Why should you take a SoloPro Driving School?
There are a lot of new faces around and perhaps some of these reasons should be shared once again … But, in fact, some of these thoughts are new and never have been shared before!
A disclaimer first though: I do make some money putting on and teaching these schools.
On the other hand, if I stayed home and worked for a couple of hours I would make more money than I do at the schools!
So, why do I do it?
My primary reason for bringing professional level autocross schools to Alberta has always been to improve our collective/club level of driving. Once I had seen the driving levels at the Seattle National Tour back in 2000 I knew we had much to learn from those National-level drivers (and event organization for that matter) down south!
The National Tour back then was held at Bremerton (AFB) in the Gulf Islands west of Seattle (this pre-dates Packwood). I still remember very clearly working when SS was running (Z06 Corvettes, 911’s etc.), and thinking that I could have thrown a quarter (Canadian, of course!) down on the pavement “on the line”, and I swear every one of those guys would have hit it! The driving was more precise than I had ever seen before! By that time I had been competing for close to 20 years and also had helped to teach various schools locally in Alberta. Precision to us was getting your car to within 2” of a cone or the “perfect” line. That teaching was now refined to less than 1”!
Anyway, back then there were only the Evolution Schools and we arranged to host them at Red Deer at the Westerner in the old north lot. I figured they would really help our best drivers get to the SCCA National level of driving. The odd thing was that the people who entered the school often were not even regular autocrossers! Go figure! People from the Miata Club, outright newbies, and people from who knows where came to take the schools. There were even a few regular autocrossers who took them!
For some odd reason that pattern has continued although more of the “newer” autocrossers who have come into the sport since 2000 have taken the schools and some multiple times. But there is still a healthy number of, essentially, non- or infrequent autocrossers who take the schools, interestingly enough.
For myself, when we first brought the schools to Alberta (the first ones in Canada, by the way), I wasn’t sure if I should take the schools myself. After all, I had been autocrossing for around 20 years and was fairly dominant in Western Canada at the time in my class. What could I possibly learn? However the thought occurred to me that at my level (as I understood it), even if I learned a single tactic, no matter how small, it would be worth the price of admission!
A single little “trick” could reduce my time a few tenths perhaps on a course and that could be the difference between a trophy or no trophy. Or perhaps even a win!
The closest margin in SCCA National history was between Jennifer Isley (Southern California region – lives just south of Orange County) and Briget Sawatsky (of Winnipeg!). Over two days of competition on two 60 second or so courses, the margin of victory was 1/1000th of a second!
What does that mean?
Let’s say the finish/finale of a run on one day is at a speed of 100 kph. In 1/1000th of a second the distance covered at 100 kph would be 27.7 mm … just over an inch…..over two courses, over two days.
In another example, at the 2009 SCCA Nationals in Lincoln, in the SS class there were 63 entries (new record for class size) if I recall correctly. After the first day, the first 15 places were separated by less than ¾ of a second! Don’t blink or you’ll lose a few places … maybe even a bunch of places!
I seem to remember a few really close finishes locally in recent years. And the Canadian Nationals are coming up in Vancouver a month after these schools.
So even a small “trick” or tactic or improvement in your driving can make a difference!
In my case, on the first day of the school, the first instructor to jump in with me was Ron Bauer of Seattle whom many of us know from trips to Packwood and schools in the past. Within 15 seconds ,he pointed out 2 things in my driving that were “errors” or bad habits that I was not even aware of! Interestingly, in 20 years of competition locally and throughout western Canada, no one else had noticed either error that I had been doing … unconsciously! I have been convinced of these schools ever since!
Naturally, I went on to learn much more than those two things in the two days of schools that we held that year. Nick Leverone was another instructor at that first school. He is currently road racing in NE USA and this was the only time he came here to teach. It was amazing to “feel” and see what these guys were doing behind the wheel up close … and they were not giving it their all! They definitely drove “differently”. Looking ahead now had a different meaning than previously when we had talked about it in local schools.
Thereafter I took the Intro School something like 5 times and the otherschools multiple times, improving my driving every single time, no matter who the instructors were! There was just something magic and effective about getting a lot of quality seat time with a US National-level instructor beside you, critiquing your driving techniques and giving you their tips on how to drive properly and how to improve and be faster! The intensity was something else! The learning environment was excellent!
Then, in 2005 Tim Aro (former part-owner of Evo) came to Red Deer for a school for the first time.
2005 was also the year I went to Packwood for the Tour and followed by the Colorado tour in Denver. In my mind was a question I was pondering “Could I keep up with the big dogs”? I had a suspicion, I could but unless I went to these big US National events such as National Tours and Pros, I would never really know. My S2000 was not fully prepared for AS (now BS) class since I had the stock shocks and stock exhaust but did have Hoosiers (stock class was allowed R-compounds back then) and a stiff Comptech front sway as well as an alignment – so a basic minimal/optimal set-up.
