Hooked on Driving's "Getting on Track" on DVD
Have you ever wanted to hit the race track and wind out your mechanical beast to its ultimate?
If so, you may be interested in "Getting on Track", a 50 minute DVD hosted by David Ray, founder and team leader of Hooked on Driving. It's a look at the "track day" experience where ordinary people take their cars to the race track and learn how to really drive them. Fast and, even more important, well.
These track days are wonderful experiences, and I recommend them highly. I took a similar course several years ago and not only was it one of the most fun weekends I've spent, I believe it also made me a better driver. The course I took was a two day event that combined classroom sessions with time on the skid pad (which was actually an adaptation of the local race facility's oval track and its infield) and time on the two mile road course. We learned such things as "double J's", threshold braking, car control and sight lines and a lot more.
The highlight was the time out on the road course, and that's where the Hooked on Driving DVD focuses as well.
Then we're off to the track, learning about curves and their apices and the best way to exploit them (not too early in, not too late in, but just right – it's kind of like having Goldilocks behind the wheel!) with footage of some pretty nice cars illustrating the goods and the bads.
Exploiting your apex properly ensures you get around a curve in the most efficient (read, quickly and safely) manner and, while you obviously won't be on a race track every day, the techniques (and the rest of the info you gain from these experiences) also work in the real world, which is part of why a course such as this can help make you a better and safer driver.
Another interesting segment is on "heel and toe" downshifting, a skill I have to admit I've never mastered – probably because I'd never actually seen it demonstrated before. The Hooked on Driving video puts the camera down near the driver's feet and demonstrates exactly how to do it, and I can't wait to try it out. Hmm. I'm scheduled for a session in a 911 Turbo soon….
We also get to do a few laps with 24 Hours of Daytona winner Randy Pobst, who shows us how he learns an unfamiliar track. It's information that'll also translate into the real world because he talks about where your eyes should be looking, how you should treat turns with which you aren't familiar and the like.
And there's more, including some unfortunately far too brief looks at some very nice sets of wheels from a Mini Cooper through a MazdaSpeed 6, Corvette, Porsche 911 and the like.
It's good stuff and it's well presented, but it ends up coming off as much as a promotion for the Hooked on Driving program as it does a "How to" video. This is completely understandable, I suppose, and I can imagine this is a terrific sales tool for the HOD folks. I know I was ready to book the next plane after watching it, especially after I visited their website and discovered there was an event two days later at the wonderful Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, California – the place with the corkscrew curve where Alex Zanardi made the most outrageously gutsy (and successful) pass several years ago when he was a Champ car star.
The DVD is well done. I was surprised to discover that it was shot in widescreen, which is just how it should be. Alas, I was nonplussed to also discover that it isn't widescreen that's enhanced for 16x9 TV's, so it needs to be zoomed and/or stretched to fill the widescreen television, and that either adds distortion or cuts down the resolution.
The result is a picture quality that isn't what it could and should be, though you can also watch it in its native resolution and live with bars on all four sides of the screen.
The audio quality is fine, though if I had my druthers there'd have been some nice low frequency effects channel stuff where we could really experience the siren song of the cars. Then again, with the music and narration, you don't really get the chance to hear much of the cars anyway.
But they sure look great, and Getting on Track is enough to bring out your hidden Walter MItty tendencies, while giving you some insight into the world of performance driving.
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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