only driving session with Chris in his hopped up MCS and experience some very fast laps (although we did get passed by much faster cars on the straights).
We then settled in to a rotation of classroom sessions to prepare us for the track, and the next objectives to work on, rest periods to chat, regroup and check out the action, and driving sessions behind wheel with our instructor.
In the early sessions the challenge for me was to learn the course and to resist the temptation to turn into the corners too early. I took the opportunity at lunchtime to participate in “touring laps” where the top speeds were limited to 50 MPH and I practiced doing the appropriate lines at a moderate pace to better learn and visualize where I was supposed to be. I spent the next couple driving sessions working on improving the corners I was not comfortable with, and attempting to continue doing well on the corners I was comfortable with. My instructor pointed out both the things I was doing right as well as identifying the effects of doing things incorrectly, usually resulting in slower corner exit speeds or not being in the right place on the track for the next corner. By the second day I was feeling comfortable braking hard enough to just stay below where the ABS kicks in, and feel the car slightly drift through some of the turns. My total track mileage for the two days was close to 200 miles. On this track, with my regular Cooper, I was able to stay in 3rd gear for the entire time. I didn’t spend much time watching the speedometer, but by the end of the second day I was approaching redline in 3 different parts of the track, which was plenty fast for me.
I was very impressed on how well run and organized the Drivers school was, and how friendly people were at the track. Because my instructor also drove a MINI he was able to show me driving lines that were a little different than the rear-wheel drive cars, which enabled me to let my MINI work it’s best.
If you are interested in participating in a drivers school like this, the Windy City BMW will be hosting an event at Putnam Park Indiana on August 22nd and 23rd, and with the CMMC discount price, which includes a 1 year membership to the BMWCCA and Windy City BMW, it is a great value!!
Check out additional photos from the Gingerman event Here