My son and I went out to Phoenix to, among a few other things, spend a couple of days learning how to drive fast (and well) at the Bob Bondurant School for High Performance Driving. My son (almost 17) took the Advanced Teenage Driving course and I took the Z06 (Corvette) Experience course. Both were two-day courses that could be extended to three if you wanted more time on the track. We would have loved to have it, but our schedule didn’t permit it. The time there was a blast and after a slow start, ended up being better than we had expected.
If you’re interested in such things, Bondurant offers a bunch of “driving” as well as “racing” and “karting” classes. When you look at their catalog, you wonder how they can offer so many classes. The secret is, many of them are the same. For example, my Z06 Experience class was almost identical to my son’s Advanced Teenage Driving class which was exactly the same as the High Performance Driving class that was being offered at the same time. In some cases, the cars are different and the order that exercises are done in may vary, but the course activities, themselves, don’t vary much (of course the more advanced racing classes are in a completely different category). The Bondurant school is a huge facility, though, so there is always plenty of space for classes to be doing their respective activities simultaneously.
During the first day at the school, we got off to a slow start. We didn’t have as much time in the cars as we would have liked or expected. There is time in the classroom getting to know the basics, but of course, everyone is anxious to go out to the track. Things pick up in the afternoon and vastly improve in the second day where we spent hours in the cars. The basic lessons that we worked on in our sessions were the line you drive while on the track – how to make turns, brake and accelerate as fast as possible while driving – and handling emergency situations in your car – panic braking and skidpad control. There’s pretty much no time on the road outside of classes like this that you get to repeatedly take a car from 65 MPH to zero as fast as possible while experimenting with the handling characteristics of the car you’re driving. The big open expanse of asphalt at Bondurant makes for a great place to practice what you’ll do when the kid on the Schwinn darts out in front of your car.
Of course, one of the absolute best things about the course is that you get to beat the crap out of someone else’s high performance vehicle. You might be a bit afraid of pushing your own car into a corner at full speed, but when it’s someone else’s, well, you get the picture.
The school is a lot of fun and you get to learn loads of stuff about how to handle a car. Having not tried any other schools (there are schools other than Bondurant that teach similar stuff), I can’t compare them. I can say that our Bondurant experience was very positive, although I can’t imagine doing the school in Phoenix in the heat of the summer – ouch! My one piece of advice is that unless you’re really interested in driving a specific vehicle, take the cheapest course that meets your needs. As I said earlier, several of the course are identical and I’m sure that other courses have overlapping activities.
An afterthought: If you’re willing to beat up your own vehicle, there are many car and driving clubs throughout the US and I assume, the world. These clubs go to big parking lots to do autocross or to tracks for faster driving. They often offer instruction and are safe and fun. Last fall, I did an event with the New England Region of the Porsche Club of America which was a total blast, and I don’t even own a Porsche.