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Way back in March, when I was busy gushing about my new car and extolling its virtues when taken out onto an autocross course, xtn threw down the gauntlet:

When he later mentioned that he'd be karting his Exige down to Texas World Speedway for their November event, I made a point to sign up. Sadly, he wasn't ultimately able to make it to the track last weekend but my girlfriend and I went anyway and it was beyond rewarding.

Tomorrow I will have had my new car for nine months. In that time I've had it out on the autocross course four times (I think) and I've been quite happy with how it performs. Despite being heavier than my previous car (an M Roadster) was, it's infinitely more communicative which means it's much more rewarding to drive in a "brake and steer" environment like an autocross. Still -- it's no MX-5 and I've been teasing Monica that we'd just have to do a track event eventually so we'd finally be in a venue where my car was designed to be competitive. She drives circles around me at autocrosses.

We spent all weekend at Texas World Speedway participating in a driver's education event put on by The Driver's Edge ( ). The event cost $295 and for that we had two full days (7am - 6pm) at the track with eight on-track heats of 25 minutes each. Works out to about three hours of track time. I put over 200 track miles on the car during the event. I don't think I could have handled any more track time than we got, and some people even skipped their last heat due to fatigue. I chose to just take it easy the last couple times I went out.

Since the event is technically a "driver's education" event, there was no competition and no lap timing. The upside of that is that your regular old auto insurance is in effect (check your policy to be sure). Novice drivers (like me) are not allowed to solo on the track, so there was always an instructor in the car with me to make sure I didn't do anything truly boneheaded.

I was expecting to really enjoy having my car out on a track -- and I did. It was beyond rewarding. The 911 is just pure bliss at track speeds. Unbelievably communicative and predictable and held up like a champ. The 911 is fun and I love driving it at any speed, but it's got many quirks and annoyances. That is, until you get it above 80 MPH. Then it is absolutely flawless -- exactly what a car should be.

What I wasn't expecting was the calibre of the instruction. I'd sort of figured that the "instructors" angle was just lip service in order to structure the event as an education event for all the insurance and liability implications. I figured I'd end up driving some guy around all my laps who was just there to get a discount on his entry fee and so that they could claim it was "educational." Boy, was I way off. It was pretty much the complete and total opposite of that.

The instructors for the event were all tremendously experienced and truly enthused about educating and sharing their love for high performance driving. Much care was taken to pair up instructors and students on the basis of experience and vehicle type. Monica's instructor was a semi-pro Spec Miata racer (chick!) and my instructor was there in a 911 GT3 and had several years of experience racing 911s. I can't even begin to describve how valuable it was to get advice and guidance which was specific to my car and the style it needs to be driven. When you're pushing a car towards the limits on a track the nuance and quirks of a car become even more important. The "proper" line in my 911 is not the same line my girlfriend had to take in her MX-5. We used little headsets in the car so that it was easy to communicate at speed.

Each time out on the track my instructor and I identified specific skills or challenges to focus on and I got copious feedback and guidance as I learned the fundamentals of track driving and car control. I can't say enough good things about the experience and what I learned. It was quite valuable.

At the end of the weekend we had a little wrap-up session to put everything in context and lay out some realistic goals for my next track event, which I'm already eagerly anticipating. I'm hooked. If you've ever toyed with the idea of taking your car out to the track, or even off to a local autocross, you should just do it. Really. There's no good reason not to.

And thanks again, xtn, for pushing me to finally get to a track. It was great.

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