There are a few good driving/performance schools that consumers can attend. For those who have ever wanted to play ‘racecar driver,’ we recommend trying one out. There is Bob Bondurant in Arizona, Skip Barber at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI, as well as many automaker-sponsored driving schools.
While most of us who drive a ‘performance’ vehicle don’t use it as intended, many of us want to see what it can do. And there are legitimate places to do that. Although, most are not cheap.
However, some of the manufacturer’s schools can be attended at no charge to owners of performance vehicles. Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and BMW all offer a free performance driving school, open to customers of their performance vehicles. For many, this is an invite made in Heaven. Most, if not all tracks today, require helmets when driving on their track. One can usually rent a helmet; or better yet, purchase his/her own.
A recent addition to the group of driving schools offered at the Ford Performance Racing School is the Ford Raptor Assault School. Not unlike other existing racing schools, this one offers lessons in handling the F-150 Raptor.
Most driving schools are a one-day commitment, and are specific to the vehicle you purchase. For instance, buy a Focus ST or Fiesta ST, and you can attend the ST Octane Academy. For the big boys-or gals who purchase a Mustang Shelby GT350, you also get a pass to the GT350 Track Attack. If you’re the proud owner of a Focus RS, you can attend the Adrenaline Academy.
You gotta love these names!
How much fun would this be? Very. I can attest to that. Having been a member of the automotive media for 25-plus years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending schools, driven on many race tracks and hosted my own women’s day program, Girls Go Racing in 2012 at Road America. The women who were signed up by a friend or family member had no idea what to expect, and in some cases, never imagined they would ever be a part of something involving performance cars.
Ha! Once the day was over, these gals couldn’t wait to do it again, and were telling everyone about it. It was a powerful experience, not only because they learned a lot of driving skills, but because it was empowering. Like our Girls Go Racing day at Road America, each of these Ford programs are one-day schools that include classroom sessions, track time, and meals. Transportation to the facility, and lodging, of course, is up to the participant.
Each of Ford’s Performance Racing School programs differ somewhat; the ST Octane Academy from the GT350 Track Attack, and the Adrenaline Academy. They offer different experiences than other automaker's programs, as well, such as location and vehicle setup. There are of course, also many similarities.
We like the idea of attending the F-150 Raptor Assault program. Participants begin with classroom instruction, followed by a walk-around to learn about the vehicle. This Raptor program is held at Utah Motorsports Campus. Students will begin with hill climbing to become accustomed to driving at different types of angles, including climbing straight upward. You may be looking out the windshield at the sky, or at the trees and hills on your right. You’ll experience moments of doubt, as you sense the trucks may be falling sideways (30-degree tilt).
The angle driving is followed by trail riding to experience turns, dust, mud, water puddles and elevation changes. As the Raptor goes through the paces, you learn what this truck can do. Truly a capable vehicle, the F-150 Raptor will perform in what is a controlled environment, with qualified instructors.
This is no place for hot-rodders. You must pay attention, listen up and follow instructions. If you do, the truck won’t let you down; neither will the instructors, all seasoned teachers. I always wonder if the Range Rover buyers actually put their pristine new vehicles through the paces at the Rover schools. Not sure I would want to. Anyway, how many Rover owners buy this vehicle for off-roading? We guess, very few. At least here in the States.
If your vehicle of choice is the Focus RS, and you’re a part of their Adrenaline Academy, you will begin your day in the classroom, as well, followed by a tour of the track, after which you’ll head out to the track for exercises. Following the lead vehicle, you will complete some laps, along with your instructor. Then a
After a few laps, you’ll break for lunch.
The afternoon continues with more classroom instruction, some Q and A, then back to the track for some exercises that show off the car’s capabilities. These you will enjoy.
Protocol and dynamics have changed a little since the Ford Performance Racing School began five years ago. It all started when the 2013 Ford Boss 302 Mustang was revived. As the popularity of the schools increased, Ford expanded the program to include its additional performance vehicles. And now, with the return of the F-150 Raptor edition (discontinued in 2013), Ford has one more reason to pump up their schools.
According to Ford marketing, a great by-product of attending their performance school is to become a better driver. You will learn what your vehicle is capable of in a safe environment, instructed by professionals. The whole idea is not competition, rather, it is a unique experience that will fire you up for more.
The instructors aim to get participants to their next level, preparing you to become a ‘racecar’ driver; whether you’re serious or not about a future in racing. Regardless, you’ll have a great time.
For more information about Ford’s Performance School, go to https://fordperformanceracingschool.com/en/
Skip Barber: http://www.roadamerica.com/event-skipbarber1.html
Bob Bondurant: https://bondurant.com/
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