NEQ Driver Education and Safety School
This is driver education - not a racing school
When you sign up to participate in an Audi Club North America Driver Education Safety School or Driver Education course, it will be a special time in your life. The course is commonly referred to by a few different names such as Driver’s Ed, DE or HPDE (High Performance DE). It is, at its very core however, a safety school.
These events are designed to teach vehicle dynamics, car control and to introduce, promote and refine both safe driving techniques and skills on the track, in a safe environment, that are then transferable to the street.
Each vehicle is subject to a thorough technical inspection by a professional mechanic prior to the event (see Tech pre-inspection document), as well as a secondary Tech Inspection by the Club immediately preceding the event (sometimes available the night before). Once Tech Inspection is passed the student driver can officially register for the event and receive his or her run group assignment, instructor assignment, as well as classroom, exercise, track schedule and track maps.
At the event, you will have the opportunity to drive your car in a safe learning environment, on some of the best tracks in the country while having a grin on your face that will be from ear to ear. It’s a time to surround yourself with other enthusiasts that will help you learn more about yourself, increase your driving skills and learn about the capabilities of your car. You will spend time socializing with other drivers who have similar desires while pushing your skills to new levels and experiencing new limits.
All students at driving schools will spend time in the morning of the first day meeting their Instructors and addressing what your goals and any concerns are. The Instructors are senior NEQ and sometimes visiting Club Instructors that have all been through rigorous training programs and are Nationally certified by the Audi Club NA or associated clubs (BMW, Porsche, etc).
All drivers then spend time in classroom sessions going over everything from basic terminology to advanced car control skills. Students who are new to driving schools will spend some time doing some driving exercises. The class and exercises are designed to familiarize you with basic car control skills such as braking, weight transfer, reaction times and communication language between you and your instructor. The balance of the day(s) will be spent in lapping sessions on the track. Students get to drive the track at speed during subsequent 20-30 minute sessions with their instructor. This provides an excellent opportunity to apply and practice the skills taught.
The classroom session covers many of the basic concepts that provide a foundation for the driving skills taught in the exercises. Some of the many topics covered would include car prep, driving position, attitude, vision, weight transfer, tire adhesion and cornering techniques. The details of club and local track rules for the lapping sessions are also covered in the classroom.
One of the long standing NEQ building blocks of the driver education program, in addition to the on-track and classroom sessions, are the “exercises” conducted after the morning class for novices, but prior to the first on-track event. During these exercises, driving your own car, you are coached by club instructors observing after each pass through the exercise. This provides helpful input to ensure drivers get the most out of the experience, while maintaining a safe environment. Helmets and seatbelts are required during all driving exercises as well as lapping on track later.
The slalom course is where the driver can get a feel for their car’s weight transfer during cornering. This is also an excellent chance to develop steering inputs that are smooth yet sufficiently assertive for higher speed cornering.
The braking exercise provides opportunity to see how their car handles under hard braking. In this exercise the car is brought up to moderate speed and then stopped as quickly as possible in a target area, roughly the size of a parking space. This is designed to give the driver a better feel for the stopping ability of their car. Most new cars are equipped with anti-lock brakes; so many drivers get their first experience with this feature on dry pavement.
The lane toss exercise is for many the most challenging, and for some the most fun. This exercise is designed to mimic an accident avoidance situation. Drivers accelerate down a single lane to roughly 30 mph. This single lane is outlined with traffic cones on either side. Holding the 30 mph speed, the car approaches a split (also delineated by traffic cones) with one lane left and one right. Traffic signal lights are used and all lights are green as you approach. As the car enters a very short decision section (where there are no cones and the path to both lanes ahead are open), lights go green or red such that the driver will have to instantly and decisively move left or right into the only green lane, then stop the car. This exercise emphasizes the importance of vision and assertive steering inputs, as well as getting the turning operation done before using the brakes. Other exercises for teaching more advanced techniques are also used as the driver’s skill and experience levels dictate.
Depending upon the facility, NEQ has been able to conduct skid pad exercises where inside a circle of cones drivers can incrementally increase the car speed until they are able to experiment safely with the maximum turning ability of the car and it’s characteristics as it exceeds available grip and begins to slide. These exercises are well controlled, typically on a wet pad area and a tremendously fun way to explore the limits of the cars grip.
Running laps on the track makes up the rest of the “seat-time” at the events. Run groups are established to allow students to run laps with other drivers of similar experience. The run groups and in particular the advancement process are outlined more completely in NEQ’s “Driver Ed Placement and Advancement” document but it is this structure that allows for a very controlled and multi-tiered environment where the club can effectively manage everyone from a first time track driver to a very experienced individual. The Club normally has four levels of drivers, or run groups, Green, Yellow, Red and Black/Instructor. On occasion this varies due to scheduling requirements.
A first time or novice driver typically then attends tech, a driver meeting, class and paddock exercises and then moves to the track events mid-day. Day two is all track driving. It is somewhat more typical now that your instructor will drive your car the first few laps actually on the track as a “Green” or novice student. This practice, while not at all mandatory, can allow for the new student to more fully experience the track layout and flow, “the line”, as it is driven and be able to look around at flagging stations and reference points without distraction. After a few laps you then make a quick stop in pit lane to swap seats and as a driver you are then able to more fully grasp the track environment.
Novice students always have an instructor in the car during lapping sessions until the student and the instructor are ready for the student to solo on that track. Passing is only allowed on straight sections of the course, and under controlled circumstances, making for a very safe environment. Lapping on these tracks provides a great opportunity to safely learn advanced driving techniques and explore the capabilities of both car and driver.
To summarize, the goal of NEQ is to provide a safe and structured environment for drivers of all ages and all experience levels to expand their knowledge, and indeed confidence, in their vehicles and themselves. It is the opportunity to operate in this environment that allows the safest means possible to develop and refine skills that will ultimately make you a safer driver on the street. We at NEQ pride ourselves on providing the finest in instruction and can cater to drivers at any level of experience with what is effectively a custom instructional experience. There is no “attitude” at NEQ, every individual is treated equal. No matter what experience you bring, or what vehicle you drive, you will discover an environment of respect and be treated as a friend and fellow NEQ Club member.
With appreciation and acknowledgement to previous NEQ contributors
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Every winter, NEQ hosts winter driving schools on frozen lakes in Upstate NY. Dates and signup are available in January each year.
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Join us at this 2-Day High Performance Driving School at Watkins Glen International. See what your car can do!
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