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Old 07-12-2008, 11:24 AM
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hey everyone, i wanted to know the best way of getting into road racing or autox. drag racing is all fun but it gets kinda boring going in a straight line all the time. i like the appeal of road racing and have a pretty good knoledge of everything that goes into it. where should i start? racing schools? thanks
-Mark

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Old 07-12-2008, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mark88Z
hey everyone, i wanted to know the best way of getting into road racing or autox. drag racing is all fun but it gets kinda boring going in a straight line all the time. i like the appeal of road racing and have a pretty good knoledge of everything that goes into it. where should i start? racing schools? thanks
-Mark
I'm of the opinion that you need to learn to walk (on-track protocol, comfortable with high-speed/in-traffic driving, real-world knowledge of the basics of on-track driving techniques, theories, and most importantly... safety) before you can run (wheel-to-wheel racing).

If you're main experience has been drag racing (is that sanctioned races at a drag strip? Or just stoplight racing?) and watching racing on TV, then I'd say you'll be very surprised once you get out there behind the wheel on track that you don't know jack.

Autocrossing is a good, cheap place to start AND get the competitive juices flowing. Most autocrossers make good road racers (once they undo some of the bad habits that are inevitably ingrained from jumping in with no instructiong... and some auto-cross specific techniques that don't translate well on track like abrupt, quick, and early inputs.)

If you know you want to go competitive wheel-to-wheel racing (do you have a race car? are you planning on buying one or converting your street car?) then SCCA or NASA are for you. If you think you'll be keeping a dual-purpose car for driving schools, lapping days, and maybe time trials... then I'd say look into some other clubs to start.
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Old 07-12-2008, 02:13 PM
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NASA has an excellent HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) program that will take you all the way from your first day on the track to competitive time trials and then to wheel to wheel racing. Additionally, I see that you are in Pueblo, CO; NASA Rocky mountain is an excellent region of NASA with some awesome people. Also, being in Pueblo, Pueblo MotorSports Park is NASA-RM's home track.

In fact, NASA RM is having an event this weekend at PMP, Saturday and Sunday, and some friends of mine are there (350Z drivers, as well as others)

If youa re really interested in this, and have some time this weekend, I recommend going to Pueblo motorSports Park, finding the group of 350Z drivers (there should be a couple there) and telling them Dave with the G35 sent you (Dave being me).

If you can't find the 350Z guys, find the groups of Porsche 944 drivers, and find Chuck Taylor, the HPDE 3 leader, and tell them I sent you, and they will get you with the right people. HPDE 1 is where you will start, and it might be full this weekend, but at least you can meet some of the folks and start plkanning for your first track event.

Another route to go is to private message dkmura (Senior Editor of Nissan Sport, and accreditied instructor as well as fast racer) and ask him if he is going to do another instructional day at PMP this year. dkmura (also a Dave) is a great instructor and will teach you well.

Either way is a great way to start, although since NASA-RM is at PMP this weekend, and you are in Pueblo, I recommend going there. Joel or Gary, both with Z's will help you out, especially with Joel being an instructor.

Good luck, and if you do head to PMP this weekend, tell them I said hi!

Dave
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Old 07-12-2008, 02:14 PM
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Oh, and Stacy is right, depsite thinking that you know all about road racing, you don't know jack! I don't mean that in a bad way, but road racing is a beast in and of itself. I certainly make no claims to being good or knowing abything about drag racing, but I can guess that road racing is drastically different.
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Old 07-12-2008, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave 90TT
NASA has an excellent HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) program that will take you all the way from your first day on the track to competitive time trials and then to wheel to wheel racing. Additionally, I see that you are in Pueblo, CO; NASA Rocky mountain is an excellent region of NASA with some awesome people. Also, being in Pueblo, Pueblo MotorSports Park is NASA-RM's home track.

In fact, NASA RM is having an event this weekend at PMP, Saturday and Sunday, and some friends of mine are there (350Z drivers, as well as others)

If youa re really interested in this, and have some time this weekend, I recommend going to Pueblo motorSports Park, finding the group of 350Z drivers (there should be a couple there) and telling them Dave with the G35 sent you (Dave being me).

If you can't find the 350Z guys, find the groups of Porsche 944 drivers, and find Chuck Taylor, the HPDE 3 leader, and tell them I sent you, and they will get you with the right people. HPDE 1 is where you will start, and it might be full this weekend, but at least you can meet some of the folks and start plkanning for your first track event.

