Instructor Pages: Instructing Intermediate Drivers

Published: July 29, 2014

Intermediate drivers probably have the most variance in skill - everything from fast drivers in slow cars to slow drivers in fast cars can be found in the intermediate groups.

Intermediate drivers also vary greatly in their need of instruction, eagerness to seek instruction and receptiveness of instruction when it is offered.

The shared characteristic of intermediate drivers is they are supposed to be safe to drive solo. As such, an instructor can pick anything they think they can improve in an intermediate driver and work on that. The challenge then is:

  1. Having experience, preferably significant, of driving at advanced level. This gives you things you can potentially teach.
  2. Identifying where the driver is lacking. You should be able to either recommend an intermediate driver for an advanced check ride or articulate what techniques or concepts they need to work on.
  3. Teaching advanced driving techniques to drivers who already have significant pace.

Teaching To Fish

When instructing a novice I often give commands without dwelling on reasons. Intermediate drivers on the other hand are expected to begin to understand why they do what they do. Intermediate drivers should be linking specific techniques like heel and toe downshifting to general concepts like smoothness. I usually try to take the time to explain the concepts to drivers who are willing to listen.

Intermediate drivers should begin to explore skills, techniques and their car's capabilities on their own. I normally allow them to deviate from what is taught in beginner classrooms, and in fact, encourage it. Off-line exercises are a great example of this. As long as the driver is making small changes they should be safe.

Encourage intermediate drivers to think for themselves.

On Track Communication

Unlike novice drivers who are given commands most of the time, intermediate drivers have enough knowledge of line theory and experience to be able to understand feedback. For example, an intermediate driver may be able to go from "you turned in too early" to "I need to turn later", recall their turn in point, figure out a later turn in point, and turn at the later point next lap. An upper intermediate driver ready for promotion to advanced run group should be able to do all of the above without assistance; lower intermediate driver may be able to do some but not all of the steps. When instructing intermediate drivers I try to figure out which steps the driver can do on their own and which ones they need help with.

Intermediate drivers also start to have enough available mental bandwidth that an instructor can provide a brief explanation of why something should be done a certain way. For example, "Time brake release with turn in - get off the brakes right before you turn the steering wheel. This keeps the weight on the front tires and will make the car turn better." This conversation can happen on the main straight in an intermediate run group.

Patience

A common pattern I see with intermediate drivers in high horsepower cars is "fast in, slow out" driving - they enter corners too fast and are unable to start accelerating until almost completely tracked out. These drivers need to learn to drive much later apexes and slow down for corners more. I find it helpful to have a lap timer in the car while this is happening - this way I can easily demonstrate to the driver that "slow in, fast out" is indeed faster than "fast in, slow out".

Data Acquisition

Data acquisition is useful. Many intermediate drivers will already be using smartphones for lap timing. I often use my AIM Solo in intermediate cars to make sure that my suggestions during the session are actually resulting in quicker section times, and sometimes I would go over data post session to both illustrate how data acquisition works and offer specific suggestions for future improvement.