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Full Circle - The Legacy of the Instructor.

Austin Cabot

By Brad Adams

I’ve been in the Midwest track scene for five years now. Four of those years were spent doing HPDEs with a couple LeMons races thrown in towards the end and a few autocrosses at the beginning. This past season was spent racing Honda Challenge here in the Great Lakes/Midwest region. As you gain experience, it seems as if you field more questions from peers. Some because they look up to you, others because you’ve done it; you’ve been through it, so they use you for guidance.

Let’s first start with my beginnings at the track. I had the hatch that I now race, but it wasn’t “done yet”. We had to replace the A/C unit at home, so my spare money was gone. I had already signed up for West Michigan Honda Meet and the money to get the hatch done wasn’t available. Unfortunately in 2009, Facebook wasn’t what it is now and Honda-Tech, for the most part, were dicks to give information. I didn’t know anyone personally who tracked their car, so I just “winged” it and put the suspension from the hatch onto my daily driven 1992 Civic EX sedan. I already had ’99-00 Si wheels on it, so I bought some Falken 615s. Somewhere I must have read that Hawk HP+ pads were good and to get DOT4 fluid. I don’t remember how or where, but somehow the tab for the front roll bar broke or something of the sort. I had to remove the front roll bar so it wouldn’t make noise. When I went to get my alignment down, my inner tie rods were shot. This was all within days of leaving for South Haven too. I had no clue about prep, so of course, I did pads right before I left! Finally, Avijit, Glen, and I were headed for WMHM with ZERO clue of what I was getting into. All I know is that I’m pissed that I’m not taking my “fast” car and I’m bringing my slow, stock daily driver!!

I didn’t know anyone personally who tracked their car, so I just “winged” it.

On Saturday, I get hooked up with my first instructor; Adam Penn. I don’t remember my first impressions of him at the drivers’ meeting; I just remember our first time on track. I had the worst habits from daily driving, putting the car into neutral entering a corner, always unsure about when to downshift, etc. I was a complete n00b on the first day and I really thought that Adam was a complete dick for most of day one. He yelled at me on multiple occasions, most of the time “What are you doing?!” That was the problem; I had no idea what I was doing. Once I finally checked my ego, I realized that he wasn’t being a dick, he was being honest. I don’t remember at what point, but he started staying in the car after the sessions to go over stuff. He’d ask questions, I’d ask questions, and it didn’t matter if it took five or twenty minutes, he stayed to help! Compared to the group, I did well, but I still had LOTS to think about going into Sunday.

Sunday was a whole different story. I was done doing bonehead things that I had picked up over the many years of street driving. Our chemistry as a pair is clicking and we are MOVING. We are rolling the group, I’m having the time of my life, and I can’t believe this slow car is this much fun. Towards the middle of the day, I’m catching this Integra Type R and I am pumped. The ego is coming back and it’s about to bite me in the nuts. We come out of T11 and I make this gesture like “get back here”. We go into T1 and I get way too much of the inside curb and it just chucks the rear end around. Even if I would have known what to do, I don’t think that I would have been saving that one. There was a sand/dirt cloud that covered the whole car and it won’t restart!

Now my mind starts racing, “what do I do”, “how will I get this home”, etc. It finally fires and we get back in the paddock. We go over the situation, I was fully aware that it was due to being a bonehead, and that I bit off more than I could chew. I didn’t know how I’d react, but once the helmet went back on for the next session, fast and fun as usual. He signs me off to go solo and he tells me that with his 170 pounds out of the passenger side that the car will handle differently. I thought that he was crazy, but, again, he was right. First lap out, I come out of T6 sideways, chasing the steering wheel, and then the same thing in T10. After the day was over, I thought he was the best person in the world, and I loved driving such a slow car because it taught me so much. Adam kept in touch and I thought it was amazing that he seemed to care that much.

Lets fast forward to 2011 and we are at WMHM again. This time, it is my first time being an instructor. Jason Morse had requested me and I was ready for the task. My mindset of how to handle being an instructor would be to mimic the way Adam instructed me. I think I was more concerned about Jason’s time on track than I was my own. I even remember one time down in T10 where I felt a spin coming. I could feel the rear getting loose and I knew the car would “go”, so I kept my mouth shut; we were safe. It was slow and lethargic, but it happened, he had his first off. I used it as an opportunity to ask “Did you feel that?!” (That’s what she said) I felt like I was getting the hang of this instructing thing and the best part was how much he’d improved. I was loving it, he was loving it, but we never went to McDonald’s. Much like Adam and I, my relationship with Jason lasted longer than just that weekend.

I thought he was the best person in the world, and I loved driving such a slow car because it taught me so much.

Now Jason instructs and he eats it up. I almost think that he’s crazy as much as he loves it, but it shows me how much one person or experience can affect someone else. The impact that Adam had on me or that I had on Jason will be carried over to one of Jason’s students. There is a cyclical effect in most things and it is no different here. Now that I have a race car; see log book, I field a lot of questions regarding the build, etc.

It shows me how much one person or experience can affect someone else.

One that stands out to me was when Navin Dhas asked me about my kill switch. Adam Jabaay had wired my grounds through the big terminals of the switch. His reasoning made sense, but to finish it at home with an almost absent knowledge of wiring drove me up the wall. I couldn’t find anything helpful online, etc, but I finally got it! Navin, one day, asks “Can you tell me how you wired your kill switch?” I think that my exact text was “FUCK YES!!!” I was so happy to give someone the information that I found so hard to find. Not that I have all the answers because I still ask questions, often at that. But, at one time, I had no answers, just questions. When I didn’t know anything, there were people there to help. Now that I know a few things, there are people that need help and I’m willing to give advice.

It’s crazy to look back five years and see what I’ve learned. Also, you have the ones who I looked up to who might not participate in the hobby any longer or have taken a step back and then you have the ones who came onto the scene like a ‘Wrecking Ball’-Miley Cyrus. Like life in general, this hobby has cyclical pattern to it. If you have a question, ask it because there is someone there who is willing to answer it. If you have an answer, share it because you probably had the same question when you were “coming up”. We are all here for the same reason; learn and have fun. We don’t have a lot of time here, so cherish the moments that you do have. Help one another, share some laughs, and remember if you’re not first, you’re last! 

Brad Adams is a father to two cute kids (with a third on the way!), wearer of shirts that you'd never be caught dead in, and a master in the art of selfies. In his downtime, Brad enjoys racing in the NASA Great Lakes region Honda Challenge in his 1994 Honda Civic aka the Brapmobile. If you want to follow Brad, you can find him at iamBrap on instagram and Twitter(which he doesn't really use) or on