PCA Zone 1 website National PCA website Central New York Porsche Club of America

What is High Performance Driver’s Education (HPDE)?

by Rush Pond

President Central New York Region
PCA National Driving Instructor

It came to my attention, at the 2022 Fall Zone 1 Presidents’ Meeting, that fewer and fewer PCA’ers are participating in our club sponsored High Performance Drivers Education events (aka HPDE). After a fairly long discussion as to why this might be, I think we all agreed that this trend has to do with two issues; 1) Many PCA members do not understand what HPDE’s are, and 2) Members are feeling that they don’t want to risk driving their very expensive Porsches on the track. I’d like to address both of these

About Me
I’ve been a PCA National Instructor since the inception of the program in the early 1980’s. Over the past 30+ years I’ve been an HPDE instructor and instructor mentor for numerous PCA regions, and other clubs such as BMW, AUDI, and Lotus. So not only do I feel qualified to address these questions, I feel obligated.

About Our Cars
The Porsche is a special breed of automobile. It has become the “bench mark” for the industry since the 1950’s. This is no accident. Every Porsche is made to be the best driving car in its class. Porsches are  known around the world as High Performance vehicles. This doesn’t mean that they all have the highest top-end speed or that they are the quickest from 0-60. High Performance has just as much to do with slowing down, and cornering, thus instilling confidence. The Porsche driver knows their vehicle can and will do all these things whenever and wherever they drive them, whether on the street or on the track. Porsches deliver these qualities not just for a few days and then go back to the shop for servicing; they perform over and over again and get parked in our garages instead. This consistent High Performance reliability is why Porsche drivers feel confident driving their vehicles. It is what sets Porsche apart from others. Having said all this it has been my experience that most Porsche drivers who have never participated in an HPDE (we instructors call them “Newbies”) have no clue of the potential of the cars that they are driving. They don’t realize how well their cars can change direction, left and right, and still be under complete control. When “Newbies” experience the true braking power in their vehicles they are always amazed. Learning that they can slow down very quickly from any speed inspires confidence in their vehicle and in themselves. In short, they learn that Porsche’s are great driving machines!

What Is HPDE?
High Performance Drivers Education is driving school. As mentioned earlier, our cars have way more potential and capability than most of their owners are aware of. So the goal is to expose the owners to the unique capabilities of their cars. This is done in a controlled environment where safety is absolutely the primary concern. Students learn about the capabilities and limits of both their cars and of themselves. Every student learns at a different pace. Therefore, instructors tailor every session to fit the comfort
level and the learning curve of the student. We want our students to finish each session feeling more confident in themselves and in their vehicles. The first couple sessions, driven at or below highway speed, are intended to indoctrinate the students to the track itself. We show them where they should be at each section of the circuit and point out the numerous safety features of the track, which includes the flagging stations. In between driving sessions, students attend classroom sessions. Here they learn about
the dynamics of High Performance driving so that they can understand what is physically happening when they are on track. They learn why their cars have dynamic limitations and what happens when these limits are exceeded. Each time a student goes out for a session in their cars they learn gradually and confidently to explore the High Performance limits of their cars. It is important and fun to explore what your car can do. It’s just as important to know what your car cannot do. That’s why they call them
limits. By the end of the 2 or 3-day HPDE event the “Newbies” are happy (some a bit giddy) with the progress they have made and have begun to develop skills that are more in harmony with the vehicles they are driving. Returning students pick-up where they left off and continue to hone their skills, confident that they are learning in an environment where safety is always the primary focus.

HPDE is not racing school. It is not where you get a chance to drive your car as fast as you can without regard for the safety of others on the track and your instructor. It is not where we go to race with our buddies. It is not where we go to emulate the racers we see on TV (maybe at the same track). In racing, there are winners and losers. At HPDE everybody is a winner. HPDE is not where we go to learn to be aggressive and pressure a slower driver to go faster (forcing them to exceed their comfort level). It is not where you learn to toss your car around as you might at an auto-cross (that’s a different event altogether). So if your expectations line-up with what I’ve listed above then do yourself and everyone else a favor and don’t sign-up. If you do – you’ll probably be told to leave anyway and without a refund.

What About the Risk?
Life is all about risk, right? I don’t need to expound on that. But if you have a High Performance vehicle and you want to explore what that really means then it is less risky to do so in a controlled environment with an instructor than out on the highways. At an HPDE you learn gradually at your own pace and don’t have to worry about breaking laws or putting others on the highway at risk. At an HPDE you are warned in advance if there is an unsafe condition ahead, be it debris, fluids on the track, or a driver who has exceeded some limits and is now a safety concern. You know these things are coming and you can be prepared. At an HPDE we all are driving in the same direction without driveways, side streets, entrance ramps and traffic controls to distract our concentration. “Newbies” may not be aware of our passing protocols and worry about being “blown off the track” by faster cars. At HPDE’s cars/drivers of equal skill level are grouped together. Nobody is allowed to pass anybody else unless the car being passed gives the faster car a signal to pass and on which side. So no surprises because passing is a controlled evolution. If you were to explore your vehicle’s limits on your own without an instructor on public roads then your risk factor would increase exponentially for all the reasons mentioned above. The most risky part of an HPDE event is getting there and getting home!

I probably haven’t discussed enough the most important risk deterrent, your instructor. He or she has done what you are trying to do thousands of times. Your instructor is aware of the mental and physical overload that you are experiencing and will guide you safely through the learning process. You may not realize it but instructors are in control of your vehicle. We tell you when to accelerate and how much. We tell you when to brake and how much. We tell you where to be on the track based on what on what’s coming up next. We tell you when to turn-in and how quickly. We tell you when to exit a turn and how to get to the track-out location. We tell you what gear to be in and when to shift. Yes, instructors are in control of your vehicle – probably until the day you solo (and even then we’re in your head – or so I’m told).

Is HPDE for You?
Some of us own Porsche’s because we love the performance, reliability, and overall joy we get from driving these High Performance vehicles. Some of us just like the looks of these magnificent machines. But make no mistake; every Porsche is a High Performance vehicle within its own class of vehicles. So that said, why not learn to appreciate what the Porsche name has stood for since their humble beginnings – Performance. Learning the High Performance qualities of your Porsche doesn’t mean pushing the limits every time you buckle up. But it does mean that knowing your vehicle’s limits may someday help you avoid an accident. Is HPDE for you? Hopefully you are thinking YES!

CNY PCA Driving Instrutors:

Bud Burdick Tom Buswell
Thak Chaloemtiarana Frank Campagna
Mike Darminio Brian Daley
Chuck Gladle Bill Dawson
  Joyce Gladle
Joe Holzer Ed Hurd
Lin Hurd Bill Kohnke 
Bill Noroski Rush Pond
  Jeff Turco 
 Chris White Steve Vasina

CNY PCA Tech Inspectors:

Bud Burdick Safety Chair: Gil Wistrop
Tom Buswell Thak Chaloemtiarana
Mike Darminio Joe Holzer
John Hajny Mitch VanNordstrand
Ed Hurd Chris White
Jack Vasina  

Driver Education Forms

Check with the Event Host for all forms