High Performance Drivers Education (HPDE)

Have you ever wanted to drive your car beyond the legal limits? Have you ever dreamed of driving your car on a *real* race track? Did you realize that you can do both in a safe, controlled and affordable environment? NASA makes it easy for anyone wanting to make this dream become a reality. No cops, no oncoming traffic, no pedestrians (or animals) and no tickets! The best part is you don’t even need a “race car”, you can do it in your own (street) car. Our HPDE program regularly sees vehicles ranging from a basic commuter cars to some of the most exotic cars on the planet and of course everything in between.

Beginner students are hand matched with our certified professional instructors who provide 1×1 attention to each and every student. Maximum attention towards safety is the focus of the HPDE program. However, there are no speed limits or car modification limitations in any of the groups. Speed is only limited by the personal comfort level of the student.


  • At least 18 years of age (16 w/parental consent)
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • NASA Membership
  • ANY car deemed to be in a safe operating condition.
    NOTE: Convertibles require factory rollover protection or adequate aftermarket rollover protection.
  • A “Snell” rated helmet with an “M” or “SA” rating
  • Close toed shoes (i.e. no sandals)
  • Good attitude and willingness to learn and have FUN!

HPDE participants are separated according to their experience level into four basic groups:

HPDE1 (Beginner)

This is where everyone starts. Personal 1×1 guidance is provided as part of the program from experienced racers. As your car control skills and confidence increases thoughout the day the instructor will allow you to drive closer to your personal limits. Basics of the class will address general track safety, the proper “line”, braking, turning, accelerating and having FUN! Passing is very limited in this group.

HPDE2 (Novice)

Your HPDE1 instructor has determined you have progressed enough that you can drive safely on track with less supervision. You apply what you learned in the HPDE1 sessions to get more practice. Instructors will continue to be available if requested.  Sometimes this group is combined with HPDE1 if participants do not warrant a separate group.

HPDE3 (Intermediate)

You have progressed past HPDE2.  In this group, passing rules are more relaxed but still restricted in some areas of the track.

HPDE4 (Advanced)

Congratulations! You have graduated to the world of high performance driving and have learned to share the track at high speeds with others. There are no passing restrictions as long as good judgment and proper track etiquette is utilized. You and your peers now have a safe, controlled environment to simply have fun with your car.  These drivers may also request to move into the “Time Trial” group and/or apply for a competition license (i.e. Race Group) if they are looking for even more competition.


What class will I be in?

There are no “classes” in the HPDE program. Any car that will pass the HPDE tech inspection may participate. HPDE vehicles are only separated by the *drivers* experience level. The purpose of the HPDE program is simply to provide car enthusiasts an opportunity to have a great time with their car in a (relatively) safe and controlled environment.

Do a need a bunch of modifications to go fast and have fun?

Absolutely not! The HPDE program will be fun no matter what car you bring. You’ll also find that cars have far more performance than an inexperienced driver is able to extract of out it. No matter what car you bring or what modifications it has (or does not have), by the end of the program, you’ll be *driving* much faster than inexperienced drivers in higher performing vehicles.

Do women do this too?

You would be surprised at the number of woman at the track, in the HPDE program and even racing wheel to wheel with the guys. This is not strictly a “mans” sport. HPDE1 typically sees a handful of woman every event and the numbers keep growing. By the way ladies, the instructor feedback is fairly consistent that women make better students than men! So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and start out-driving your man tomorrow. 😉

Do parents actually let their kids do this? Are they crazy?

We were all teenagers at some point so we should all understand the urge that most teenagers have to drive fast to see what it’s like. Over the years we have found that many parents put their teenage or young adult through the program to teach them to be safe drivers and let them “get it out of their system”. The result is actually a safer driver with less urges to drive fast on the street. A win/win situation for ALL!
NOTE TO PARENTS: You’ll bag some major brownie points with your kid if you let them run with us. Score you!

I want to impress my friends and family, can I take them as a passenger?

With the strong focus on safety and driving within personal limits, we limit passengers. No passengers are allowed at all in HPDE1 (just the instructor). Passengers are only allowed with group leader authorization in HPDE2. Passengers are approved in HPDE3 but it’s always good to check with your group leader first.
Note: Additional information about passengers can be found in section 4.6 of the Club Codes and Regulations.

What happens if I crash or someone crashes into me?