At Packwood, I drove well, but went slower each run! This was despite my greater concentration and feeling that I had driven better each run! It was very odd and I did not understand it on the first day of the two day event. It was 100 deg. F (38C) each day. What I eventually figured out was that I was not watering the tires (none of us did in Canada back then!) like the others and the tires were overheating and getting greasy. No matter how much better I drove, the slower my times got! The tires simply slipped more and lost traction with the heat. Lesson learned (the value of running at big events was becoming abundantly clear by then). I still managed a 3rd place trophy despite sitting on my first runs.
The Denver National Tour was the following weekend and I had taken the week off, so I picked up a water/weed sprayer at a Home Depot along the way to Denver in southern Washington.
We were at the Mt. Elbert overflow/shuttle lot south (approx. 1400’x2200’ size) of the Denver International Airport. It had a smooth concrete surface and a dip to the west in the course where there was a large left hand sweeper. The temperature was 100 deg. F both days again! However, this time I was ready with my sprayer filled with water! My driving was similar to Packwood and this time my times improved with each run like normal … thanks to the watering of the tires after each run. I trophied in 2nd place losing only to a former SCCA National Champion, Bob Klinger, of Denver. “OK”, I figured, “I think I can keep up with these big dogs!”
What did it take to get to that point? Many of those professional schools and competing at the SCCA National Level among other things, obviously, are reasons why my driving had improved to that level. Learn from the best.
In 2008 Tim Aro and Jinx Jordan formed the SoloPro Driving School with a fresh and new set of course designs and teaching methods. We have been hosting the SoloPro schools since that time and I joined the SoloPro Schools as an instructor in 2009, becoming the first Canadian instructor for a professional level autocross school. Winning the 2007 SCCA Pro Solo and Solo National titles in the same year opened doors for me.
This year, we are hoping to host a full complement of SoloPro Driving Schools again. We might even have some fresh blood amongst the teachers. It is always good to have a fresh set of National-calibre eyes take a look at what we are doing behind the wheel. You never know what they find. Old nasty habits also have a way of coming back and sometimes we don’t even notice! So maybe we all have to get back on track and these schools can help to accomplish that!
And, of course, to get the best possible performance out of yourself, what better way is there than to spend lots of quality time with a US-National level instructor beside you focusing on what you are doing … exclusively? And thereby getting pointed in the right direction or re-directed as deemed necessary.
Of course, there are other benefits of taking the SoloPro Driving Schools since the courses are designed to teach you certain key techniques. Even the format of the schools is designed to be conducive to learning. I think that is one of the best features of the schools in that you are enabled to learn a lot.
Will you get to another level immediately? For some (most), yes, for sure! For others there will be techniques to master over time (this is why it is important to bring pen and paper to make notes) from the schools before they become a part of you and your times begin to improve.
There is much, much more to these schools of course such as an abundance of seat time. Books have been written about driving techniques … never mind the “mind game” and car preparation etc. I have endeavoured to introduce more and more of the “mind game” at the local schools and I think the methods are working and I’m hearing many positive responses. That work is on-going – stay tuned!
Also, the schools and instructors have continued to become refined over the years so in a sense you can say that the schools are “new” every year. Also, the instructors work with you at whatever level you are at, such that the instruction changes even during the schools never mind year-to-year. We will feed you as much as you can take!
As a last note, remember the cost of these schools is about the cost of a tire (or two in some cases), so in the bigger picture they are still very reasonable. It is also very important to note that whatever learning you receive, will move with you when you change vehicles, unlike the mods on your car. They say the best money you can spend on your driving is to take good schools. I would agree with that statement whole-heartedly.
So if you have not taken or have not heard of these schools before, it is time. It is never too late and even old dogs can learn new tricks (me being a prime example!).
In the end, there is little that is more gratifying for me as an instructor to see my class improving noticeably, going on to better and better driving, and even some trophying down south at the US National-level events! It is wonderful to see and I’d like to see more of that!
So come out and take a school or two.
Currently there are a few options:
L1 (Level 1) – Introduction to autocross techniques and practicing the basics (You never get away from the basics in any sport!). No matter your level, you can learn something here!
L2 (Level 2) – This continues on from the L1 school to build on your driving even more and onto more intricate techniques depending on where you are at in your driving. Remember you are always taught at whatever level you are at.
Extreme (1 and 2 day formats) – This is for advanced students who have mastered the techniques of L1 and L2 (or equivalent) and are looking for final refinement in their driving … more nitty gritty details which can differentiate you from the mid-pack into the top and trophy positions at a National or even International level. We will work you hard! L1 and L2 are prerequisites to this course and some experience is also recommended prior to taking this school.
More information on SoloPro Driving Schools can be found at the web site here:
You can put down a deposit to hold a spot here:
"I don't look for something; I find something" - Picasso
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