How Does One Win HPDE?
Published: June 27, 2013; updated: July 10, 2014
HPDE is almost universally a non-competitive event. Since there is no official competition, some would say that there is nothing to win. When people, especially officials, talk about a successful HPDE event, often they mean the driver finishes the event with the car in the same condition it was at the beginning of the event - some would say just that at the morning drivers meeting - giving rise to the phrase "HPDE cannot be won, but can be lost".
While keeping the car in one piece is a valid goal, and a very important one, it is hardly the only reason we attend HPDE events. After all, if we were only concerned with keeping the car in one piece, we could have left it in the garage and stayed home - this way there would have been no possibility of damaging the car at all!
The DE part of HPDE stands for driver education. The idea of HPDE events is that while attending an event you are learning. What you learn depends on what you already know, what kind of car you have, and what your interests are. Some people want to compete, some don't. Some want to compete against the clock, some door to door with other cars. Some want to take it easy, some want to push hard. What unites most HPDE participants is that at the end of each event they know something they didn't before, or have done something they had not done before. Sometimes these things are major skills or entirely new perspectives on driving, sometimes they are small improvements to what one does on track.
Never ending learning and discovery is why I find HPDE events fun. I am continuing to find new ways to drive corners I have hundreds of laps on, cars I have had for years, and this is not even getting into driving new cars or putting different parts on old cars, thus changing how the cars handle.
How does one maintain the learning attitude from one event to the next? Start by evaluating yourself at every event you attend. Every solo driver should be able to identify and analyze their mistakes; similar process can be applied to find opportunities for improvement. Then, transform these improvement opportunities into actionable goals. Finally, record both your findings and your goals at each event to track your progress.
If you can't think of anything to work on, ask someone who is better than you in some respect why they are so. This could be someone who laps a particular track quicker, is smoother, brakes later, corners faster, has attended more track days or has been driving for longer. You never know where new insights might come from - go out with someone in a better or less prepared car, or driving a different platform.
If you don't know anyone, ask the Chief Instructor at the event for an instructor to ride shotgun with you for a single session.
Get into other cars as a passenger - you can see what the driver is doing that you don't (or vice versa!) and you should be able to generate some ideas on your own as to what you can work on. Get into instructor cars and non-instructor cars if that is allowed. Get into cars with drivers of your level - they might do something better than you and something worse, and you will probably make a new friend.