Another route to go is to private message dkmura (Senior Editor of Nissan Sport, and accreditied instructor as well as fast racer) and ask him if he is going to do another instructional day at PMP this year. dkmura (also a Dave) is a great instructor and will teach you well.

Either way is a great way to start, although since NASA-RM is at PMP this weekend, and you are in Pueblo, I recommend going there. Joel or Gary, both with Z's will help you out, especially with Joel being an instructor.

Good luck, and if you do head to PMP this weekend, tell them I said hi!

Dave
Cool i will try and head out there tomorow if work does not interfer. how did all you get started? im looking more into autox at this point i think its a better place to start. and this might be a way stupid question but what do you think of forza motorsport 2 in terms of being realistic i consider myself pretty dominant at that lol thanks for the advice guys
-Mark
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Old 07-12-2008, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mark88Z
Cool i will try and head out there tomorow if work does not interfer. how did all you get started? im looking more into autox at this point i think its a better place to start. and this might be a way stupid question but what do you think of forza motorsport 2 in terms of being realistic i consider myself pretty dominant at that lol thanks for the advice guys
-Mark
In my opinion, road course is more fun, but certainly try both.

FM2 is really good at teaching you situational awareness, like keeping track of what is what around your car, and also in learning a track (what turn is next, etc...) Other than that, it doesn't help your driving skills. Hopefully you aren't planning on going out there and thinking it's all a video game because it definitely is not.
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Old 07-12-2008, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by mark88Z
how did all you get started? im looking more into autox at this point i think its a better place to start.
I don't wheel-to-wheel except on the computer. I started doing DE events in 1999, have been doing 3-7 events a year ever since. I started time trialing this year after I finally got the means to install a roll bar (4-point, not a full cage) and harnesses. I tried autocross a few times, but my desire to compete paled in comparison in my desire for seat time and hatred of standing on hot asphalt for 6 hours waiting for my 3 minutes of "track" time.

and this might be a way stupid question but what do you think of forza motorsport 2 in terms of being realistic i consider myself pretty dominant at that lol thanks for the advice guys
-Mark
I'm a big fan of sim racing, and to be honest, I haven't played any of the Forza series (I'm a Playstation kinda guy)... I've stuck with PC sims like Rfactor and GTR2. I love the Grand Turismo series, and from what I've seen and played of GT5 it is uber-realistic... but I'm not convinced that exposure/excellence at sims BEFORE you try it for real is going to do you much good.

The main detriment against sims is the fact that it is VERY hard to "look ahead" while driving them. All you're doing usually is either driving from memory, or using reactive driving. Great for hand/eye coordination and reaction time... but still safe if you're not quite fast enough. When you get out there for real... not looking ahead will get you into some very real trouble that you can't "reset" out of.
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Old 07-12-2008, 08:19 PM
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Autocross: Search google for “SCCA Colorado.” Find and join a club.

HPDE: Ask your regional forum members who is offering HPDE.

Road racing: You will figure this one out later.
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Old 07-12-2008, 10:48 PM
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Don't knock autocross -- some of the top racers nowadays started as "cone chasers."

I've been to both road racing and autocross schools, and autocross is definitely the more difficult of the two! In road racing, you can spin off course on the first lap and fall to the back of the pack, and still win. In autocross, you're losing time from the moment you start moving -- the goal is to be absolutely perfect (or as close as a human can be) for 60-70 seconds.
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Old 07-12-2008, 11:49 PM
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thanks for all the info guys i will definitly check out scca colorado and join!! any other advice?
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Old 07-13-2008, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by PDX_Racer
Don't knock autocross -- some of the top racers nowadays started as "cone chasers."

