“I knew nothing about cars,” says Sarah Brown, speaking of her days before ProFormance. “I drove a Prius, did really boring things. And then we moved into a house with a garage.”
It was the garage, and the Porsche her husband bought to fill it, that helped turn Sarah into one of the Northwest’s driving elite: a track driver, one-time racer, and an instructor at ProFormance Racing School. “I’d never driven a car that was designed to be driven before. I was overwhelmed.”
After taking the One-Day High Performance Driving Experience Sarah, in her words, went bonkers. “I was completely obsessed. I came home and lay in bed, driving Pacific in my head over and over.”
That obsession led to the purchase of her own Cayman R for the track, and then a competition license and Pro3 racing. Eventually Sarah’s skills caught the eye of Chief Instructor and talent spotter Don Kitch, Jr., who told her, “You’ve driven here enough – you have to start teaching.”
A Knack for Nourishing Newbies
Sarah found she was good at getting the best out of beginners. “It’s so much fun working with people who have never been on the track before. I can still feel what it’s like: to be excited, but also kind of scared, not knowing what’s going to happen, wanting to be good.”
In making clients comfortable with track driving, working through fears and goals, and imbuing basic skills, Sarah is passing on what other ProFormance instructors bestowed upon her. “Manfred [Duske] is super-holistic in his approach, and has so much experience – he’s very chill and taught me how to relax behind the wheel and feel the car. But he also taught me the rudiments of racecraft awareness when I was ready for it.”
She is open about her admiration for other ProFormance instructors and their varied, impressive backgrounds. “The Hill brothers [Ken and Wes], Curtis [Creager], and other instructors spend a lot of their season working with car manufacturers, and they can tell you EVERYTHING about the car you’re driving, what it can do, and what makes it special. There are some actual racecar drivers, and instructors who also do rallying. Everyone shares the same core set of instructor skills, but brings something else to the table as well.”
A Career Takes Off
To prepare for her new position. Sarah recorded other instructors on the job, and then wrote her own script to ensure that she wouldn’t be stuck for something to say. Those days are long gone; the renowned ProFormance instruction method is in her bones now. In fact, she’s put away her racing gear to concentrate on teaching, though she still hangs out with the club and handles sponsorship matters. Being a ProFormance instructor, Sarah says, is “the best job I’ve ever had.”
One advantage at ProFormance is that friends and family members who take a class together will all get a first-class experience despite having different instructors. “The instruction is tailored to the driver and their car, because drivers and cars are very different. But the core fundamentals, the language of the instruction, are all equal. You’ve got Don in the classroom sharing the basic concepts of high performance driving, and then, when students walk outside, each of them has an enthusiastic instructor ready to teach them what they need to learn, in a way tailored to them and their particular vehicle.”
Women vs. Men vs. Cars
While she avoids stereotypes, Sarah notes that women and men often have different approaches to learning performance driving. “Women will be more careful, pay more attention, and go slower than they need to at first.” But their learning curve shoots up very fast, she says.
“Most men approach driving as a solo activity, with no distractions in the car.” As the mother of twin boys, Sarah is used to people pulling her hair and throwing things, which is why, she claims, “a lot of women can multitask like you wouldn’t believe. When they’re in the car with just an instructor, it’s like a vacation.”
“And the women come away empowered. Maybe they came because they were in a car accident and they want to get confident, or maybe their partner wanted them to know what track driving was like.” For some women the one-day course is sufficient, and they’re not seen again. “But a lot of them figure out what they like about the experience, and they come back.”
Making it All Worthwhile
Imparting superior driving skills is one of Sarah’s goals while teaching at ProFormance; another is to get everyone to admit that they had a great time at the end of the day. “You’re trying to make someone who just bought a brand new 911 feel just as good as someone who is taking their beat-up old daily driver. Every car can do something awesome.”
Part of engineering the experience is introducing students to those great moments of accomplishment. It might be finally getting comfortable with an emergency stop with ABS, making it through Turn 2 with one continuous input, or being told you’re ready to take the competition class.
“As you get more seat time, those great moments add up. For me it added up to where I am now, from my first class in 2013 to having a red shirt of my very own, and quite possibly the best job ever.”
Sarah Brown’s advice to people wondering how to get started: just take your daily driver and do the class. “People often feel their car isn’t new enough or fast enough to drive on the track. But the instructors can find the fun and develop your skills whether you’re in a Prius or a Lamborghini.”
“I want every client to leave with at least one great moment, one story to tell.”
Top photo: Sarah Brown mobbed by fans (her twins) after a race.