SIM racing is fun, but real life at the track offers the ultimate reward for this ProFormance instructor.
The past couple of years have been fun for Colton Edwards. He’s spent a good amount of time at Pacific Raceways, honing his own racing skills and passing on the secrets of speed to his clients, who are eager to test their own limits behind the wheel. The life agrees with him.
Stimulation Through Simulation
Unlike some ProFormance instructors, Colton didn’t spend his toddler years taking apart lawn mower engines or his teens grinding valve seats. He wasn’t even a big racing fan until, a few years ago, he got into Formula 1 and then started exploring the Sim racing scene.
At-home simulators had come far since the racing games he’d played as a kid. At a local Sim racing center Colton discovered the ideas of throttle application, brake release and timing, and steering input. A monthly lap-time challenge got him hooked on pushing his personal envelope. “There’s no greater feeling than challenging yourself to do something a little different, carrying a little more speed where it might be scary, and pushing past your self-imposed limit to record a new personal best time.”
Moving to the Real World
Eventually he bought a BMW 328i to make the leap to real-life performance driving. A desire to get more out of the vehicle led to ProFormance. “Once I connected with Manfred [ProFormance instructor Manfred Duske] and had a ton of fun, I quickly plotted a course toward competitive racing.” The next step was the Two-day Accredited Competition Race Licensing course and ICSCC membership.
Colton is slowly building a Spec E46 car for racing, but a large part of his automotive life is instructing, which he loves. “Manfred asked me if I was interested in becoming an instructor. I’ve been having a blast since then.”
At ProFormance he sees a wide range of clients with different levels of skill and confidence. “There’s a huge reward in taking people who haven’t had much exposure to the sport and helping them become confident track drivers at the end of just one day.” Many of those first-time drivers sign up for more track driving, just as he did. “I get just as much fulfillment bringing others into the sport as I do on my own racing journey.
“It’s also a great way to see a lot of different cars. I’ve coached in everything from Porsche 911 GT3s to Chevy Tahoe.”
Pushing Cars and Clients to Their Limit
An essential element of the ProFormance One-Day High Performance Driving course, Colton says, is showing people what their vehicle is capable of. “They’ve never gotten to the limit of their tire grip, or seen what their brakes can handle. One of the best parts of being a ProFormance instructor is that, at the end of the day, we’re making safer drivers. If they get into trouble they’ve got a skill set they can employ.”
That skill set can only be acquired in the track environment. “Driving is a ‘learn by doing’ thing – you can explain a concept in the paddock, but they have to feel the car shifting around underneath them to put those things into practice.”
“One of the most frequent comments I get is, ‘I didn’t know my car could do that!’ They never expected that sort of weight transfer or momentum through a corner. Even folks who bring out their Subaru Legacy are just blown away by how capable these vehicles are.”
It’s not all family hatchbacks, though. “People come out with their $150,000 sports cars, and we have to catch their brain up to the capabilities of the vehicles. Those cars are so fast, they have such good brakes, that we have to close the gap between their driving ability and the car’s performance.”
Looking Back on Sim Racing
How does Colton feel about Sim racing now that he’s used to the roar and jitter of the track? “Overall, I think Sim racing gets a bad rap at times — it can inspire too much confidence too quickly in someone who isn’t experienced in sport driving in real life, and it can build bad habits that take time to unlearn when you go track driving for the first time.
“On the other hand, it’s an amazing way to learn a new circuit before you get there. It can strengthen hand-eye coordination and technique, and perhaps best of all, you can do it at home whenever you want. It’s undeniably bringing more people into our sport — I think there’s a straight line from initial interest in driving to Sim racing to real track days. I’m a prime example of that.”
When not coaching ProFormance clients, Colton is engaged in the slow process of getting his car in shape with an eye to snagging a local ICSCC championship. In time he hopes to move on to higher-level racing series like GT4 America. “The sky’s the limit!”
Colton Edwards feels many of these opportunities arose from his connection to ProFormance, and particularly to its founders Don Kitch, Jr. and Donna Porada-Kitch. “I owe a ton to Don and Donna for opening all the doors for me, and for continuing to encourage me. They’re fantastic to work for and with.” He also credits his driving guru Manfred for taking a novice Colton under his wing.
“Everybody at ProFormance is excited to be there. We all do it because we love the sport, and we enjoy sharing that passion through driving with new folks. In fact, a big part of the job is making sure that clients have a good time. If we do that and inspire confidence, they’ll come back drive with us some more.” He notes that some novices are “borderline terrified” at the start, but are confident drivers by the end of the course.
“I get a great amount of joy riding in the right seat and seeing that smile get bigger through the day.“