No matter what you happen to teach this one skill will valut you to the top of your field, and make your lessons stick with your students like glue.
At one of my first Ferrari Club track weekends two decades ago, I was driving my Ferrari at Sebring with an older English racing instructor at the wheel of my car. He piloted my vehicle around the course a couple of times to show me the best racing line before eventually switching positions with me. On the way down the front straight, I suddenly felt a strange bump which caused my head to jerk forward in the passenger’s seat. We went around the circuit for a second time, and again, I felt this weird bump in the middle of the front straight.
This time I turned to the instructor and yelled above the engine noise, “Peter, did you feel that?”
He said, “Yes, of course.”
“Do you know what it was?” I asked, bewildered. But instead of answering my question or offering advice, he asked me a question in his clipped British accent.
“Andrew, have you ever hit a brick wall at 120 miles an hour?”
I said that, thankfully, I had not. To which he replied. “Well, I have, and ever since, every time I go down the front straight, I tap the brakes, just once at the fastest part of the track to make sure they’re still working.”
It was a lesson I took to heart, especially since we were driving our cars to the limit, even if we were not strictly racing.
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Stories Stay with Students Far Longer Than Instructions
I have told the story many times over the years, which means I always remembered the lesson. It was a good job, too, because, on my next outing the following year, the brake fluid in my car got boiling after just a few hot laps. Something that happens quite quickly on some cars, and no one had bothered to mention it to me. Once the brake fluid boils it stops working. My breaks went entirely out on the first turn of my third flying lap, but since I knew they were going soft, having tested them with a tap down the front straight, I made it back to the pits using the gears and, ultimately, my hand broke.
Had Peter said, “Andrew, every time you go down the front straight, tap your breaks to make sure they still work.” The lesson would not have had the same, pardon the pun, IMPACT, as him asking me if I’d ever hit a brick wall at 120 MPH.
Great instructors are great storytellers.