Posted on the ZHP FaceBook page from who I assume is a member here. I wanted to take some license here. Dane, feel free to nuke it from orbit (just to be sure) if this is not appropriate…


As someone who hasn’t driven at limits in an HPDE or other controlled environment in over 5 years, I read the article with great interest, as I will be attending an event in a few weeks. Also, as someone who has instructed other “high risk” activities as a professional in a previous life (including driving), it really resonated with me. And, slightly annoyed me.

In a previous life, I was a contract and full time instructor, including vehicle operations. Like teaching an HPDE or racing disciplines, these activities were risky and if proper administrative and technical controls were not in place, could have killed the participants or damaged property.

I attended my first driver’s (racing school) almost 20 years ago, in a plenty-fast-enough-to-kill-me formula car and progressed to more specialized schools, including a rally school (or two), winter school, high risk vehicle operations, EVOC and EVOC instructor. So, not my first rodeo as a consumer.

One thing that I have learned in my instructor dev classes and learning by osmosis from who I consider the best instructors in the world is this:

You control the chaos. No one else. It is your job to control the students, the equipment and environment to facilitate adult learning. You manage all these things so people can have fun, to learn, and not hurt themselves, each other, or damage property. If you don’t, you have failed.

The author seems to echo the feedback from the instructors he has spoken with. “The cars are too fast.” Bullshit. You are allowing your students to drive beyond their limits. I have had students who had plenty of go-fast gear and facilities, and if I allowed or encouraged the gear to be used by the student in a manner that outpaced their skills and experience, I have failed. Period. I put others at risk for what benefit?

It is the instructor who is responsible to controlling the tempo, pace and subject matter. Just like it would be irresponsible for me to take a HS kid fresh from Driver’s Ed and stick them in a class executing High Risk Motorcades, it would be as irresponsible for a Driving Coach to allow a student to wring out his or her new, “’Vette, Viper or GT-R.”

Interesting, after the author illustrates his Venn diagram for us, he defines the “wants” of the instructors:

  1. Limiting Speed of Student Drivers
  2. Remote Coaching Tools
  3. Restrictions on support equipment (e.g.: tires)

Now, I certainly don’t disagree, but this is using hardware to solve a software problem.

Where is the administrative control? Where is the oversight? While I cannot speak of my local marque clubs, or other venues for the matter, I have little to no first hand knowledge of the quality and caliber of the instructors. I can reflect back to my other life and say without caveat, that we may have the same symptoms. Going back to the author’s Venn diagram about instructors:

  1. Qualified to instruct
  2. Enough free time to instruct
  3. Willingness to instruct

Frankly, I have run into plenty of people who can fill numbers 2 and 3. “Qualified” is a very subjective measure, unfortunately. Seat time does not equal competence to teach. Just because someone can DO doesn’t automatically mean that can TEACH. I have met some very salty and experienced practitioners of various things in my travels – absolute ninjas at what they do. Have them lead a class from intros to final debrief? It is a disaster. A disaster as the consequences can result in grave physical injury or death.

The author makes no mention of “fixing” or improving the instructors. Blaming the equipment is a cop out. Is the author really saying instructors are stating equipment and student desire has outpaced their abilities to provide a safe environment to maximize adult learning? Besides tires, widgets to get instructors out of the cars, and an admin control to slow people down, what checks are in place to verify the qualifications of the instructors and give them a venue to improve their skills while sitting in the right seat? What checks are in place to ensure that students are coming prepared mentally and logistically?

I know that in my past life, when I was a Lead Instructor, all my Assistant Instructors had the autonomy, authority and responsibility to bench or eject students who violated safety protocols. Oh, they also had professional instruction on HOW to teach safely, in addition to the skills in which they were expected to teach with perfection. "Perfection, On Demand," was an oft-cited phrase. We also shared the autonomy, authority and responsibility to ensure that our students were progressing in a manner commensurate with their abilities. Never have we sat back during an instructor meeting (which there were many during a program) and blamed the equipment or facilities as being “too fast,” “too high quality,” or “too capable” as a reason for safety transgressions, violations or God-forbid – injuries. (For what it’s worth, I, and the people I worked for, have a spotless safety record. I am very proud of that.)

The author makes mention of this: If the industry won’t police itself, it will be policed by entities less friendly to our endeavors. From where I sit, improve the instructors; everything else will follow. /RANT OFF