But now let's get back to the weather. Across southern Ontario the forecast was dismal for the weekend. Mainly rain and temperatures feeling more like you needed snow tires rather than racing rubber. At about midnight Friday night I pulled into the newly renovated Driver Development Track at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park just north of Bowmanville, Ontario. Even in the rainy, black night I could tell that the DDT had experienced a massive upgrade. The 1.8 mile course has been expanded over previous years' layouts and had new paving everywhere. The former accommodations, somewhat rustic, had been replaced with a world class training centre that was awesome for classroom sessions, drivers' meetings, and simply gathering to do some bench racing and critiquing other drivers' lines around the track. This new centre is a smaller version of the facility that overlooks turn ten at the larger, historic Grand Prix track.
Registration began Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. Our drivers' meeting was at 8:30 a.m. There the 35 students met the organizers from OTA, about 25 instructors (to be an instructor with OTA not only do you need to have a solid performance driving resume but you must complete an Instructors' program), and over a dozen volunteers. Various safety items were discussed such as the location of the paramedics and the ambulance, the importance and meaning of flags, and the importance and meaning of the lives of the volunteers and instructors who were voluntarily working this weekend. A statement like this usually elicits some laughter, but the bottom line is that being an instructor can be a risky business. That is why OTA has invested so much time and effort in training our instructors to recognize driver overload, fatigue, and simple distraction. We all want to be able to drive home and return to work at the end of the school.
The program involves classroom instruction in the new and very comfortable Driver Development Centre, driving with your instructor on the track (typically you would have the same instructor all weekend for track sessions), skid pad exercises and an auto slalom course. Students are assigned their instructor based upon a driving and car abstract that is required to be submitted in advance. OTA's chief instructor reviews this data and, for example, if the student is driving a 400 whp 4 wheel drive car and has done lapping for five years they would likely be matched with an instructor who is used to that type of vehicle and has the expertise to assist the driver in their quest to find more speed and finesse in their lapping and possible time attack experience. Likewise, if they have a popular FR-S or BRZ that is a momentum and handling car, their instructors may be someone who usually tracks a rear wheel drive car like a Miata or an RX8. The chief instructor will even seek to match personalities, based upon the brief information supplied by the students and the knowledge of the instructors.