Body damage in HPDE groups rarely occurs, however you are encouraged to check with your insurance company regarding coverage as anything is possible.  Some insurance companies cover damages to cars participating in the HPDE program.  There are also specialized insurance policies such as Lockton Affinity (locktonaffinity.com) designed to specifically cover vehicles participating in HPDE events.

January 31st Event Wraps Up

On Track

The January 31st event was the first of two single-day points events in 2009. As usual, single-day events have their share of fans, and a few skeptics. That aside, given the fast track conditions of the January 10-11 weekend, which resulted in many new track records, I think it would be safe to say that everyone was anxious to get back on the track to settle their unfinished business. By 5pm on Saturday, people were packing up and beginning to talk about the events that transpired earlier that day. Let’s take a look at that, as well as new developments within NASA-Arizona.


NASA Arizona is proud to announce Dan Zollo as the new Sponsorship and Marketing Director! With our previous director moving onto new adventures, Dan was ready and willing to take up the task for NASA Arizona. Dan as spent the last six years of his life participating at NASA events in the Time Trial program on the weekends, while his weekdays consist of logging hours as a Marketing executive for a large Scottsdale resort. Dan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Arizona State University. Next time you see Dan driving his white Acura Integra, dubbed “The Turtle” give him a congrats on his new role within NASA Arizona!


Who said that two-day events were favored over single-day events? HPDE groups 1 through 3 were full of drivers, including a record number of first-time entrants in the HPDE 1 school. HPDE3 experienced a blown motor dumping oil down the main straight which caused a bunch of excitement for the drivers behind but no contact with each other or the walls. Whew! The rest of the day remained clean and free from incidents, which is always a good thing! HPDE leaders Mervin Tan and Jeff Sturla led the way in their respective groups, while Dave Riddle (classroom) and John Dowling focused their efforts on the HPDE 1 school.

In addition to the on-track activities, the effects of Mervin and Jeff’s driver training activities in HPDE showed once again as three drivers moved from HPDE 3 and into the Time Trial program. Brett Lengel moved into TTD with his 300ZX, Simon Pavlick joined the TTE class in his Acura Integra, and Phil Robles took the highly anticipated leap from HPDE 3 into TTB, driving his Honda Civic. All three drivers had a clean day and qualified for their National Time Trial licenses as well. Congratulations to all three drivers for making the jump into Time Trial!

Time Trial

32 drivers filled the Time Trial groups on Saturday. Jeremy Renshaw’s track records in TTE and TTD, which were long thought to be unbeatable, were in serious jeopardy when Eric Jacobsen rolled into the track on Friday night with this new TTE Ford Taurus SHO, and Brady Dohrmann parked next to him in the garage with an all-new BMW M3. By the third lap of the second session, both records were re-written, as Eric managed to pull off a 1:12.9 and Brady punched out a 1:12.0, almost at the same time. Rather displeased with that turn of events, Jeremy answered the call with a 1:11.968 later in the day in his TTD 240SX, only to be answered back by Brady’s 1:11.927, which held as the current TTD record.

The big bore TT group also welcomed back Darrell Rayburn in a C6 Corvette after a stint in the race group and some general time off. Darrell as you may know is the current TTU record holder, sitting at a 1:03.2 – the fastest lap to ever be turned in the TT program since its beginning in 2004.

Race Group

Who said racers don’t come out for single-day events? 37 racers apparently do, including out-of-towner Mike Pinholster, who sat on the overall pole position in his ST1 Dodge Viper, marking Mike’s first time leading the pack to the green flag. Mike has been commuting between Las Cruces, New Mexico and PIR for several years now, so congratulate Mike next time you see him for his accomplishment and hard work. The race, which consisted of split starts between the Performance Touring group and the 944 Spec drivers, took place late in the afternoon and was green from start to finish without incident. The winners were as follows: SU – Steve Lopez, ST1 – Mike Pinholster (Overall winner), ST2 – Brad Larsen, PTA – John Dowling, PTB – Phil Eglin, PTC – Rick Johnson, PTD – Jeremy Renshaw, 944 Spec – Rich Geisler. Congratulations to all finishers and race winners for a clean, safe event this past weekend.


The next event will be a 3-day weekend including the popular BMWCCA guest race groups. Friday will be a test and tune, with points races and time trial on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, HPDE will have a full schedule throughout the weekend, with the addition of the UMS Time Attack points event #3.

Thank you for reading this month’s edition of the NASA Arizona Newsletter!

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