Getting behind the wheel on the track is something that I am sure interests many of our readers. However, to someone who’s never been out, it can be a very intimidating endeavor. Fortunately we didn’t need to look much further than our friends at the Trillium Chapter of the BMW Club to find a safe and organized environment for everyone from first time drivers, to seasoned experts, to get some serious education and time out on one of North America’s fastest road courses. The folks at the BMW Club of Canada, Trillium Chapter invited me out to spend a weekend on one of the four Advanced Driving Schools that they run right here at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP), so I absolutely jumped at the opportunity to receive some expert instruction and brush up on my own skills.
The events are open to anyone with a valid driver’s license and a vehicle that must be signed off by a certified mechanic as fit for use on the track. With my paperwork and vehicle prepared I left my home at some un-godly hour of the morning to be at the track in time for registration and the 7:30am driver meeting. Arriving at the track I was immediately impressed at how organized the Trillium BMW volunteers had set the event up. Clear signage marked the registration booth, which took less than 3 minutes and I was on my way towards the race paddocks. Pulling into the full paddock I was presented with a flurry of activity everywhere and a range of cars unlike anything I was expecting. Owners of everything from tired looking daily driver Honda Civics, to fully race prepared BMW M3 GT4 Cup Cars were swapping wheels, tuning engines and adjusting tire pressures getting ready for their runs. I secured a space and quickly removed any extra weight like my spare tire and jack, and squeezed in a few last minute checks before the driver meeting. You could feel the excitement building in the paddock as everyone filed into the meeting room.
The driver’s meeting served to go over some basic ground rules and introduce each student to their own personal instructor. I was pretty impressed with the fact there where almost as many instructors as there were students, giving each student, myself included, plenty of 1 on 1 time on and off the track with their instructor. I quickly learnt that my instructor has been running at this track for more than 25 years, so I knew I was in good hands. Students were broken off into 3 groups; A (experienced solo drivers), B (intermediate/moderately experienced drivers) and C (beginners), and each group attended a 30 minute class.
After the first class session each team got to try their hand on the skidpad and on the track. Beginners started out on the track with their instructors behind the wheel for the first couple laps so they could get used to the track and racing line before getting behind the wheel themselves. Since I’d been placed in the B group, I was to go out on the track with my instructor coaching from the passenger’s seat. Not being overly familiar with CTMP, I was admittedly a little nervous, which my instructor quickly picked up on and offered to drive the first couple laps – this proved to be a huge ice breaker for me and once I experienced how he handled my car around the track a few times, I was much more ready to do it myself.
The day continued rotating between half hour sessions of track time, skid pad and classroom instruction, with some well-timed breaks in between to check over the cars. The sights and sounds around the track are truly spectacular and any enthusiast could spend hours just walking around taking in the cars, the driving and the history at CTMP. Each time I got out on the track I did my best to apply what I’d learnt and each time I felt myself getting smoother and smoother around the course, and despite having one of the slower cars in my group, really started to feel that true thrill gained not only from enjoying the driving experience, but that satisfaction in know that I was building skills that I would take home with me.
Mid-day we took a break for lunch and for some laps with the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Association of Canada. This gave the opportunity for participants in the BBBS program to get rides out on the track with some of the expert instructors and drivers in the spectacular cars that turned up for this event. The track was alive with roaring engines; Corvettes, Porsches, Ferraris and more lined the pits picking up riders and dropping them off with ear-to-ear grins.
On my last sessions of the day I really started to feel myself picking up the intuitive feel for the track that experienced racers talk of; starting to reach that point of familiarity with the car and with the track that allows your mind to catch-up and starting thinking about those next corners well before you can even see them, and that’s when everything starts to become one fluid motion and you truly become connected to the car and the road – and phenomenal and humbling experience.
The day was ended on a high note with a very informative track walk lead by and expert driver and a wonderful BBQ banquet style dinner inside the beautiful new on-site event center. This provided some time to relax and discuss the day’s events with the other drivers before the next day filled with more of the same. I also have to point out that the team from Trillium BMW, who work tirelessly to make this event a success, somehow managed to keep the whole thing completely organized and on schedule; so bravo to everyone involved and thank-you for the valued experience. As an enthusiast, if you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend setting aside a weekend to participate in one the ADS events. I came away from the ADS event not only having picked up some great skills, but with a greater appreciation for the amount of skill, knowledge and patience that anyone involved in motorsports must possess.
BMW Advanced Driving School (Trillium Club)