Performance Driving School Experiences

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
Have you been lucky enough to go through one of these schools? Your Host did the Skip Barber Open Wheel Course and thought it was one of life's best experiences.

But not everyone feels like that. Tell us about the experience, the type of school (purpose of the course, who ran it, etc.) the costs, your pros and cons on the instructors and cars, and the overall effect on your present driving skill.


  • saqsaq Member Posts: 3
    Thanks for starting this topic up again!

    - What does the Open Wheel Course emphasize? Was it 1 or 2 dys?

    I am planning on taking the Skip Barber 1 or 2 day driving course this summer. :blush: ">

    I will eventually try the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, but :( I am a very new driver and their course requires more road experience before coming.

    I may also take a local defensive driving course before the summer, if possible.

    1. Does anyone have advice on good local courses (North East states- preferably near the MD/ Wash D.C. area) that would emphasize excellent active driving skills on the streets and highways?
    ** I am also open to comments on courses in other parts of the country. Will you please mention the city and state.

    2. Can anyone shed light on the meaning of these acronyms I have come across reading the posts? Are some better than others?
    CCC - Car Control Clinic
    SCCA - Sports Car Club of America

    Thanks for your help.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    The Open Wheel Course is actually officially called the Three Day Competition Course, and gives you basic training on how to behave on a real race track and not kill yourself or anybody else.
  • fredmcmurrayfredmcmurray Member Posts: 215
    I went to the Lexus Performance driving school at California Speedway last year. I had blast but would give it a a "B".
    The good:
    - Very well run, classy (what you expect from Lexus)
    - Relatively low cost ($400 for a full day)
    - You get to use their cars (only a plus if you happen to own one of their cars - I didn't want to learn on some car I don't own)
    The bad:
    -No drive-alongs where an instructor is in the car with you giving you real time pointers.
    -I couldn't get an IS on every course. Trying to take a GS, LS or SC on a auto cross type course is not much fun.
    - They only offer it in two locations - Southern California and Texas.
    - It doesn't appear that they are offering it this year.
  • fredmcmurrayfredmcmurray Member Posts: 215
    The link's not working, Steve.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Steve, that link seems broken...

  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    Sorry, forgot to double check the link; let's try again:

    "Bottom line, anyone can drive fast in a straight line no matter what kind of car they're driving, but when you're racing, the rules of the game change dramatically."

    2005 AMG Challenge — Advanced Course (Inside Line)

    Steve, Host
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    I've done a couple schools, one with what was Bragg-Smith Driving School in Pahrump, NV about an hour northwest of LV, but is now Spring Mountain Motorsports Park. When I did it, all they had was Corvette Z06's but they have since added Radicals, you have to see one to believe how fast they are. The 3 day school is about car control and learning to drive a Corvette at Speed, the follow-up 2 day school is the advanced class and I have yet to get back. We did exercises and some lead follow on the road course on the first day. We then did more lead follow and open tracking on the second day and the third day was mostly open track. The exercises are things you just don't either get to do in your personal car or for that matter want to do, like pulling the ABS and stability control fuse and locking the car up on the wet skid pad and then going back later and doing it again with the systems on. Visual exercises like driving a serpentine course with a sun shield blocking the full front view to let you know you can look ahead and arrive where you want to go, very telling. Over all a great value. I expect I'll get back for the Advanced class later this year and might see then if I want to try a Radical class in the future.

    I then did several open wheel classes at Sears Point (Infineon) Raceway with Russell Racing School. The techniques class is a blast and just for fun, some got out of control but if you follow the instruction I found it to be nothing but fun, good exercises and plenty of speed on the last day open lapping the road course. The Advanced Course in Formula Mazda's with full race slicks gets serious about the 2nd day when some start to get a little out of control. By the third day doing race starts and pushing the rev limiters close to max you find out if you really want to pursue racing or just want to enjoy driving on a track, not for the faint of heart or wallet. Also, the instructors do a great job of watching for over agressive driving, one guy was asked to leave the 3rd day after lunch so he didn't graduate and there fore wouldn't qualify for the Russell race series. He had pulled a series of bone head moves which when we were at higher speeds were just plain dumb, IMO. They are looking for people who are fast but safe and therefore are cantidates for the arrive and drive race series they run once a month, I'm still spectating on the racing.

    If you ever saw yourself in a race car as a kid or think you are a good driver, don't we all (?), these courses are a place to put it in perspective. Having the kid out of college really helps!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Getting into a real race car can be very humbling, yes.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    It can get just a little scary, too! I came off a rise, blind hill, and just had the car pointed a little off line and just tweaked the wheel slightly, or so I thought. It was out of the turn 8 esses at Sears Point where I exit in the Vette close to 90mph and with the Mazda I'm guessing I was something past 100mph. Do most people know that race cars don't have speedo's? The car snapped into a spin before I knew it and stayed on track, pure luck. I had been using throttle steer in fast corners but that is when you plan for it and anticipate. This was like a lightening bolt out of the blue. Sobering to say the least. But, race cars are fun, just have to respect them a lot and build up slowly and get everything you can out of the instruction. Going back again soon!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    My goal on the track was to just be "smooth", not fast. I figured I could gradually go from smooth to fast, but going from fast to smooth wasn't as easy. Turns out I was right--the more I drove smoothly, the faster I got. I never spun but I got out of shape on turn 6 at Laguna by just letting the engine "breathe" a little when I should have stayed on it.

