Recently a friend invited me to the Sebring International Raceway, where his brother was driving his Porsche GT4 at a high performance driver education event. Basically, instead of a race, the track was allowing people with sports cars to drive around the track at whatever speed they felt comfortable driving, but within strict safety rules and without racing each other. This was an opportunity for me to ride in a fast car on a track with a lot of hairpin turns. Not being much of a speed demon, the question was: would I?
My Past Experience With High-Performance Cars
The last time I rode as a passenger in a sports car was when my buddy Bill gave me a ride in his kit vehicle. I was not comfortable in this situation for a few reasons:
- I do not drive a fast car (unless you consider a Toyota Corolla fast) and so was uncomfortable in high-speed turns.
- I did not know how skilled Bill was as a driver.
- I did not know the capabilities of the vehicle.
- I was not driving.
The end result was that while Bill was zooming up straightaways and around corners and roundabouts, I was getting increasingly uncomfortable (read: frightened out of my mind) and motion sick.
The Sebring Experience
Given my previous experience with riding in a sports car, would I willingly get into a street-legal vehicle capable of 189 miles per hour (304 kilometers per hour)? I knew that Kurt, the driver, was a commercial airline pilot, and so had some sense of safety. However, having met several pilots, I also knew that a lot of them are adrenaline junkies. Kurt admitted to being one himself. However, he also had experience handling vehicles that moved a lot faster than 189 mph. As it turned out, he was also a former F-18 pilot. However, he assured me that he was there to ensure that I had fun, not that I was scared out of my wits.
Kurt set me at ease by making certain that I would wear a helmet and fastened into the vehicle using a five-point harness as opposed to the usual lap and shoulder belt seen in most cars. He told me to signal him if I wanted him to speed up or slow down. He informed me that he was a pilot instructor as well as a driving instructor who taught other Porsche owners how to handle their high-powered vehicles. He also let me ask questions when he was in a position to do so (waiting for the next vehicle to enter the track, not while he was negotiating high-speed turns). In short, he conveyed that he knew what he was doing and that he could handle the vehicle safely.
So in the end, yes, I persuaded myself to get into the passenger seat and get zipped around the track a few times (until he was almost out of gas). The video is below. Top speed for the run was 135 mph (217 kph), which is about double the fastest speed I typically allow myself on America’s interstates. Exciting, to say the least.
What Does This Have to Do With Technical Writing?
Okay, great. Your friendly, neighborhood blogger got to ride in a fast car. What does that have to do with tech writing? Call this a real-world exercise in evaluating past performance. While I like my friend Bill, I knew nothing about his ability, experience, or knowledge regarding driving high-speed cars. Kurt provided his background, which included flying and training others on how to fly aircraft; flying high-speed jet aircraft; and training others on how to drive high-speed automobiles. Given those two resumes, which one would you trust to get you around hairpin turns safely? Now consider your customer the next time you write a past performance narrative for a proposal. What sort of information would they want to know before choosing your company to handle their contract effectively?