Learning How Others Think

There have been times I’ve overheard HPDE drivers venting frustrations about having to get to their download sessions on time when they could be doing other important things like working on their car. What I have learned over the years from sitting in on HPDE download sessions is that there is a plethora of information to be learned and gained from, one of which is learning that not everyone thinks along the same lines as you might. Believe it or not, learning this valuable tidbit can change the entire way you may see the track the next time you’re in traffic on a road course.

NASA instructors do an outstanding job seeing into the hearts and minds of these new HPDE students, and what I enjoy most about them is how they seem to teach by getting students to ask questions and become more inquisitive rather than simply standing up in front of the class pointing at a map of the track and telling them how or why to do something.

“So, the correct line through Turn 8 is … .” NASA instructors are the best at “teaching” instead of blah, blah, blah. It’s amazing how they get students involved in the learning, and to watch a student’s eyes in that moment, when he finally “gets it,” and you hear the confidence and excitement in his voice as he says, “Oh yeah! Bingo!”

But while I sit in these classes, there are those moments when a newbie may begin his or her comprehension of a specific situation when all of a sudden I can feel the entire class say, “Huh! What in the heck is he smoking?” It usually begins something like, “Well I don’t do it like that because … .” It’s those moments when our NASA instructors really shine because they begin by allowing this person to finish making his or her remarks before asking other students in the class, “What would you do in this case?” hopefully in a way that would not offend the individual making such comments, but also in a manner that gives everyone in the room equal opportunity to evaluate the best possible decision.

Ultimately what will happen after these download sessions is that as new HPDE drivers head back out onto the track filled with good information, they will find themselves seeing the overall vision of the course with a new perspective. From now on, instead of seeing just a pack of fast cars around them, now they will hopefully find themselves accessing mental notes made during that download while listening to others’ thoughts and being more aware possibly of that guy in the red Honda who may not drive with the same philosophy or ethics as most others out there. “I remember him mentioning that he felt he has the right of way if… .”

The bottom line is understanding that not everyone’s mind works the same as yours and it can, in fact, make you more aware —and in doing so, possibly bring your car back to the paddock in one piece as a result. What I would hope new HPDE drivers get from all this is the realization that the download sessions are considerably more important than they might realize. You will always have some wrenching to do, but as any racer will tell you, your time, money and effort are better spent on improving the driver than on improving the car.

How could working on your car be more important than knowing a little more about how the guy sitting beside you thinks when he’s out on track?

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