View Full Version : May 8th Drivers' School Observations

05-09-2005, 09:13 PM
Yesterday's drivers' school was generally as great as I've come to expect from the National Capital Chapter. I credit Doug, Bill, Adil, the corner workers and, of course, the instructors for another job well done. That said, I did have a few nits to pick, some of which I remembered to put on my eval form and some of them I didn't...

(These were pulled out of another thread (http://www.nccbmwcca.org/forum/showthread.php?t=894), for the sake of keeping that thread on-topic and positive.)

In B-group, there wasn't any free time (even with "Free" sessions) before lunch (especially if you were an odd number) -- this meant that there wasn't any opportunity to make much-needed post-track adjustments to the car, or even to relax. I understand that the early calls to grid-up reflected the need to keep on schedule (and this school seemed more on-schedule than most), but this seemed a little ridiculous.

I had upped my pressure to 42psi all the way around prior to tech inspection (on the track, I normally run 40-43psi in my AVS ES100's), but after the first lapping session, my front passenger wheel was under-pressure and my rears were equally over-inflated & I didn't get time to do a more than cursory check after dropping a wheel off the apron on track-out in 7. (Mind you, I did get a chance at lunch, but that was after two track sessions and time on the skidpad -- all with an overly loose rear and a soft outside front.),

The drivers' meeting seemed a bit too 'loose' -- maybe I just got used to Miriam's gestapo methodology (I kid, I kid), but assuming that the first DS usually has the highest number of new drivers of the season, the sometimes vague instructions and the lack of any demonstration flags struck me as odd, (if need be, I'll chip-in part of the cost for a set of dedicated demo flags)

I was also shocked by the extremely laid-back on-site tech inspection -- they never opened my hood, performed a straight-line brake test, looked inside the passenger cabin, asked if I'd checked the torque on my lugs, or even checked or wrote a single thing on my tech sheet (including a signature). All they did was look at my helmet, look in the trunk and stick a blue dot on the windshield.

Now I know that the onus lies heavily on the student and the outside mechanic to ensure that the car is safe to drive in an "enthusiastic" manner, but I'd hate to think of what could happen to the future of the NCC BMWCCA drivers' school program -- one of the best marque club programs in the U.S. -- if somebody was hurt because of something that would normally have been caught in a trackside tech inspection,

Pocket-size schedules were sorely missed, as were the neck lanyards and long-sleeve t-shirts (not absolute necessities, but nice nonetheless);

The aforementioned dry skidpad -- I was the third car in my group on the skidpad and it was already halfway dry. In fact the 'wet' section was still dry enough that I flat-spotted my rear tires. (I know this is more due to BSR's policies and the nice sunny, cloudless day, so I'm not sure what can be done to prevent similar situations in the future.)

Like I said, that handful of gripes are the only complaints about an otherwise extremely well-done drivers' school, and I only raise them because I failed to put all of them on the eval form. If anyone disagrees with my opinion -- and that's really what this is -- feel free to speak up; I'm not looking to start an argument or ruffle feathers, just to keep the consistently high-quality drivers' schools on-track, so to speak.

05-10-2005, 11:36 AM
NCC has always had the goal to maximize the time the student spends on the track and skidpad. When I was the coordinator I got cussed out a few times by Bill's neighbors if I had loud cars running after 500pm. No sure if this has changed but I am sure in the last ten years there are a lot more neighbors. The Chief of Workers Steve Lowry does an incredible job at keeping the schools running smoothly and on time. For those who want to complain switch with Steve sometime. Its a bear. Steve showed up at the first school I ran and he and my bro kept it running on time. Getting students back from the skidpad and getting next run group on the grid ready to go is a challenge. Throw in an incident and its a big clusterf*$k. Steve, Adil and Bill deserve a thanks when you see them at the track. Dont forget to thank the registar, Doug for getting all the packets out and dealing with the calls. Those phone calls from students. Aaaaah! Read the info packets please. Any students have any complaints may I suggest giving Doug, Steve or Adil a nice break and try their VOLUNTEER jobs for a weekend.

And to the students dont forget to cruise the paddock slowly to let your brakes cool.

Rafael and Steven how's about a special award for Steve Lowry. He has been doing this for about 10 years. A article in the DB and gift certificate for BMW parts or a nice bottle of scotch would be nice! Here he likes Blue!

Dave Apker
Former DS Coordinator

05-10-2005, 01:29 PM
I'll admit that my complaint about time is really a hard one to address -- it's not feasible to run four groups (which would cut down the time it takes to grid-up, but at the same time, it would shorten the overall track time for each student) -- I know that BSR's neighbors are constantly complaining about any instance where there's cars on the circuits after 4:59pm (with the exception of 12 hours at the Point).

