REVIEW: Our HPDI Track Day at NCM Motorsports Park
If you’ve ever dreamed of what it might be like to push your car to your limits on a race track but also thought that participating in such an event was out of reach because of cost or skill limitations, we may have found the perfect solution for you!
On Monday, October 10, 2022, a group of my closest friends and I participated in an HPDI (High-Performance Drivers Introduction) course at the National Corvette Museum’s Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The event, which was structured as a “101” track program for new drivers looking to learn more about performance driving, was an absolute game changer for all of us.
Even now, nearly a week after completing our day at the track, our entire group can still feel the adrenaline pumping thru our veins as we recount the incredible experience we shared at NCM’s Motorsports Park. Structured as a combination of classroom instruction and lead-follow track skills coaching, this eight-hour-long course gave each of us an incredible experience we’ll never forget.
Our day started early, with each of us arriving at the track shortly before/after 7am. After checking in and meeting some of the other drivers in our course, we were introduced to the team of experienced driving coaches who would be guiding us guiding us thru the rest of our day. My group, which consisted of me, Billy, Kevin, and Cliff, sat at one of several tables that had been set up for the day in the classroom area for our first round of instruction. At that point, all of the student drivers were divided up into teams of two and assigned to one of two groups. Cliff and I were partnered together and assigned to Group 1, while Kevin and Billy were partnered together and assigned to group 2. As we had twenty-four students now divided into two groups of twelve, and six driving instructors (total) for our class, this allowed one track instructor to be assigned to each of the paired student drivers.
After some of the fundamentals were reviewed with the entire class – things like general track terminology, instruction on how the day would unfold, expectations we should gain from the class, etc., – we were instructed that Group 1 would head to their cars for their first of four track sessions, while group 2 would remain for their first round of classroom instruction. As the day progressed, the groups would switch back and forth, completing two rounds of classroom training (approximately 20-30 minutes each) and two rounds of practical driving experience (also approximately 20-30 minutes) before lunch, and two additional sessions of each after.
Let me tell you, both the classroom instruction and our time on the track were incredible! While the classroom instruction gave us important fundamentals (understanding the best line, proper cornering thru the Apex, much, much more), the track sessions were a pure-adrenaline driving experience that left every participant with ear-to-ear smiles. What’s more, each track session got a little more involved, teaching us increasingly advanced driving fundamentals, like how to properly (and safely) signal-and-pass another car at high speed, how to hold our line thru a tight turn (the “sinkhole” – turn 20 on the full “Grand” track at the NCM Motorsports Park – was a personal favorite of mine), and of course, allowing us to improve how hard/fast/long we pushed our cars in the straights before standing on the brakes to bring the cars speed back down for a rapidly approaching turn.
Now you might ask, “was this class only for people with past experience?” or “do I have to have a Corvette to participate?” The answer to both of these is a resounding “NO!” When we started the day, the question was posed “how many of you are attending your very first track event ever?” More than half the hands in the room went up. As for the cars, yes, there were several Corvette there (Billy, Cliff and I were each driving one – Billy in a C5 Z06, Cliff and I in C7 Stingrays.) However, there was also Kevin’s Dodge Challenger, along with a BMW, a Volkswagen Jetta, a Porsche 911, a Mini-Cooper, and a Mazda Miata. Better still (for the non-Corvette owners reading this), while the NCM is a “Corvette track” because of its association with the Corvette Museum, the fastest cars (at least in the turns/corners, of which there are PLENTY at the NCM Motorsports Park) were NOT Corvettes.
Here’s the other thing – this event was designed to make EVERYONE feel welcome. In the many exciting conversations shared between our local group after the event, Kevin summed it up perfectly “The best part about the HPDI event was the people. I’ve spent a lot of time in garages and around cars in general. There’s typically a strong musk of ego that lingers around any competitive community. Not here, not at HPDI.”
“The instructors,” Kevin continues, “are world-class. My instructor, Dale, was the coolest guy. He was encouraging, but also informative. He was chill, but also serious. I truly enjoyed working with him. He could push his C7 around the NCM track like he was playing with Hot Wheels. Yet, he was always attentive. He noted my mistakes and coached me through the solutions. By the end of the day, I knew my car, and myself, better. That’s how you know you have a great teacher, when you walk away with nothing but pride in the day behind you.”
“And that wasn’t just my team. Every instructor and driver in the program seemed to have the same goal. We were all there to learn and improve. Even the instructors themselves were humble enough to know that not one of us was a “king of the track”. Rather, we all shared a common goal. A passion for the cars, a respect for the track, and a love for our brothers and sisters behind the wheel.”
Outside of far exceeding my personal objectives for the day, I was elated at how our entire class seemed to be a cohesive unit by the end of the day. The sense of comradery and high-spirited enthusiasm for what we had just shared was palpable. People who’d come to the class at the start of the day with reservations about what they were about to experience left with a well-earned and overwhelming pride in how well their car performed, in their newly-developed driving skills on the racetrack, and with a newly discovered confidence that they were capable of doing more with their cars than they thought possible at the start of the day. They also left feeling energized, if not a bit tired. After we wrapped for the day, Billy shared with our group “Just so you guys know, we had 90 miles of track driving today.” To which Cliff replied, “I guess that’s why it feels like I did 100 miles of high-speed driving today. I am beat.”
So consider this; what would you expect to pay for 100 miles of combined track time (per car), several hours of valuable classroom instruction and critical driver feedback after each track session, and access to one of the best racetracks in the southeast? The HPDI class, which the NCM Motorsports Park hosted twice this year, cost a very reasonable $400.00. Considering that most racetracks across the U.S. charge you around $100 (or more) to run a single, four-lap tour session, this class is a no-brainer and a “must-do” for anyone who is passionate about motorsports, about driving in general, or even for anyone just looking to experience something that promises to push your limits and bolster your self-confidence.
“My best advice for anyone considering these events?” Kevin says, reflecting back on our day at the track. “Do it. It doesn’t matter if you drive a Corvette or a Cavalier. Take pride in your ride. Do the maintenance, and check it twice. Then, leave your ego at home and everything else on the track. You won’t be disappointed.”