Most track drivers can’t contain their enthusiasm for the sport. They convert their friends and enlist their spouses. Once that’s done they chuck their license-holding kids into the driver’s seat in 5-point racing harnesses as well.
A couple of father-and-son drivers make the point: John Houlihan and Perry Lee, ProFormance clients who are regularly accompanied by their sons on track days.
A little over a year ago John Houlihan took his law firm on the One-Day High Performance Driving Experience – a wonderful way to keep employees on track, as it were. He also took along his son Jack, a high-school senior. It worked better than he imagined: three weeks later John bought a Corvette and hasn’t looked back. And Jack has kept at it, and intends to start Pro3 racing.
Perry Lee, a fiscal specialist at Lincoln High School, drove on tracks some 25 years ago, but then “got busy” and had to put sport driving aside. Two years ago he came back to ProFormance in order to exercise his collection of Porsches. He suggested his son Kiernan, 18, take the High Performance Driving Experience, and as usual, the class functioned like a gateway drug, hooking Kiernan completely.
John and Perry consider ProFormance Racing School the right place to nurture their sons’ driving ambitions. “The whole ProFormance team, from Don and Donna down to the folks who work the corners, have a mindset about safety, fun and building skills,” John says. “When you’re bringing a teenager to race at 130mph, you need to know they’re safe.”
Jack agrees. “I have more confidence now. Knowing what the car will do in extreme conditions makes me feel safer.” In fact, Perry wouldn’t let Kiernan take the Porsches out until he took the HPDE. “I want them to feel what the car can do at its limits. Better to experience that in a controlled environment.” Jack drives a 2013 BMW 335i.
ProFormance’s combination of fun and safety also work for Kiernan: “There’s no substitute for driving a car at its limit; pulling fast on an on-ramp isn’t the real thing.” His ride is a 2013 base model Cayman.
Beyond safety, the ProFormance community is a good reason for these father-and-son drivers to keep coming back. “There are always familiar faces,” says John. “Just walking around the paddock, everyone is open and happy to chat about cars and driving. Having regulars coming back time and time again speaks to the quality of the organization. I’ve been to other open track days, and it’s not the same – there’s a different feel at ProFormance.”
Perry, whose own goal is to race his vintage Porsches at SOVREN, considers performance driving a great opportunity for family time. “I don’t see my sons too much during the week. But if we have a driving event, we might have to go to the garage the day before, switch out tires, and then spend the day at the track. It’s a way to hang out with the kids.” Perry’s posse also includes Kiernan’s younger brother Aidan, who does autocross.
Bringing a son or daughter to the track is not just a great way to bond with a shared interest, and it’s not just for the skills they acquire. It’s also a great way to ensure that a new generation of drivers will continue to enjoy the sport of performance driving