After years of being badgered (well, encouraged may be a better word) by friends about attending various club track events, I recently succumbed to their tempting descriptions and attended my first driver education event at NHIS (New Hampshire International Speedway). My tried and true excuses about time, distance and not having the appropriate vehicle had virtually all been addressed with some early planning, my proximity to the track and my relatively recent acquisition of a four-door Mercedes sedan.
â€œWhat? Youâ€™re taking that car out on the track?â€ is a refrain I heard frequently as I prepared for my first real driving experience. While a friend involved with the Club (the New England Region, NER, if the Porsche Club of America, PCA) told me it would be cool, the few comments I got from others combined with the staring and pointing as I arrived at the track added to the nervousness and apprehension I already had concerning the day. I was already worried that I might hurt myself or someone else or perhaps, and more likely, bend my car. Now, people that know way more than me were implying that I might be a few cards short of a whole deck. They had the look of people about to watch a dare-devil about to perform a death-defying stunt â€“ thereâ€™s entertainment value in success or failure. Maybe a bit more in failure . . .
To be fair, the family sedan I refer to is a 2006 Mercedes CLS55 AMG. While itâ€™s certainly not a huge car, it needed most of its 460+ horsepower to motivate its 4,500 pounds of girth around the track. It also didnâ€™t hurt that the car has front brake discs the size of large serving platters to slow the beast when needed. While it certainly was far from as nimble as the Boxters, Caymans or even 911s on the track, it had capabilities well ahead of those of its driver (me) and was a lot of fun.
The Porsche fanatics at the event didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t driving one of their babies. In fact, there were a few Miatas, BMWs and even an Acura and a Mustang. The event was strinclty about learning how to drive a high perfrmance car fast, and everyone was there for the same purpose. Newbies like me spent the day with an instructor in the passenger seat. My instructor was terrific – just another car nut – and he made the experience a blast.
In the end and, as usual, all the energy wasted on nervousness and concern about my car turned out to be silly. The entire experience was great. I didnâ€™t hurt anyone, at least not physically, and my carâ€™s frame and sheetmetal have the same creases and bends they arrived at the track with. The people of the NER of the Porsche Club of America were all great â€“ not only nice, but incredibly interested in making high-performance driving more accessible and safe to anyone interested.
If you have the desire and get the chance to do it sometime (check for local clubs), it’s really hard to beat for what amounted to about $160 for the day. About as much legal fun as an adult can have.