An excerpt from The HPDE 1st-Timer’s Guide, written by Ryan Staub and Ross Bentley.
Few things in life compare to driving fast in a great car on a world-famous track with your friends cheering you on. Yet the real secret to HPDE is the trip, not the destination. With the right HPDE approach, you’ll be focusing on 4 things: safety, fun, education and speed.
The Right Approach to HPDE: Safety
Safety is always the number one factor in motorsports. Cars may go fast, but your safety and the safety of those around you matters most. While driving on a track always involves some risk of a wreck, the right approach will make HPDE as safe as your regular commute.
Note that there are some clear differences between HPDE drivers and drivers out on the road. On the track, drivers are all heading in the same direction, have the necessary training and are paying attention to what they’re doing. Better yet, HPDE drivers know they don’t know everything and show up with a desire to improve. HPDE events also have corner/turn workers to warn about problems and special rules to help communication between drivers.
Event organizers put the emphasis on managing risk, with rules, education and controls that have a goal of creating a safe environment. But while HPDE is big on safety, some risk remains. That’s why track insurance is recommended, and sometimes required for certain events. It can help put your mind at ease, so you can focus on driving.
The Right Approach to HPDE: Fun
If safety is number one, fun is a close second. HPDE is one of the most fun learning experiences there is. At the typical track day, you’ll find welcoming and enthusiastic people, great track facilities and a minimally competitive environment where the focus is on learning and improving.
Motorsport attracts great people and it’s not uncommon to make some lifelong friends through HPDE events. What started out as a way to learn how to drive a car faster often becomes an important part of your social life.
Experience wise, HPDE is unique in the sports world. Most football fans don’t get to play in their favorite team’s stadium and most tennis players don’t make it to Wimbledon. But as a motorsport fan, you can drive your car on the same track that Formula One World Champions and Indy 500 winners race on.
While it seems like it would be impossible to forget how fun HPDE is, it can happen. You could take it too seriously, spend too much, take too big a risk or forget why you’re doing it in the first place. Remember that the right approach to HPDE is to have fun while you’re learning and improving.
The Right Approach to HPDE: Education
It’s also important to remember that the “E” in HPDE stands for education. HPDE is a minimally competitive sport, so that you can learn without the added stress of wheel-to-wheel racing. You will quickly find out there’s more to high-performance driving than you expected. Even guys who’ve been doing events for decades will tell you it’s a never-ending process.
One of the best parts of these events is that you can participate in almost any street vehicle. A stock vehicle is great for learning more about what you can and can’t do and how to navigate a corner or a series of corners. You’ll learn how to be a better driver and how to manage yourself. As you progress, you can think about modifying your vehicle, which also becomes part of the learning process.
Some drivers are surprised by just how much education gets packed into one HPDE event. There’s almost always classroom instruction, one-on-one coaching, and time on the track at every event. Many drivers will tell you some of the most important a-ha moments happen off the track, just by talking with instructors, coaches and other drivers.
The Right Approach to HPDE: Speed
Last but not least, speed is one of the most important factors in an HPDE experience. Everyone who participates in HPDE events wants to drive faster than they can on the street. For some, speed is the main reason to do motorsport. For others, speed is a byproduct of learning how to do it.
Even though you’ll be on a race track, HPDE isn’t a race. One driver’s slow may be another driver’s fast. Everyone learns at different speeds, so it makes sense that they also drive at different speeds. It’s all relative, as long as you’re not driving too fast, too soon.
There’s a learning curve to developing your speed and it’s sometimes a bumpy ride. You’ll progress, then plateau, then something will click, and suddenly you’ll have another burst of progress—and a burst of speed. Controlling your patience and frustration as you work through this process can be as important as controlling the car.
The goal going in to an HPDE event is always to have fun and learn something, while also staying safe so you can drive better and faster. It’s a lot to learn, but practice makes perfect.
As you get ready for your next track day, don’t forget to make sure your car will be covered on the track. Most auto insurance policies limit coverage for HPDE and track day events.
If your policy has exclusions for your car on the track, don’t worry. We offer HPDE Insurance to protect your car from damage when you’re participating in HPDE, track day, or time trial events.