Lead-Follow Instructing Procedures
This document is to be used a template, adapted by the individual organizations using Lead-Follow Instruction at their HPDE events. Use this as a starting point to develop a Procedures Guidelines resource for all instructors and event personnel. You will notice that every topic and sub-topic consists of a series of bullet points, with one blank one. That’s the trigger for you to add your own (as many as you’d like). Again, this document is meant as a starting point. Feel free to edit, change, add, delete. But most importantly, make it useable by instructors – simple and to the point.
OBJECTIVES (What are the key objectives for using Lead-Follow Instruction)
- Introduce the track to students in a safe manner
- Demonstrate the ideal cornering line to students
- Demonstrate the position and timing of various controls (i.e., when to brake, release the brakes, turn in and unwind the steering, accelerate)
- Control a student’s pace to ensure they learn the skills safely before attempting to drive too fast
INTERNAL COMMUNICATION PLAN (How will the program be communicated to instructors)
- The L-F program will be introduced to all instructors through online video conference a minimum of 5 days prior to a HPDE event
- All instructors will receive and must read and understand this Procedures document
- Instructors will be strongly encouraged to watch the MSF’s Lead-Follow Instructing Best Practices webinar
- Mandatory instructor meeting morning of HPDE event
INSTRUCTOR TRAINING & PREPARATION (How will instructors be trained to conduct L-F)
- Distribution of this document to all instructors
- Instructor must watch the MSF Lead-Follow Instructing Best Practices webinar recording
- Online Q&A session with senior/guest instructors
- Morning-of-event meeting to answer questions and review procedures
PROCEDURES (How will the L-F sessions operate)
Lead Instructor-to-Student/Car(s) Ratio:
- There should never be more than 3 following cars, and ideal is 1 or 2.
Staging: (How and where will the L-F groups be lined up and staged)
- Lead car/instructor meet with students/cars in paddock, review procedures, arrange to follow into pitlane
- Lead car with follow 1-3 car line up in pitlane, appropriately spaced
- Review/communicate procedures
Key Pre-Session Messages: (What must instructors tell students in paddock prior to session)
- Purpose of L-F session
- Description of staging and line-up
- Description of the distance between cars (typically 3 car lengths), with example (cars parked in paddock/pitlane this distance apart
- Inform student that their job is to stay in middle of instructor’s rear-view mirror
- Description of how rotations will occur on track, where it will happen, and after how many laps
- What students should do if they have a problem, not sure what to do, or have a question
- What students should do if and when they see flags
On-Track Communication (What will be communicated to students, and how)
If there is no reliable communication system (radio, phone), describe hand signals that will be used:
- Hand out window and tapping roof above driver door briefly signals, “Follow Me.” If repeated, this means, “Follow Closer.” If open hand held straight up, this means “Ease off” to provide a larger space between cars.
- Hand out the window and making a circular motion indicates to following student to move to one side of track on straightaway to allow next car to take its place; the student originally behind the Lead car/instructor should move in behind the last car in the line. This is the “initiate rotation” signal.
- Hand out, pointing down to spot/reference that the student/following car should target (i.e., apex)
- Arm out at 90 degrees up and fist clenched indicates exiting the track for the pitlane/paddock
Number of Laps per Student/Session:
- Two laps behind the Lead car, then rotate to the next car for 2 laps, then rotate again, every 2 laps
- When signaled by Lead instructor, the car immediately following will pull to the side on straight and allow the next car in line to move up; the car initially behind Lead will now move in behind and follow at the rear of the line
Emergency Procedure (What do if something goes wrong)
- If student has a problem, they should initially flash headlights to signal to Lead instructor
- Exit track, pull into pitlane, stop, and wait for Lead instructor
- If off-track excursion, use regular event procedures
Post-Track Session Debrief (What should be communicated and drawn out of the students)
- Address any questions
- Ask for challenges
- Provide specific feedback to each student based on observations
- Ask students what they learned
- Ask students why they drove the line they did
- Ask more than you tell the students – listen more than you talk. Facilitate learning.
- Clearly communicate procedure to students pre-session
- Set an example by driving the ideal line, and demonstrating when and where you use the controls (brakes, steering wheel, throttle)
- Observe and keep mental note of student(s)’ driving so you can provide feedback
- Control speed to ensure safety
- Keep the distance between cars appropriate. If student does not appear to be able to keep up, slow down; if you do this twice and the student still is too far behind, they likely don’t understand how close you want them, and a short discussion in pitlane is needed. If the student appears to be hanging back to get a fast run through a section of track, first, slow down to control this; if this continues, pit to discuss with student
- It is critical that you only brake where you would normally want the students to brake. If you brake early, or not at all, the student(s) will copy. Remember one of the objectives is to demonstrate when and where to do specific techniques, such as braking, brake release, turning and unwinding the steering wheel, and accelerating.
- Post-session debrief
- Build a trusting relationship with students
- There are 3 levels of pace when driving the Lead car:
There are no high-speed L-F sessions.
Notes for Instructors: Remember that “slow” can feel very fast to a new driver. When the student is able to drive on their own, they will drive at what they felt was the same speed – but will likely drive faster because your Lead pace felt fast.
Never forget the objectives: To demonstrate the ideal line and the timing and position of various use of controls (when to brake, end braking, turn into the corner, begin to accelerate, etc.). The objective is not to demonstrate your superior driving ability.
As the Lead instructor, you must drive the ideal line, while observing your student(s) in your mirrors. Drive at a pace that you can do both at a high level, even if that means you slowing down. It’s more important to demonstrate the right line and techniques, and to be a model for your students, than it is to drive quickly.
This task takes a high level of concentration. However, this should not be any higher than what you use when doing in-car instruction; just different. Because it’s different, it may take a little time for you to get comfortable with it. It’s a great skill to learn for yourself!
Notes to Chief Instructors/Organizers: Communication of the purpose and objectives for the Lead-Follow instruction is critical, and it needs to be understood throughout personnel (in-car instructors, classroom instructors, registrars, turn workers, etc.) and all students (whether they’re participating in Lead-Follow or not).
The tone of the communication is also critically important, as it contributes to the culture of the event. If the message is, “Lead-Follow is only something we because we can’t do what is the right thing to do,” you’re sending the wrong message. If it’s, “This is a valuable addition to our instructing methods,” you will be more successful.
The objectives and procedures for Lead-Follow instruction must be communicated early and often, and that includes in the classroom sessions.
The success of Lead-Follow instruction comes down to the ability of the instructors leading the way. Like any skill, Lead-Follow instruction takes time to develop. It also requires training. But, once again, it begins with communication of the objectives and procedures.