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My First Year of DE

New convert Brian Miller reflects on his first year on the track…

I BLAME IT ALL on Renate Weidner! Renate will dispute this, claiming she never tried to influence me (true) and, after all, I was the one who purchased the 2008 Porsche Design Edition 2 Boxster S (also true). Never mind that we went to Germany in the fall of 2017 to meet Renate’s family and drove all over the country on the autobahn network really, really fast. That was an eye-opener for a guy who up until then got his kicks in a sailboat going 15 to 20 kph max.

Brian Miller (Photo by Renate Weidner)

I first met Renate in the fall of 2014 and when I visited her, I noted she had two Porsches in her driveway, a red 944S and a weird green (Peridot) Cayman R. Renate explained that she spent time up at Mosport and many other places “tracking” her car. I was naturally curious about this and so she explained to me the ins and outs of Drivers Education (DE) and what was involved in it. Although I am a full convert now, I was quite disparaging about this track thing. Really? You drive around and around a bunch of tracks trying to go really fast (knowing what I know now, I cringe just repeating this!) – isn’t that really boring? Who on earth would get their kicks out of that?

I sail to relax and get away from all the stresses of work and life. I didn’t see DE as relaxing (it isn’t by the way!) and so I didn’t see this as something that I would enjoy and would help me to set aside all the stresses of life. For the first couple of years of our relationship, I continued to dismiss DE as something different and boring. I went to Mosport a few times and even up to Mont Tremblant (a great excuse to wind out my new motorcycle) to watch Renate do her thing. It was fun to watch but it still didn’t change my mind.

This started to change after participating in my first driven2Smile (D2S) event. Once I got over having the you-know-what scared out of me on the first lap in Renate’s car, I started to think this could be fun. I don’t think I admitted this to Renate at the time, but then there was my second D2S event and I knew what to expect – wow!

Once I got over having the you-know-what scared out of me on the first lap in Renate’s car, I started to think this could be fun.

Fast forward to September 2017, and our Germany trip. In all honesty, I remained a passenger for the first few days on the Autobahn – I didn’t think I would be ready to drive fast. Renate encouraged me to get behind the wheel and that was that. Holy smokes – this was more fun than humans should be allowed to have! Driving a powerful car as fast as you want (legally) on the highway – fantastic!

One thing led to another, and we started talking about me looking for a good used Porsche once we got back to Canada and so I focused on a Boxster (which I had always wanted). I was already set to pick up my new Volvo as soon as we returned home and so the idea of getting another car was tough to consider. You only live once and before you know it I was picking up my new (to me) Boxster S from Pfaff Porsche at the end of November.

Photo by Renate Weidner

I have a Porsche with new tires. I have purchased a helmet and a fire extinguisher and I am ready to go. So what do I do? I promptly put the car away for the next 5 months after only having it on the road for a month. That was a really difficult period of time knowing I have this awesome car that I will not be able to use for some time!

Patience, though. In January 2018 once registration went live, I signed up for the high performance driving school at the driver development track at Mosport for the end of April. I also signed up for the May, June and September DE events at Mosport as well as the July event at Mont Tremblant and the August event at Watkins Glen.

Photo by Renate Weidner

I drive up to Mosport at the end of April 2018 and am somewhat apprehensive both at the prospect of the course and because I am playing hooky! You see, I’m a CPA and a tax specialist and I’m planning on spending time in a car on a track instead of being up to my eyeballs in tax returns.

I thoroughly enjoyed the braking exercises and the skid pad part of the day. The part on the driver development track had a very rough start though. My first instructor wouldn’t let me touch my steering wheel for almost the whole time on the track and so I was quite frustrated. To make matters worse, once finished the first session, the track marshal put me at the back of the line up because I was so slow. I complained to him it was not my fault and that I wanted a new instructor for the next session – to which he agreed. The next two sessions with a new instructor for each session were great – they were both awesome and I learned great things from both. 

The very next weekend was my first DE event and, amazingly, I was not too nervous (very surprising for me!). I was concentrating on the things I had learned the previous weekend and Renate was a huge help both with her encouragement and knowledge of driving and the particulars of the track. My first session on the track was not glorious – I mean I got passed by a Macan (no offense to that driver of course), but it was disheartening. I should admit here that I was also passed by pretty much everyone else on the track! But every succeeding session over that first weekend of DE, I got a little better. I went from Saturday morning getting passed by pretty much everyone, to Sunday afternoon getting passed by far fewer cars and I even passed a few cars. What made the difference – the most awesome instructor ever! He was just a young guy and incredibly knowledgeable and very relatable. We clicked right away and the stuff I learned that weekend helped to form the foundation for my DE adventures that summer.

GT3s and GT3 RS during DE weekend May 5, 2019 at Mosport (Photo by Adrian Chan)

After that first DE weekend, I really did understand why Renate was so passionate about her driving. Although, I had a massive headache at the end of each day from concentrating so hard on every session and from taking in all the newness of everything, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I realized that when you are in the moment on the track, concentrating on being smooth with all your inputs and trying to improve on every lap, everything else in your life disappears. Not relaxing like sailing, but the end result is the same – you’re in the moment and everything else fades away.

I learned a lot but I must admit that he totally corrupted me by taking me out in his GT4 prior to promoting me to Yellow on the Sunday – now I want one!

The next DE event, also at Mosport, in June was just as fantastic. An amazing instructor, different from my first instructor, but just as awesome. I learned a lot but I must admit that he totally corrupted me by taking me out in his GT4 prior to promoting me to Yellow on the Sunday – now I want one! The next two DE events at Tremblant and Watkins Glen were amazing – again having wonderful instructors made all the difference. I was really looking forward to my final DE event in September at Mosport, but last minute mechanical issues meant I was unable to attend.

The biggest thing I learned in my first season of DE was the importance of good instructors. The first session on the driver development track back in April was very disheartening. I certainly wasn’t ready to give up, but was very concerned about how I was going to learn to drive my car well with that kind of instruction. The next two instructors that day quickly dispelled my concern. I was very fortunate as my instructors over the course of the season were all awesome. They were all different and I learned great things from each of them. As a newbie to the track, I realize good instruction is one of the fundamental cornerstones to DE. Thank you all so much for what you do for our sport!

So, back to the beginning – my claim that this is all Renate’s fault! Well, not really unless you count the encouragement that started on the Autobahn in Germany and continued unabated throughout last summer at all of the DE events we attended together. I am now well and thoroughly addicted to DE and looking forward to the coming season.

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