Q: At what point should I be looking for private coaching instead of just regular HPDE instruction? When do I know I am ready?
A: Performance gurus say, “Practice makes technique permanent. Perfect practice makes technique better.” There is no doubt that more time spent on the track makes us better and faster drivers, but how do you optimize that time in the driver’s seat? Practicing wrong techniques will put you into a dead-end rut that is difficult to escape. Obviously attending schools and getting good instruction accelerates the process of becoming a faster driver/racer. We prove this at every school as our students make massive improvements. When I began racing, I went to a lot of schools, and repeated the same schools several times, each time finding technique improvements and things I still needed to work on.
But at some point the gains become smaller and harder to obtain, such that you ask yourself if you are really still making progress. This may be the time to seek out personal coaching. Once you have good execution and understanding of the basics, personal coaching likely will help you continue improving your skills at a good pace. Even the world’s top drivers — or top golfers, or musicians, etc. — use personal coaching to continue evolving and growing their skills.
If the things you are hearing in group instruction are starting to sound repetitive and you are not finding new ideas and techniques to try, then a private coach may be able to fine-tune your issues and help you to focus on improved techniques specific to your style.
If you find yourself running about 95 percent of the speed of the fastest drivers around you, in similar equipment, then you would probably benefit from private coaching. That last 2 percent to 5 percent of a lap time is hard to obtain and requires different techniques that are not necessarily the same for all drivers and all cars. At this level it is difficult for instructors to home in on your particular technique needs in a group/class setting.
If you occasionally turn the fastest lap in your run group, but do not seem to be able to do so fairly consistently, you are a good candidate for personal coaching. It can be frustrating to know that you are capable of really good laps, but are unable to produce them on demand. Do you even slow down sometimes when trying to go faster? Some personal guidance and analysis can really help at this point.
Any time you can afford private coaching, it is a great thing to help optimize your improvements. However, your best value for the cost of private coaching will be after you have a good understanding of the basics, and you want to move to the next level of performance.
Charlie Putman is a driving instructor with the Ford Performance Racing School. He also is a professional driver in the IMSA Tudor United Sports Car Championship, Continental Tire Sports Car Championship, FIA Blancpain GT Series, Creventic Endurance Series and the ADAC GT Series.