Budget Cuts

Photo by Glen Nuijens

“Budget”. A lot of us have probably been hearing that word a lot lately. Whether you are at work or listening to the news, you are most likely aware of current economic state (which is crappy).

If you are reading this, chances are you are a gearhead. You scour the forums, make phone calls to strangers from Craigslist ads, wrench endlessly through the night, and drive to work with a “check engine light” the next morning. Most of us are on budgets. So we really need to be sure that what we are buying is the best bang-for-the-buck.

Is it an intake? Exhaust? Springs? Blinker fluid? Well, it depends on what you are looking to do. But, I say, none of the above. The best value is in driver education. Getting behind the wheel is crucial. Not only will you experience a huge learning curve, but you will learn to use what your car is already capable of.

What’s great about drivers education is that you can immerse yourself financially as much as you want. If you want to spend $40 on an autocross on a Saturday, or $350 for a weekend of track time, you can. Either one is a great tool to sharpen your skills. Not only do you get to let loose and toss your car around that you put so much work into, but you also gain the opportunity to utilize the techniques you learn on track, on the road. And no, I don’t mean by doing 110 mph on the street; I mean braking in a straight line, turning in smoothly, and being observant and aware of all your surroundings.

After you do a few weekends, you get the itch to go faster, and shave more time off here and there. That’s when you start getting into tires, adjustments, and other modifications. But for the meantime, don’t worry about which $500 exhaust flows better, or which carbon fiber intake gets you the most power. That stuff will come eventually, and you will be more satisfied with it when you really know what you’re doing behind the wheel.

Some of you reading this have probably gone to an autocross or two, or maybe even a couple of track days. So spread the word, bring a buddy or co-worker next time. It’s a great way to spend the day. Be sure to look at RFD’s 2011 HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) schedule to get started!

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