To be fast or not to be; school is cool!
You have a fast car and some cash to burn fuel and tires, but are you fast? Given the chance to race the clock against another person on the same race track under the same conditions, would you be the fastest? Could you be the fastest?
Well, to answer any of these questions you need a car and a willingness to learn. While owning a weekend track car is still on my personal bucket list, Hyundai Canada has ponied-up (no pun intended) a brand-spanking new 2013 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 GT so I can participate in the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs Ontario Region (CASC-OR) Time Attack school at Mosport's 2.4 kilometre-long Development Track (DDT) on May 5 and 6.
Mosport's DDT will host the first two rounds of the CASC-OR's 2012 Time Attack Series on May 26 and 27; so, this school is not only ideal for beginners and novices looking to get into the sport, it's also useful for amateurs and pros wanting to sharpen their driving skills in a safe environment with trained and certified instructors and paid course marshals.
The two-day school costs $450 and offers plenty of track time to test a new car or set up, scout the competition as well as get up to speed for a season of racing in the Ontario Time Attack Series. On-site camping (a grassroots motorsports past-time) is free.
I've been here many times before. Last summer, I drove the 2012 3.8 Gen coupe on one of the DDT's many different configurations. Earlier this year, I sampled the significantly more powerful 2013 3.8 GT at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada at the North American press launch.
Graciously on loan for a weekend of track use, my car is one of the first 2013 3.8 GT models in Canada. The other participants are here with their own cars. Some have been modified for lapping, including Chris Boersma's purpose-built turbocharged EK Civic. I'm not the only one with a bone stock ride though as there's a dude here with a brand-new VW Golf R as well as a lady-driven late model Miata. Even Mike D. is here with his tuned-up 2010 Genesis 3.8 coupe to get a feel for his car on the track.
At any rate, the goals of the CASC-OR Ontario Time Attack School are simple. First is to teach students performance driving. Second is to help students practice safe car control on the track. And, third, to give students an understanding of how an Ontario Time Attack event is run.
The whole lot is broken down into three groups that rotate between the classroom, skid pad and the track. A lot of material is covered in the classroom sessions. Everything from mental and physical preparation to seating position and safety equipment is touched upon. Students are introduced to the idea of car scrutineering, tech inspections and the importance of looking after their vehicle and parts of the vehicle (i.e. brakes and tires). And, since this is a time attack school, students are encouraged to keep a log book to help keep track of mods and changes both large and small.
When it comes time to go driving, each student is assigned an instructor to ride along in the car for true one-on-one coaching. Out on the skid pad, students are asked to demonstrate car control by putting their vehicle into oversteer and understeer situations and then recover from it. I do have a decent amount of track and performance driving experience in a variety of production sports cars from the Volkswagen Golf GTI to the Porsche 911 and plenty in between; but, I think I still managed to surprise my instructor when I put the Genesis into a full drift and went completely around the skid pad in both directions almost right out of the gate.
To say I've learned a lot about performance driving and car control is a big understatement. The list of instructors I've been fortunate to have worked with in the past is pretty impressive to say the least and includes Canadians Richard Spenard, Scott Goodyear, Patrick Carpentier and Antoine L'Estage to name a few, as well as Americans Tim O'Neil (a multiple U.S. rally champion) even the legendary Hurley Haywood of the Porsche Sport Driving School USA.
To think I've learned everything I can about performance driving, or that I have no areas left for improvement would be an even bigger understatement. In fact, the tiniest of tips can lead to a big epiphany and, that is where you improve the most. To this end, I'm extremely lucky to have Scott Murfin as my personal coach.
Murfin races in CASC-OR Sprints and Ontario Time Attack events with his record-holding SR20DET-powered Nissan 240SX. He definitely knows how to drive fast and quickly picked up on a few things to tweak with my hands. Anyone that's ever been to a proper driving school know that your hands should always be at nine and three o'clock to provide the most steering angle possible. I've been doing this for years on corners of all radii with good results. Well, for the very tight corners (say, less than 90 degrees), moving my inside hand (on the turn side) from nine to 12 o'clock just before the turn not only provides even greater steering angle and control, it also lets me unwind the wheels more naturally for faster corner exits.
Driving fast around a racetrack requires a lot of concentration. The goal for every driver is to always keep your vision high and well ahead of the car. This too is practically second nature to me now; but, Murfin has me talking out loud as I'm lapping around the track. It was a bit tricky at first, but I can certainly attest this method will help you find and hit the all-important reference points (braking and turn-ins, for example). Not only does this come in very handy whenever learning a new track layout, it's a technique that will make you faster in the turns, which is where you need to be fast in order to win.
We're looking forward to the 2012 CASC-OR Ontario Time Attack series. And, who knows, maybe we'll get our hands on a car that'll give Murfin a run for his money. I don't know, maybe a 2013 Genesis 3.8 GT.
To learn more about the CASC-OR Ontario Time Attack series, visit http://www.casc.on.ca/timeattack.
Vehicle: 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 GT
Engine: 3.8L GDI V6
Max Horsepower: 348 hp
Max Torque: 295 lb-ft