I've been to both road racing and autocross schools, and autocross is definitely the more difficult of the two! In road racing, you can spin off course on the first lap and fall to the back of the pack, and still win. In autocross, you're losing time from the moment you start moving -- the goal is to be absolutely perfect (or as close as a human can be) for 60-70 seconds.

not sure i would agree with the autocross being more difficult. I think the logical person would say they both have their degree of difficulty. When it comes to just plain lap times, you may have a point about having to be perfect for 60-70 seconds. But when race qualifying, you have to do the same, except most tracks are over a minute. On top of that, instead of top speed being about 60pmh, it can be closer to 130-140. In a race situation, lets not forget that in autox you are on the course all by your lonesome. Not another sole to worry about. In wheel to wheel you have to think about the other 25 cars around you that are trying to brake, turn in, apex, and track out on the same 8 foot wide piece of real estate at the same time you are.

don't get me wrong, i am definately not knocking autox, i've tried it and it is most definately not easy!!!! I just think they both have there pro's/con's.
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Old 07-13-2008, 08:58 AM
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1. Make contact with a top reputation and skill level local enthusiast who is familiar with your type of car. In this case, connecting with David Muramoto, Editor in Chief of Nissan Sport Magazine and an excellent driver in your type of car, and resident in Colorado...well it does not get better than that. Dave is a very nice gentleman as well, and I am sure would be happy to spend a few minutes with you on the telephone, and hook you up with references to local clubs, HPDE sponsors that run a safe and professional program etc. I have run with and co-instructed with David out at Cal Speedway for last years Nissan Performance Festival, and can say without hesitation that he is outstanding as a driver, teacher, and person.

2. Autocross is an excellent way to work on developing car control skills at comparatively slow speeds, to learn about "tire talk", understeer, oversteer, lateral load transfers, pitch, yaw, rotation, and countersteer.

3. Road course driving incorporates many of the skill sets from autocross, but then takes the whole experience to a different place. Much higher speeds, potentially dangerous consequences for errors in judgment or mechanical failure, etc. It also has a smaller following, for much of that same reason. It also costs more money to participate and prepare and run your car. While autocross can be fashioned from any large and decent condition asphalt pad of satisfactory size, and thus can be organized and run in countless locations, road racing can only be done on large and fixed purpose facilities which are limited in number and usually, though not always of course, located some distance from you, often 100 miles or more. (There are about 80 road racing facilities in the US, with high concentrations on the coasts and outside major metropolitan areas).

Someone noted that there is a lot of waiting around to get a few runs in autocross, and that is true. You cannot have two cars out there at the same time for obvious safety reasons. On a road circuit HPDE you will get 25 cars on the track at a single time. You typically get five run sessions in a day and each one is about 25 minutes. There are often four run groups, with cars and drivers matched for comparability of experience and lap times.

There are club racing programs that run their own HPDE and instruction, as part of the process for training and education that can then lead you to competition driving. So, if the gleam in your eye is to drive in competition, then it is advisable to hook up with one of those groups. SCCA and NASA are two of the best recognized national programs. They have very particular rules on safety equipment, modifications to cars for handicapping/classing purposes, etc.

Many drivers in those programs will appear in other sponsored HPDE programs, just to get experience and "seat time" to improve their skills and familiarity with tracks. But they won't be "racing" against other cars because the safety rules in most HPDE programs forbid it. Car to car or car to barrier contact in many HPDE programs results in banishment for a year or 13 months, if not life. That is not to say it is tolerated in club racing programs during HPDE either, but one of the facts of life in racing is that there are going to be paint swapping incidents.

HPDE programs do have safety and driving rules, most notably the mandatory point by for passing. They do not typically have restrictions on modifications or "classes", because there is not competition. So those persons that are enamored of tinkering and modifying have a pretty clean slate to work with to go fast and run on a track with HPDE. You get some amazingly fast cars in the advanced groups with HPDE, and some very skilled drivers.

Reputable HPDE sponsors offer instructions at several levels, as of course do the club racing organizations.

Once you have some experience driving on a road course in your car, and it does not have to be lots and lots, it is then a good time to invest in a race driving school, for some intensely concentrated instruction. You will have enough basic knowledge to really be able to get your money's worth from the school and take away everything that they are trying to convey. Many schools will customize instruction to your level of skill and experience, once you have the ability to demonstrate what you know, and are aware of the universe that you do not know.

Have fun, be safe.
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Eagle1
1. Make contact with a top reputation and skill level local enthusiast who is familiar with your type of car. In this case, connecting with David Muramoto, Editor in Chief of Nissan Sport Magazine and an excellent driver in your type of car, and resident in Colorado...well it does not get better than that. Dave is a very nice gentleman as well, and I am sure would be happy to spend a few minutes with you on the telephone, and hook you up with references to local clubs, HPDE sponsors that run a safe and professional program etc. I have run with and co-instructed with David out at Cal Speedway for last years Nissan Performance Festival, and can say without hesitation that he is outstanding as a driver, teacher, and person.