    Mostly these schools are not only about testing your skill, but your fear level. I mean, even with the good instructors and the (relatively ) slow speeds of maybe 100-110 mph, you can't really get badly hurt in 99.9% of all mishaps, but you could break a wrist easily enough if you hit a wall.

    One thing I learned that I hadn't known is how violent it can get inside a race car that is traveling so fast and with such grip...on the corkscrew at Laguna (the one turn, oddly enough, at which I totally excelled), I got so good at it that I would "gray out" a bit...the blood was just sloshing around too fast in my head.

    Maybe this wouldn't happen to a younger man, but I heard it does sometimes.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    Laguna for a class in something open wheel is one of the things on my list in the fairly near future. I notice that getting bounced inside the cage at Sears Point did result in a few bruises and yes I can see that the corkscrew would give a jolt. I don't know why but that was one corner where I could make up time on some smaller cars in the Vette since I took the leap of faith that the flag station had the best view and if the yellow wasn't up it was OK to just throw yourself down the hill. I think many HPDE drivers don't get enough instruction about looking ahead and so are trying to find the right side berm by sight, very slow approach. Having the correct turn in and then sighting briefly on the correct Oak (some groups put up a cone and the wall) ends up putting you right on the berm and you have already looked out into the next turn, you just know the car is correctly placed, making it tons of fun, real E ticket ride!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    That's EXACTLY how I used to do it. Some of the class hotshots really screwed up in the corkscrew (appropriately enough).

    I'd say if there was one BIG thing I learned in open wheel class it was to keep looking where you want the car to end up, not just over the front of the car or where it happens to be pointing at that moment.

    Once I got smooth enough to avoid any compression braking (not good) or graunchy downshifts or sudden movements, I just got faster and faster.

    Of course, the instructors do not time you or praise you----EVER---but you know you're doing well if they say nothing to you the entire day. That is a big pat on the head.

    They will yell at you, though, or kid you behind your back during on-site critique.

    Students DO do funny things, like at the beginning of a lap session, weaving their cars back and forth to "warm up" their street tires----that does nothing of course but they might have seen it on TV.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    The several times I've been up at Russell I feel like I'm being ignored. Some are faster, but not most, and the best I get other than, 'how did that tighter line feel, last time around?', good?, ok, keep working on that. It's like if you don't push so hard that you spin out a lot, I don't, they figure you are comfortable as long as you are on line and making smooth shifts and throttle control, even though you aren't the fastest one on the track. Always leaves me wanting more! But not enough to push over the limit, just to find where it is.
    My last day in the Vette was at Buttonwillow on a configuration I've run before and in the second session I pushed pretty hard for a couple laps to pass a couple slower cars and then had clear track. I thought I was really cooking. Told myself to calm down and just drive smooth. The laps I was passing I was doing 2.24 and 2.25's without any real holdups, and I then laid down 4 laps within a half second in the mid 2.22's and I didn't feel like I was pushing at all. But relaxing on track is really work! It doesn't come easy.
    Then again, it's a lot harder to stay smooth in the Formula Mazda's since they are so much tighter, steering, brakes, shifting and throttle. Getting all the inputs right for a full lap is not something I'm yet capable of repeating, and trying it for a 30 minute race, about 16 laps, with traffic, HA, I can only wish, and keep trying.
  • changolocochangoloco Member Posts: 1
    there is a trackday and driving school on june 18 and 19 at barber in alabama. it's hosted by a big vette tuner shop in the atlanta area, but all cars are invited. there's more info through the link on that date on or on the first page when you go to
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    The message is pretty limited and he is right on about the reaction you get from people when you mention driving on track, or an open road event. But the other day I came across Buz, a guy about my age who's wife had the same view as mine. 'He did everything for the family and kids up to this point and most of that is out of the way so it's time for some fun'. We both had a kick chasing the younger guys in the formula Mazda's even if we weren't within a few seconds of the fastest pace. On to Laguna Seca for the new year!

    I will note that most of the links were east coast related but he did an amazing job of getting lots of data. For any interested in left coast events at road courses:
  • soccercoach123soccercoach123 Member Posts: 1
    Hello all,

    Got a good resource for everyone. for parents with teen drivers and for driving schools in USA.


  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    "The Skip Barber racing school already conducts training for wannabe racers at 30 racetracks around the country, but a collaboration with sim racing company will put the iconic three-day racing school right on your own computer."

    Skip Barber Puts Driving School Online
  • deskmandeskman Member Posts: 485
    I did the Zakspeed school at the Ring.

    Best money i have ever spent in my life.I was
    able to take 40 seconds off my Old course time
    after completing the training. :)
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    "Bridgestone Tire's Drive and Learn event has been going on for several years. It's a program primarily for its dealers and distributors. The main purpose to inform them of new products, current and future promotions along with advertising campaigns, and even some technical presentations.

    The best part, though, is the driving. Bridgestone assembles a group of instructors with real racing backgrounds (SCCA, Formula Atlantic, Touring Car, Formula Mazda, karts, etc.) to coach those in attendance around an autocross (i.e., parking lot) circuit. You're supposed to evaluate their tires too, but most participants are too focussed on going quickly with the least amount of cone killing. "

    Bridgestone Drive & Learn (Straightline)

  • sabrina20sabrina20 Member Posts: 11
    Excellent resource of information for for driving schools in USA.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    "GM on Tuesday said Cadillac V-Series Academy classes will be offered throughout the year at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch outside of Las Vegas."

    2013 Cadillac CTS-V Is Centerpiece of V-Series Performance Playground

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