MoHud’s first Street Survival write-up

by Will Schambach, originally appearing in the October 2011 Knock Off

“The Tire Rack Street Survival program hosted on September 17th as a joint venture between MoHud SCCA and Patroon BMWCCA was a resounding success. The event was held at the Fortitech warehouse facility just off the grounds of the Schenectady County Airport in Glenville.

When planning started for our TRSS program around 90 days ago, I was encouraged that there was tremendous support from both the MoHud and Patroon communities and that we had so many capable volunteers who ended up making the event the success that it was.

The initial focus for the program was to cap the program at twenty students, and we would have one instructor per student. When the event registration was finally accessible to students we had no doubt we would be able to fill our program number for students. Word spread to the MoHud and Patroon communities and we drew a number of students from those clubs. The rest of the registrants were friends of club members or friends of other registrants. No other outreach was made and we were able to fill our twenty-student objective a couple of weeks before the event. We even ended up with four students on the event’s waiting list.

Outreach to instructors was of more concern for the event. Obviously we wanted the highest quality instructors from the two clubs and also wanted to fulfill our one student per instructor objective. Thanks to the efforts of DJ McArdle and our TRSS Chief Instructor Kevin Belden, our event was set up for instructors on Email blasts were sent to all individuals who had instructed for Patroon and/or MoHud events in the past. Response for instructors was somewhat slow but we did sign up roughly half those needed early on. Our one-to-one number looked to be difficult to attain.

A few weeks prior to our event we were still shy of meeting instructor numbers. I decided to reach out to some newer autocrossers who hadn’t any previous instructing experience. All were individuals I have driven with on-course, or I’ve instructed at autocross schools. I was confident they would fulfill their roles in our program. The response I received was very positive. These individuals were thrilled at being asked. I was very pleased with how seriously they took the task. They all asked for instruction materials prior to the event and made sure they understood what needed to be done on event day. I think being asked to participate in such an important event has provided some validation for these newer region members that they are an important part of our organization.

We ended up having a few more instructors than registered students and the decision was made among the event Chiefs that we would open registration up for a few more students. With last minute cancellations of some instructors and students we were able to accept all of our wait-listed students. With those added we ended with 22 students and one instructor to every student. This allowed Chief Instructor Kevin Belden to move from an active instructing role to support for our instructors during the day and talk individually with each and every parent present about the program and the progress of their child.

Since this was our Region’s first TRSS program, it is program policy to have TRSS National Director Bill Wade provide instruction for the classroom portion. Our future classroom chief Brian Bailey was present all day to follow Bill Wade to learn the ropes of the classroom instruction program. I’m sure Brian learned a great deal in the nearly eight hours of classroom presentation done twice to provide all students in the split-session format that was run.

The hands-on portion of the program started with a panic stop “wake-up” exercise. After which the group was split in two, half making their way to the course and the other half to the classroom. We were lucky enough to have services from the Air National Guard who provided a 4000 gallon pumper truck and at least four guardsmen to flood our skidpad course with water. In combination with a freshly sealed surface, the water made sufficiently slick conditions for students to experience and learn control with under- and over-steer conditions, and, of course, was lots of fun to watch! If the cars wouldn’t provide oversteer on their own, our instructors were sure to adjust the physics of the chassis by pulling the e-brake handle.

From the skidpad, the students could head to the full course which was a slalom linked by chicanes into a tight turn linked to a lane change linked to a stop box. Early in the day, most instructors stopped students after each individual element to provide feedback. Later on in the day as their skills progressed, students were encouraged to link exercises together at increasing speeds with mandatory stops only after the lane change and stop boxes.

For increasing their interest and challenge, later in the day, students linked the skidpad into the full course. Additionally, the slalom was changed to provide offsets, differing space between gates, and even helpers throwing cones out as avoidance drills. A bent stop box was set up at the end of the course providing a turn-and-brake maneuver. I didn’t get a chance to watch every element in detail all day but I can tell you from the really tentative “panic braking” done early in the day to the really hard (but controlled) screeching brake-and-turns happening later in the day by EVERY STUDENT, these kids learned a enormous amount about what their car can do in emergency situations.

At the end of the day all students were provided a program completion certificate. More importantly, they were provided the tools needed to become much safer drivers on the road. Our event objective was completely fulfilled and the feedback we got from both parents and students was unilaterally positive. As a bonus, everyone had a great time even those students who were not eager participants at the start of the day.

As a past instructor for one of these TRSS programs, I believe our instructors were more fulfilled from the experience than they may have thought they would be. After reflecting on my instructing experience, I really felt we made a huge difference in the student’s life behind the wheel. I have no doubt that many lives are saved because this program or ones like it provide these students with great new driving skills. Scott Goodyear put it well: “Usually the first time a young driver has their car skid or slide underneath them, they’re on their way to their first accident.”

I owe a large debt of gratitude to our TRSS Chiefs. They really did make my positon as event chair easy. They are: Lora Kanetzky, Ron Bass, Brian Bailey, Bert Huiest, Kevin Belden, and DJ McArdle. Thanks also to Russ Burkhard for being the liaison to Fortitech and to the trucking company which provided a semi-truck for a mirror demo. In particular, thanks to DJ McArdle and Kevin Belden who were on the receiving end of countless emails from me and as event day got closer, the number of those emails grew exponentially. Eric Smith and Jeff Kanetzky also provided immense help and gave their time to the program and are huge assets to the Region.

Thanks to Fortitech for allowing us the use of the site, SODEXO for providing lunch for everyone on site, and the Air National Guard for the pumper truck and personnel.

Thanks to the following people for instructing. You did the “heavy lifting” for this program and made it what it was: Ron Bass, Kevin Belden, Bill Bennett, Michael Breault, Jim Bucci, Russ Burkhard, Ron Carl, Matt Collings, Kevin Gebert, Tom Hansen, Rob Harrington, Jeff Kanetzky, Doug Kelley, Bruce Kosakoski, Keith Lauria, Phil LePore, Chazz Logue, Tom Moeller, Lyndon Peck, Phil Redington, Moises Samaniego, Eric Smith, and Jon Staude.”

from Russ Burckhard’s RE report originally appearing in the October 2011 Knock Off:

“The Tire Rack Street Survival program was held last month. Will Schambach had put together a great group of people to pull the event off. The Joint efforts of Mohud and the Patroon BMW club made for an event that Bill Wade, the National Program Manager for Street Survival, had nothing but praise for. He said it was the best first event that a region had put on. That is something all that helped out with should be proud of. The students started the day off not knowing what to expect. They got more than they bargained for. Every one of them left with a big smile after they drove their parents around the course to show them what they had learned. The parents had smiles that were just as big. You could see how proud they were to see their kids use their newly acquired skills knowing that those skills may someday save their kids lives. I have heard nothing but positive feedback from everyone in attendance. Students, parents, relatives, instructors, volunteers, and spectators were all happy with the way the event was held. I am asking that we do at least 2 of these events next year. Who is with me on this?”