2. Autocross is an excellent way to work on developing car control skills at comparatively slow speeds, to learn about "tire talk", understeer, oversteer, lateral load transfers, pitch, yaw, rotation, and countersteer.

3. Road course driving incorporates many of the skill sets from autocross, but then takes the whole experience to a different place. Much higher speeds, potentially dangerous consequences for errors in judgment or mechanical failure, etc. It also has a smaller following, for much of that same reason. It also costs more money to participate and prepare and run your car. While autocross can be fashioned from any large and decent condition asphalt pad of satisfactory size, and thus can be organized and run in countless locations, road racing can only be done on large and fixed purpose facilities which are limited in number and usually, though not always of course, located some distance from you, often 100 miles or more. (There are about 80 road racing facilities in the US, with high concentrations on the coasts and outside major metropolitan areas).

Someone noted that there is a lot of waiting around to get a few runs in autocross, and that is true. You cannot have two cars out there at the same time for obvious safety reasons. On a road circuit HPDE you will get 25 cars on the track at a single time. You typically get five run sessions in a day and each one is about 25 minutes. There are often four run groups, with cars and drivers matched for comparability of experience and lap times.

There are club racing programs that run their own HPDE and instruction, as part of the process for training and education that can then lead you to competition driving. So, if the gleam in your eye is to drive in competition, then it is advisable to hook up with one of those groups. SCCA and NASA are two of the best recognized national programs. They have very particular rules on safety equipment, modifications to cars for handicapping/classing purposes, etc.

Many drivers in those programs will appear in other sponsored HPDE programs, just to get experience and "seat time" to improve their skills and familiarity with tracks. But they won't be "racing" against other cars because the safety rules in most HPDE programs forbid it. Car to car or car to barrier contact in many HPDE programs results in banishment for a year or 13 months, if not life. That is not to say it is tolerated in club racing programs during HPDE either, but one of the facts of life in racing is that there are going to be paint swapping incidents.

HPDE programs do have safety and driving rules, most notably the mandatory point by for passing. They do not typically have restrictions on modifications or "classes", because there is not competition. So those persons that are enamored of tinkering and modifying have a pretty clean slate to work with to go fast and run on a track with HPDE. You get some amazingly fast cars in the advanced groups with HPDE, and some very skilled drivers.

Reputable HPDE sponsors offer instructions at several levels, as of course do the club racing organizations.

Once you have some experience driving on a road course in your car, and it does not have to be lots and lots, it is then a good time to invest in a race driving school, for some intensely concentrated instruction. You will have enough basic knowledge to really be able to get your money's worth from the school and take away everything that they are trying to convey. Many schools will customize instruction to your level of skill and experience, once you have the ability to demonstrate what you know, and are aware of the universe that you do not know.

Have fun, be safe.

thanks for the info i will definitly look into it
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:33 PM
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David Muramoto is the same guy I mentioned earlier, screenname dkmura He is in Denver, and has done a number of track days for local 350Z/G35 folks.

Awesome instructor, and really good guy, as well.

Edit: And good friend, I might add, as well.
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Old 07-13-2008, 04:32 PM
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Start doing HPDEs.

I ran one of the world's largest simracing leagues for a long time (then got married and didn't have time for it). I simraced for about 4 years and it's amazing how much it's helped me with my track learning curve.

I'm actually thinking about starting back up just to stay sharp in between HPDEs.

I plan on getting to wheel to wheel as well, I'm going HPDEs (many a year) --> Time Trials --> Race School --> Race

or something like that. Seat time is what you should be focused on right now - that's track seat time, not parking lot. Nothing against Auto X (I did it for a few years in an E46 BMW), it's just that you pick up some bad habits in my opinion, similar habits that I picked up from some karting.

If you never learn bad habits you never have to shake them.
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Old 07-13-2008, 06:32 PM
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As I've said before, I've been to both autocross and road racing schools -- and the only "bad habits" that I've ever had to deal with was bad habits from _road racing_.

My road racing instructors kicked me to the advanced class after only two sessions in the intro class. The only "complaints" that I ever got from my instructors in the advanced class was that I didn't "look" fast until they really watched me.

