Performance Driving Schools – by Bob Marsh
If you’re like me you have lots of things you like spending your money on like maybe your hobby, a boat, maybe your house and of course your nice car! But if you’re also like me, cooking brakes and burning tires is not something I enjoy with my own car simply because they cost too much to replace, right? So how do you get to really enjoy your car’s capabilities and improve your own skills without taking your car to the track? Performance driving schools that’s how! While not cheap, you have the opportunity throw fire-breathing M models around a controlled environment without the risk of other traffic or a moving violation, and if you scrape 10,000 miles of wear off of the tires and heat the rotors to space shuttle reentry temps, well… they aren’t yours and you’re encouraged to do it!
I had the excellent experience of attending BMW’s M performance driving school some years back and have often thought of a return trip. The school begins in the classroom where it is explained to you that you that you simply cannot out drive physics. Once that is ingrained into your head, out to the track you go. Before you go fast, you need to understand a few control techniques such as hard straight-line braking (did I mention hard?), over steer and understeer; what they are, experience them and how to bring the car under control again. Steering under hard braking and how your ABS helps with that. Quick lane changes and so on. Sounds like Street Survival doesn’t it?
Now comes the fast stuff. This is what we all wait for! At BMW’s M School, you are put in the M5, M6 and, in my class, an M Roadster – no M3’s this time. Instructors communicate to each driver via radio. Speakers in the cars allow the students to hear the instructor. The students may certainly ask questions and provide feedback once the particular exercise is completed, but not during driving as you’re too busy to attempt talking on a radio.
During the fast exercised, you put the skills taught earlier to use on the track. 100+ MPH speeds down a straight and brake hard for a 90 degree left turn. Accelerate hard and set yourself up for a curve; entering the curve correctly, straightening the apex as much as possible and then exiting and accelerating smoothly already looking ahead to the next curve always looking where you, the driver wants the car to go. Once the instructor feels comfortable that you have a grasp of the concepts, he lets you go and you continue improving on your newly acquired skills feeling yourself get better and faster. I had to smile to myself not only for the thrill of it all, but also knowing I don’t have to but new tires or replace brake rotors!
This past April, I attended the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School in Nevada where I drove the new C7 Corvettes. The format of the school was a bit different with classroom time periodically throughout the course which I liked. Although the format may have been a little different than the BMW M School, the theory and practice is the same – you still cannot cheat the laws of physics!