People will gripe if you make them grid up early and then wait too long in the grid; people will gripe if you give them only 3 minutes' warning to grid. Honestly, points #1 and #4 are by far the least of my concern.

Much more important to me are the safety-related points -- the slightly disorganized drivers meeting (which got almost all of the critical points across, just not as clearly as some meetings in the past), the cursory tech line (and lack of signatures) and the dry skidpad (which, again, is more a BSR issue than an NCC issue).

BTW, honestly, if need be, I'll chip in $40 of the $100 cost for a set of track flags, if the chapter needs a dedicated classroom set. Raf/Steven/Bill -- just shoot me a PM telling me how to donate the $$.

As for the tech line gripe -- it would almost be better to have no tech at all than the cursory check from Sunday (that way no one could blame the NCC for missing something). I don't expect the tech line to diagnose a failed motor mount or a bad cv joint, but it is there to remind us of the little things we might forget in a rush: shop rags left in the engine compartment, clean windshield, floor mats, loose lugs, junk in the trunk, etc. In the early morning rush to get to the track and into the tech line, less-experienced and even more-experienced student can be forgetful about these little things. I just want to make sure that someone's simple oversight doesn't lead to an on-track incident that could restrict the Chapter's ability to run such superb drivers' schools.

Overall, Sunday was an extremely well-run, informative and fun school -- and for that I thank Bill, Doug, Steve, Adil, the corner workers and the instructors for their time, enthusiasm and effort.

Phat Ham
05-10-2005, 11:16 PM
When I went through tech inspection on Saturday they checked my trunk, under the hood, and the interior. They also checked the lugnuts and signed my inspection sheet. On top of that my instructor went over the car with me to make sure everything was in order.

Sunday's tech inspection did seem a little more lax, and was definitely quicker. I can't remember if they checked lugnut torque, but they did check under the hood, in the trunk, and the interior.

In my run group there was a good bit of confusion with flags. My group was on the track right after the oil/antifreeze spill, and 3 or 4 of us were black flagged for passing on a debris flag. While ultimate responsibility lies with me, the driver, I feel like I wasn't totally to blame since my instructor told me to pass. From what I understand the same thing happened with the other 2 or 3 cars who were black flagged, along with the car giving the point by.

05-11-2005, 05:21 AM
I agree with Phat Ham, Saturday's tech was abit more thorough. Despite the confusion with the flags (I was one of the others black flaged :redface: ) I thought it was a good experience for me to see how the process really works. Sunday was a definitely more of a rush, but I got a lot of run time and I couldn't be happier. Thanks to everyone in charge of the event.

05-11-2005, 07:11 AM
Follow the corner workers instructions as opposed to your instructor. Corner workers should have a better idea of the track conditions vice your instructor.
Better save than sorry or black flagged. The instructors were wrong to over rule the corner workers

1996 328ti
05-11-2005, 07:18 AM
I learned something new about the flags too. You can not pass on a debris flag. It is in the handouts and is also VIR's policy. I guess I was never in a position to pass under a debris.

There are different schools of thought about tech. While we really are not liable for missing something on a grid tech since we are not mechanics. I do like the idea of an instructor going over the car with their student. With 3 run groups that would be difficult because an instructor usually has a back to back student session. Tarheel run 4 run groups and that system seems to work.

Some people do not want their wheels checked simply because who knows if the torque wrench is correct. I expect everyone to be responsible drivers and ensure that their cars are properly maintained to be safe.

1996 328ti
05-11-2005, 07:21 AM
Follow the corner workers instructions as opposed to your instructor. Corner workers should have a better idea of the track conditions vice your instructor.
Better save than sorry or black flagged. The instructors were wrong to over rule the corner workersIt wasn't that instructors ruled over corner workers. Either they did not see the black or did not now you can not pass under debris.In one session it was a yellow and debris at pit. The next session was only a debris. The CI wanted the debris flag up and his rule goes. We discussed it afterwards.

05-12-2005, 02:08 PM
I learned something new about the flags too. You can not pass on a debris flag. It is in the handouts and is also VIR's policy. I guess I was never in a position to pass under a debris.

As an Instructor I did know know that, at a BMW CCA event, you can't pass under a debris flag. When I came off track I learned that most of the other Instructors didn't know that either.

I first learned about the debris flag in racing and, in racing, you can pass under a debris flag, altho you better first know what the flag is for before you go for the pass. My "A" Group student did do a pass under the debris flag but only after about 4 or 5 laps after we had a thorough opportunity to observe the track conditions, and by the time he went for the pass, the track was fine.