Car control is far easier to learn at lower speeds, and the only difference between low speed and high speed is a matter of degree -- and you won't have to learn how important car control is as you're sliding towards a very expensive repair bill.

As I've said, I've done *both* at pretty high levels (and am regularly one of the top karters in this area as well). If you want another opinion, ask almost any of the top drivers in the Speed Touring Car or GT Championships. Or, ask Jason Saini -- 2-time SCCA National Solo champion, STCC rookie, and winner of the Miller Motorsports round of the Speed Touring Car championship.

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Old 07-13-2008, 08:41 PM
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Check out www.rmsolo.org for some Colorado autocrossing action. Our next event is July 26th and I strongly recommend giving it a shot (registration just opened actually...).

The Z is a fine autocrosser. This is my first year out there and I'm winning our region's stock street tire class so far. I just got won BSP in our Divisionals that happened over the last couple of days. Check out my post with videos here.
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Old 07-14-2008, 04:15 AM
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Originally Posted by PDX_Racer
As I've said before, I've been to both autocross and road racing schools -- and the only "bad habits" that I've ever had to deal with was bad habits from _road racing_.

My road racing instructors kicked me to the advanced class after only two sessions in the intro class. The only "complaints" that I ever got from my instructors in the advanced class was that I didn't "look" fast until they really watched me.

Car control is far easier to learn at lower speeds, and the only difference between low speed and high speed is a matter of degree -- and you won't have to learn how important car control is as you're sliding towards a very expensive repair bill.

As I've said, I've done *both* at pretty high levels (and am regularly one of the top karters in this area as well). If you want another opinion, ask almost any of the top drivers in the Speed Touring Car or GT Championships. Or, ask Jason Saini -- 2-time SCCA National Solo champion, STCC rookie, and winner of the Miller Motorsports round of the Speed Touring Car championship.
I think we can all agree (without this devolving into a AutoX vs Road Race debate) that there can be bad habits in both. And of course, not ALL autocrossers have bad habits they have to undo... at the same time, not all DE programs and DE instructors let you go to fend for yourself after you run a couple beginner group events (its something I fight against constantly.)

To the OP... try 'em both if you want, pick one if you want. It's your decision.

Whatever you decide, go into it with an open mind and an eye to gradually work your way up the performance ladder. Don't screw with the car (especially if you're autocrossing and have to meet certain class criteria) and start reading (search for 'books' in this forum... I recommend Ross Bentley's Speed Secrets line of books.)

Most importantly... HAVE FUN!!
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Old 07-14-2008, 06:28 AM
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I will add this little tidbit though...

I AutoX'd and did a little track time for about 2 years on my own. After I took a break I picked it back up in 99 (with Stack). The difference is I had an instructor this time around. I learned more in the first 2 sessions than I did on my own for 2 years. I also had to unlearn some bad habbits that I embedded on myself. Even now I have a few friends that act as coaches for me, as I can always improve or try new things.

I also second that doing a little reading helps as well.
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Old 07-14-2008, 12:29 PM
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I strongly support Stack and Marty's comment on reading. One of the best things you can do to keep your body with all of its orginal attachments, and the same for your car.

There are some very excellent books on "driving", including not only the Ross Bentley pieces, but Alan Johnson's book Driving in Competition, Henry Watts' Secrets of Solo Racing (he addresses both AutoX and Circuit driving), Carroll Smith's book Drive to Win, and of course Carl Lopez's book Going Faster. There are loads and loads of others, but I think those are an excellent start.

There is no book that I have seen that covers HPDE, start to finish, on what it is, how it works, locating reputable organizers of events, preparing your car, modding your car, etc. Perhaps this is in small part due to the fact that it has evolved into more of a current phenomenon. Watts' book was published in 1989...and "time trialing" is what he talks about, along with a lot of very good discussion of "driving" on a road course. But it is decidedly not HPDE.

There are also no books on driving specific road courses. Here and there you can find a very superficial summary about a course, either in a magazine or a website, but by and large it is nowhere near what one needs as a resource for approaching how to drive a race track.

The best approach to date is to hook up with a local group that really frequents a track with regularity, and get some instruction with a driver that knows it well and can teach you. This may someday change, but right now, you just cannot go out and pull down a book that really will discuss HPDE or specific road courses in detail.

Lots of stuff on "driving". But not course analysis or HPDE. Interesting gap.
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