Try Evo School!
by Jodie Boy
As the excitement from the autocross wears off, but before the exhaustion of a day collecting cones in the summer sun and midwest humidity sets in, I grab my notebook and reflect on the day’s driving. This was one of many tips we were given at this summer’s Evo School at Traders World out in Ohio. Back in my first year of driving, I had heard about the wonders of Evo School and how helpful and effective their lessons were in growing and improving as a driver. I have wanted to go ever since, and thanks to Driving Forward Together, I got my opportunity.
Flashback to Lincoln’s E Street grid in 2021, while I add my new magnets to the Miata, I am happy to be a part of this new group and help spread representation of women drivers in the sport. After the event, while posting my pictures to put my name in for DFT's expansive list of stellar contingency prizes, I was hoping with all I had that if I won anything, it was the certificate to Evo School. By the grace of Lady Luck, I was the fortunate winner and on my way to Evo School!
The preparation for the event didn’t exactly go as planned. Due to some life events, both the Miata and my FR-S were dead in the garage, engines pulled out and waiting to be rebuilt or entirely replaced. Fortunately, Nick Zelisko is a generous guy with a seemingly endless supply of Civics, so I was on my way, dragging my father, Bill Boy, along, in a bone stock ‘95 Honda Civic. We had fresh Continentals and Hawks on, and I couldn’t wait to flop around in a car with so much body roll that the last time I went through a slalom, I whacked my head into the frame.
I pulled into Traders World nervous and excited, (so excited, I forgot to put my parking brake on when I jumped out to greet my friend, KL Kam, only to realize my car was rolling away…) but everyone at the school was so friendly, that the nerves quickly melted away, and I was ready to learn. The day was broken up into two sessions, with one instructor in the morning and another in the afternoon, but all the instructors were watching during the day. I got a lot of input from everyone. In between sessions, there was also a lot of time for group discussion, so we could all come together and learn from everyone else’s experience. I picked up a lot just from listening to my fellow drivers.
Among my personal lessons were making sure, silly as it sounds, never to let go of the steering wheel and making use of every bit of speed I had accumulated. The Civic and Miata do not have power steering, which requires some aggressive inputs that result in some quick recoveries as the wheel unwinds to go straight again. I had been, unwittingly, letting go of the wheel to let the car just do its thing and right itself. Not only was this slower, the car is understandably less stable when you, uh, aren’t steering it. Go figure. This was a habit I had developed without even knowing it, but my instructor caught it in the first run. Additionally, being in another momentum car, I also learned how to be smooth but aggressive with my throttle inputs to take advantage of obtained speed, which I cannot wait to see transfer to the Miata. I am a timid driver, but being able to run the same course well over a dozen times, all while getting feedback and making adjustments, really allowed me to gain confidence in the car to push it and learn the limits.
There were also plenty of laughs with the lessons, such as when another friend, Mike White, described how he was overcoming “driving like a caveman” by “driving fancy”, which looked a lot like he was holding the steering wheel like a set of tea cups, or when an instructor asked how many people had driven a Chicago Box, and as hand after hand went up, followed up by asking how many people hated Chicago Boxes, and all the hands stayed up. However, with each laugh came a lesson…including one about Chicago Boxes. In learning about their history, they discussed the actual simplicity of the element when you took away all of the distractor cones. This led us into one of the biggest lessons of the weekend: looking ahead.
Now, trust me, I know this is something that we all hear early on, but I will do my best to explain just how mind blowing it was to learn how these instructors, all top drivers, took this simple idea to an extreme. I am not talking about looking ahead to the next element when you are exiting the present, I am talking about looking at the entrance of the next element while starting the present. Using your side windows while making a turn because the element you need to be focused on is over ninety degrees in the other direction. Looking at the exit of the upcoming element while you are just entering its braking zone. It was crazy, uncomfortable, and a bit scary! However, the mindblowing part was…it worked.
If you let yourself be uncomfortable and trust the process, it worked. It is hard to put into words how much the course opened up when you are looking that far ahead. Elements that, in the morning, seemed like a sea of cones (looking at you, Chicago Box and Tetris piece), became a simple input of the wheel. Gates that looked like they needed a big steering change, turned into straight lines. I gained seconds. The runs were clean. Don’t get me wrong, I clobbered a lot of cones that weekend, but anytime I did, it was because I got scared and stopped looking ahead as much as they taught me to. Anytime I kept my eyes up, well ahead of where I actually was, the Civic just slipped through the course with ease. I was shocked.
After Evo School, I have been to several events, and my hands stay put on the wheel, my foot meets the floor more than ever before, my eyes stay up, and my times keep improving.
Thank you DFT! I am so grateful to have had this experience and encourage anyone and everyone to give Evo School a try!