Evolution Performance Driving School - Talking 'Bout A Revolution
Evolution Performance Driving Teaches Us A Thing Or 20
From the September, 2010 issue of Chevy High Performance
By Henry De Los Santos
Photography by Henry De Los Santos, Sean Haggai
Over the past several months, we've pushed our C5 Z06 through its paces by entering a number of autocross events, and the one thing we've learned above everything else is that the more seat time you get the better you become.
For some-including us-it's a little intimidating to try something new. At first, it seemed like half the time we were concentrating more on trying to not look foolish than actually putting our efforts into wheeling through the course. We've managed to get over it, and now it's just a great atmosphere where you can get a lot of seat time and it's only as competitive as you make it (more so for some), but that's the beauty of it. Unless you're running a particular SCCA class, you have the option of hitting up a wide variety of events ranging from Optima's qualifiers for the Ultimate Street Car series to any number of Goodguys shows.
Prior to entering the course,...
Prior to entering the course, we pulled over to check the tire pressures of our Nitto NT05s. For the street we leave them at 40 psi but drop them to between 31 and 33 psi for the track.
One thing we learned is that the Z is an extremely capable corner carver with limits above the skill levels of the monkeys behind the wheel-us. Baby steps are what it's all about, and rather than upgrade anything on the chassis just yet, we decided to get some tips from the good folks from the Evolution Performance Driving School, commonly referred as Evo school.
You'll be happy to know that the Evo school is held all over the country, making it relatively easy to find a course in your area to sign up for. And because you're required to drive your own vehicle it makes it that much more affordable. You'll have to check the schedule for dates near you, but we've seen the price average at about $250 for the Phase 1 or 2 courses, and as low as $470 for complete Phase 1 and 2 package. Classes are offered for teens and a more advanced Phase 3 course is also available; we'll leave it to you to find the details on their website. We're going to focus on the course we attended: Phase 1.
This was just one of several...
This was just one of several groups in our Phase 1 session. With only 16 people in our group, there was plenty of time with the instructors and nobody ever felt rushed.
Deciphering the run sheet...
Deciphering the run sheet is pretty straightforward. Listed to the far left is your run group and next to it is the work order. We ran in group 2 and worked the cones when groups 4 and 5 were out on the course. Some of us are a little more advanced in running over cones, so we apologize for any extra running around the other students had to do.
Walking the course helped...
Walking the course helped everyone get a better feel for the course layout. This is something you'll get to do at every outing so be sure to listen to any tips, and more importantly, don't miss it or you'll be at a serious disadvantage.
The morning session consisted...
The morning session consisted of a series of solo runs to get everyone more comfortable behind the wheel. After each lap, various instructors assigned to you provide invaluable feedback on the run, explaining what you're doing right and how to improve upon the previous lap.
Our Phase 1 course was a day-long experience where we got a lot-and we mean a lot-of seat time, thanks in large part to the event's watertight planning. From the moment we arrived, our instructors and head honcho Mike "Junior" Johnson explained the details of the day and they followed it precisely. The day consisted of morning and afternoon sessions with a series of solo drives along with the instructors. If your driving skills are a little more advanced, then the Phase 1 makes for a great refresher. For newbies like us, this course was perfect as it features a combination of race-proven skills, concepts, and techniques to help improve the performance of everyone involved. If you listen well and take heed of their advice, by the end of the day you should see your time improve greatly.
Making our course a bit more interesting was the heavy rain the night before. Even in the morning we experienced a little bit of a drizzle and half expected the school to be called off for the day. It's a good thing we went, because these guys run rain or shine. In reality, the wet grounds only added to the instruction and we got a rare chance to experience a range of road conditions. By the afternoon session, the sun was out and everyone was flying.
In the end, we learned a lot and there was only one drawback: we didn't sign up for the following day's Phase 2 session. That's all right, because you better believe we're signing up the next time the Evo school comes to our neighborhood!
What We Did
Spent the day with national-caliber driving instructors
What We Learned
The key to being fast is driving smoother
Our first run was less than...
Our first run was less than stellar, but that's OK. Like any baseline, we knew where we stood and began to figure out where we could shave time off.
Running in the rain proved...
Running in the rain proved to be a little tricky at first. For us, the response time seemed slower but, if anything, it required us to be smoother both on the throttle and with steering inputs.
As the day went on, one of...
As the day went on, one of the most helpful tips we got was to look much farther ahead. While it was tough at first, it helped tremendously. The initial slalom off the line was a bit intimidating, especially since everything seemed to come up rather quickly. Once you start looking ahead, everything seems to slow down and you get a better feel for what's coming up. So rather than looking at each cone, we were instructed to look several cones down-big, big, difference.
This was one of our favorite...
This was one of our favorite aspects of the school. After the morning and afternoon sessions, the entire group stands in a circle, discussing what they've learned and how to apply the newfound knowledge.
Shown here is Junior discussing...
Shown here is Junior discussing driving techniques, including seating position. Sit close, look ahead, and don't let go of the wheel; this seems simple now, err, rather easier to comprehend. Again, these guys are multi-time national champions and have a serious passion for driving, so when they say something-listen up. Everyone's driving style varies, but these guys will give you the basics you need to make you a much better driver.
By the end of the day we dropped...
By the end of the day we dropped our time from 44.258 to 35.503 seconds. Yeah, it's safe to say lesson learned-and there is still room for added improvement! How do we know? That high-zoot GT3 in the lead image ran a high 33, and one of our instructors pulled a 34.124 in our Z without breaking a sweat.