|October 28, 2000
Quattro Club Safety Seminar at Road America
I've know about the Quattro Club's Safety Seminar and Driving Schools for a number of years, but I have never been in a position to attend one. While Salt Lake City may be within a day's drive to a number of these events, the one held at Wisconsin's Road America has always caught my attention for its close proximity to my family in that state. This year I was able to kill two birds with one stone; I took my vacation to Wisconsin to visit family and attended the Road America Quattro Club Safety Seminar at the same time.
Normally when attending one of these events you drive your own car, but since I was flying into Chicago, I had to find a car to drive at the event. My original plan was to use the A6 4.2 that I was reviewing for the week, but the people at Audi of America and the Quattro Club quickly (and rightly) put an end to that plan.
This left me with two options: renting a car for the two-day event or finding somebody willing to let me drive their car on the track. Just a week before I was set to leave, and after making rental car reservations, Jim Bruce from Minnesota stepped forward and offered to let me drive his 1999 A4 1.8T Avant. This was perfect for me, since I own almost the same car, although I was soon to find out that Jim's car had brake and suspension modifications, as well as dedicated track tires that made it much better suited for the track.
For those that have never attend one of these events, shortly after you send in your entry fee you receive a package from the Quattro Club with a video that goes over the basics about the event -- what you can expect to learn, definitions of the flags that corner workers will be displaying, and other helpful information.
The actual event starts the day before the track day. Registration, a BBQ and a mandatory instructor and drivers meeting in the evening are all held at the beautiful Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, just minutes from the track. At the meeting the event coordinator, Larry Boyer, welcomed us to the event, introduced us to our instructors and stressed the importance of safety during the event. He also reviewed the information that we had received in our original package and the contents of our registration package, including the different run groups and details about the track. After the meeting I met Jim Bruce, my co-driver and instructor, for the first time.
The next morning I got a ride over to the track with Alan DeJesus and his brother Byron. The paddock area was already full of people prepping their cars for a day at the track. Everywhere I looked there were Audi's of all makes and models, and an assortment of other automobiles. Most people were busy putting on their track tires and taking all the useless stuff from their cars. I helped Alan and Byron with their cars, then went to go find Jim and the car I would be driving for the next two days.
After another mandatory meeting at the start/finish line first thing in the morning, it was time to split up into our driving groups and start the day's activities. Since I was a novice with no prior on-track expertise, I was put into group one, which began the day with a hours classroom session, followed by another classroom session later in the afternoon. In the classroom, we learned about the layout of the track, proper cornering and braking techniques, the track rules, and about the areas on the track that our group was allowed to pass other drivers. Along with the classroom instruction, we also participated in four off-track exercises; a straight braking exercise, a accident avoidance exercise, a slalom course, and a p-curve/understeer exercise. These exercises helped the true novices get a feel of their cars limit, and helped me get used to the new car that was driving.
Of course the real draw to these events, even for the novices, is to get onto the track to test our skills. Our group was required to drive with our instructors at all times with the hope that they would sign off on us for solo driving by the end of the 2nd day. For our first 30 minute session our instructors drove us around the track in our own cars, or in my case, Jim drove me around in his own car. After three laps, we pulled into the pits and it was my turn to drive. This entire session was done under a yellow flag, so no passing was allowed. This gave me the chance to get familiar with the track and for Jim to evaluate my performance and to give me instruction on how to smooth my transitions in the corners. After what only seemed to be a few minutes, the checkered flag was shown and it was time to exit the track for the next run group.
My next run was later in the afternoon and was a little more enjoyable. Speed was increased and I started to learn the proper places to brake before the turns, started hitting the apexes more consistently, and increased my overall speed around the track. Since laps are not timed at theses events, it is hard to say how much my lap times actual improved. Again the checkered flag came too soon, but at least I had one more track session at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, my group wouldn't get to take its final track run for the day. While we were in the staging area preparing for our final run, an M3 rolled in turn 13. I'm happy to report that the driver and passenger were both unharmed, but the M3 was a total loss and the accident closed the track for the day.
That evening a banquet and raffle was held at the Osthoff Resort. Sponsors Ronal Wheels, Vortrag Motorsports, Blaufergugen, and Anderson Motorsport donated items for the raffle. At the end of dinner, it was time to head back to our rooms and prepare for another day at the track.
The next day started with another driver and instructors meeting in the morning. Once again the most stressed subject was safety, especially after the accident the previous day. After the meeting it was a pure track experience for everybody - no classroom instruction or off track excercises. This is where we got to really put our instruction to the test and we had four track sessions to prove our selves. If you were lucky your instructor signed you off for solo driving. I wasn't that fortunate, in fact I'm not sure if anybody in my group was, but by my last session on the track I could navigate the entire track with no corrections from my instructor.
Luckily, there were no accidents on the second day of the event, although I did personally witness a M3 and a S4 go off the track and into the gravel at turn 12 (at different times).
For me this was a very eye opening experience on proper driving technique and the proper way to take your car to its limit. It's amazing that even if you have a faster car, it doesn't mean you'll be faster around the track if you can't drive it properly. I was personally able to pass much faster cars on a regular basis just because they couldn't keep up in the corners.
If you have never attended a Quattro Club Safety seminar and safety school, or any track event for that matter, I would strongly suggest it so you can get a true feeling for your car. I know that I'll be trying to attend many more of these in the future.
Road America Photos: