Putnam Park – Driving Like I’m Crazy!

A few coworkers of mine told me a long time ago I should try driving at this course.  Then Carlton did it a few mBoxster out of Putnam turn 10onths ago, and he insisted I go- he said that I would love it.  I do love road rallies, so I gave it a shot.It’s a driver education course, with track time and class time.  I had one of the lamest cars on the track- many people had their 100-150 thousand dollar cars flailing around the track.  There were a couple of non-Porsches: Corvettes and the like, plus a Mini Cooper, and some Mitsubishi guy. I was paired with a female instructor, Christine.  In a class of 50 people, I was one of three girls, and I think Christine was the only female instructor.  I started feeling like I had to prove something about what a good driver I was.  I shouldn’t have worried- the guys were almost all really, really nice. 

My first time on the track, Christine was driving.  Her Boxster has racing harnesses, lots of upgrades including a 3.4L 911 engine.  She was FLYING around the track, showing me how a little Boxster handles so well in the corners, how to feel the turns, et cetera.  On lap 5, she saw a little smoke coming from her car and said “I think I’ll pit.” At that moment, the coolant system dumped coolant on the track and we went into a spin.  My helmet hit the convertible top.  I think we spun two or three times.  She handled the spin really well and was back in control despite the slippery coolant.  She never lost her cool, nor control of the vehicle’s spin.  It made me realize I could do it!Nicole getting into Boxster Maybe not as fast or as well, but her cool capability was really impressive and calming.

I climbed into my car with her.  We had earpieces to communicate, and she led me through the whole course.  By my last lap, I was starting to learn what my car could do- and what I could do with it.  But the whole time I was driving, it felt more like controlled wrecking: like any moment the car was going to slip.  By the end of the 30 minutes, my left wrist was killing me- from gripping the wheel like I was on a 40-foot cliff. Our next classroom session focused on smooth driving and understanding where to apex on a turn.  The event is not a race- it’s driver education- so it’s like golf: focus on personal goals.  I told Christine that I was feeling panicky about going out again.  Her positive attitude and willingness to listen really helped me.  I worked on making the turns smooth, the braking gradual, and the throttle- NEVER pull my foot off of the throttle fast!  That’s what keeps the wheels sticking to the track.  There were a few turns where I attacked them just right and I could feel the car responding the way it should. I was really starting to have fun driving, then the rain hit.  Christine worked me through one lap of rain driving, but it was still quite nerve-wracking…even at 20-40 mph.  I’m glad she had me do it.  I learned some of how I needed to drive in the rain. I worked myself into a migraine and had to miss the last day of driving.  Christine was an amazing instructor and I can’t wait to go driving again and learn more!

This is a corny little animation of the difficult turn 10.  I took the turn a little shallow- too scared of hitting the only concrete wall on the track!!  For time reference, watch the Corvette guy closing his hood.

Animated turn 10

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