I'm very sad to have learned that my instructor Steve Wolff passed away recently from complications related to cancer. He was 52. Steve was the first instructor I had at the first event I went to. He was a brilliant driving instructor and an all-around wonderful person.
Steve was my assigned instructor with at the first The Drivers Edge event I went to in Cresson, Texas in July 2010. We hit it off immediately, and he completely eliminated my initial jitters about driving on a track for the first time. He was always relaxed and having a good time, and his positive attitude was infectious. Over the course of the weekend, he built my confidence ten-fold and treated me like a racing peer, not a lowly, green student (which I was). At the end of the weekend, he asked if I was going to MSR Houston event the following month. I wasn't planning on it – my wedding was just two weeks later and I was moving the week before. But he encouraged me to go. He said I would enjoy the track, and he could work with me more and make me faster. We exchanged email addresses and I immediately signed up for MSRH.
I know I'm not the only student to have a connection with Steve, it's just the type of person he was. I've had a lot of great instructors with The Drivers Edge — it's hard to go wrong — but Steve has always been my favorite. No one could match his energy, his level of enjoyment and his sense of humor. He made it seem like there was no place else he would rather be than the passenger seat of your car, on a track.
At the following event at MSR Houston (by this point I was in the slightly-less-novice Blue run group), we got up to speed quickly, quicker than almost anyone else in the group. An HPDE isn't about passing, but it does feel good to pass people in more expensive and more powerful cars, no matter what anyone says. He made me feel really good about my driving, but it wasn't just hollow flattery because it actually helped me go faster and learn faster. He really believed in his students, and with that confidence and the right feedback you feel like you can do anything with a car.
If I hadn't driven with Steve at the first event, I honestly don't know if I would have stuck with it. I might have done one event, tried it, and not felt the need to do it again, sort of like how most people are with, say, skydiving. All of the instructors are great drivers, no question, but some are better teachers than others, and in that regard Steve Wolff was the best. I requested Steve at my next two or three Drivers Edge events, but either he didn't go or we didn't get paired up after that. We kept up with some emails back and forth, and he watched a few of my track videos. He always had helpful input and gave me feedback that was unique from anyone else's.
He made it seem like there was no place else he would rather be than the passenger seat of your car, on a track.
Steve will be missed and remembered by everyone who knew him. He made an immense impact on me in our very short amount of time together, so I can't imagine how devastating it must be to those that he was close to. I'm not asking any readers to do anything, but if you happen to be reading this and you knew Steve and want to donate to his son's college fund, please email me for the address and information.