The Best Driving And Racing Schools In America
Just because you think you can drive, that doesn’t mean you can really drive. See, there’s a difference between casually going to your local market in a Honda Civic and blasting along a race track at speeds in excess of 200 mph. The latter takes time to learn and even then, only a small population of drivers can really be adept at driving race cars to their full potential. Everyone can try it, though, to see how far they can go. And for them to find out, the best way is signing up for any one of the many racing schools populating the great ‘ol U.S. of A.
Obviously, we’re not here to list down each and every racing school in America. That would likely end in the thousands when talking about them quantitatively. Rather, we’re lining up some of the best racing schools in the country. Each of the schools on this list is either run by high-end automakers or drivers with racing pedigrees. Regardless of who or where it is, these schools all have something unique to offer with a catalog of classes and racing opportunities all at the table. So, with the summer season fast approaching, now may be as good a time to compare the best racing schools in the U.S.
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One Of America’s Most Well-Known Racing Schools Is On The Verge Of Collapse
One of the most prominent racing schools in the U.S. is on the verge of collapse. We all know the Skip Barber Racing School for its long history of being a breeding ground for future racers. Unfortunately, the school is in terrible financial shape these days, bad enough to file for bankruptcy after accruing outstanding liabilities amounting anywhere from $10 million to $50 million.
Documents provided to The Drive indicate the school officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this week. Turns out, the school has a long line of creditors it owes a lot of money to, most prominently the Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Documents show the school owing $1.225 million in rent for use of the park’s race track. In an incredibly strange twist of fate, Lime Rock is actually owned by Skip Barber himself, who somehow does not own the school that still uses his name after selling controlling interest in the company back in 1999. In addition to Lime Rock, the school also owes money to a number of other race tracks in the country, including Road Atlanta, Willow Springs, and the Palm Beach International Raceway. In all, the court filings declared the school’s value at around $5.3 million, but given the estimated liabilities it has, the school owes far more than the amount they’re indebted to all these race tracks.
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The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance is located in Phoenix, Arizona and is – arguably – the best driving school in the country. It is the only purpose-built driver training facility for performance enthusiasts and is the largest of its kind in North America. The school has a fleet of more than 200 vehicles, including race-ready models, SUVs, and even open-wheel cars. It’s 60-acre facility and 1.6-mile track is about to get just a little more crowded, however, as Fiat has teamed up with the Bondurant School of High Performance and will be adding the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth and the Fiat 500 Abarth to its fleet.
Bob Bondurant, the owner and CEO of the school, said, “We’re excited that FIAT will join our team to expand our driving programs. The Fiat 500 Abarth and 124 Spider Abarth will make great additions to our amazing lineup. The capabilities of the Fiat coupe and roadster will give people the chance to get behind the wheel of balanced performance vehicles that are as fun to drive on the track as they are during a daily commute.”
That’s not all, though. As part of this partnership, the Bondurant School of High Performance will be offering the Abarth Track Experience. In short, any customer that purchases or leases a new Fiat 124 Abarth or a Fiat 500 Abarth will get a free day of high-performance instruction and track time. Customers have one year from the date they purchase or lease their new car to register and take advantage of the offer and can option for a second day of fun called “Road Rally,” that starts out at the Bondurant facility and takes a 180- to 220-mile trip down some scenic Arizona highways. The second day includes a morning coffee break and a private lunch before returning to the school.
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Bob Bondurant has been a professional driving instructor since 1968 and now he has teamed up with Dodge and SRT to create “The Official High Performance Driving School of Dodge/SRT.” As part of the changeover deal, Bondurant’s entire fleet of high performance vehicles is being replaced by almost 100 SRT vehicles including the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, and the Dodge Viper. The school will even have a Dodge Viper ACR on hand that some will have the opportunity to drive, given they are skilled enough and qualify for a chance to take it around the track.
This isn’t just good news for Dodge, Bondurant and those who attend his school of high performance driving. As part of this deal between Dodge and Bondurant, starting January 1st, 2016, all Dodge customers that purchase a 2015 or 2016 model SRT will get a full day of professional instruction and track time as part of the purchase.
In a press release, Tim Kuniskis – the Head of Passenger Car Brands for Dodge, SRT, Chrysler, Fiat, and FCA North America – said, “Teaming up with Bob Bondurant, whose method of training has served more than a half-million drivers from around the world for nearly half a century, gives our Dodge/SRT owners the perfect track environment and professional guidance to hone their performance driving skills and gives us the chance to expose our lineup of SRT vehicles to a new group of performance car enthusiasts.” He continued, “We want drivers to develop an appreciation for the levels of performance our Dodge/SRT vehicles are capable of delivering.”
Once a 2015 or 2016 SRT model has been purchased, new owners will have one year from the purchase or lease date to take their one-day course. Participants in the program receive full access to the school and the SRT vehicles on hand for track driving. Available courses will include skid control, line technique, accident avoidance, and a lead-and-follow session.
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Toole County, Utah commissioners made a surprise announcement on Tuesday, that Miller Motorsports Park has been sold to Chinese company Mitime Investment and Development group for $20 million. You may not have heard of Mitime, but you’ve probably heard of its parent company, Geely, which is China’s largest car company and current owner of Volvo.
Originally constructed in 2006 by Salt Lake City billionaire and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, the track was left to Toole County in 2014 after the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies (Miller passed away in 2009) decided not to renew its lease on the property. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, county commissioners opted to sell the track rather than shut it down.
That being the case, all track operations will continue as they were and all 90 employees at Miller Motorsports Park will keep their jobs. The 23-turn, 4.48-mile track currently hosts several sports car races, including a round of the Pirelli World Challenge, and motorcycle races. Its also home to the Ford Performance Racing School and formerly hosted rounds of the American Le Mans Series.
MMP’s new owners also a have a few updates and additions in mind. Both an oval test track and drag strip are planned, as well as a new hotel that will house Geely drivers, mechanics, and any other personnel with business at the track.
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If you are into pushing cars to the limit, then you would probably love Bruno Senna’s career. He is a previous Formula 1 driver and is currently McLarens factory driver. Now, he’s a member of the McLaren P1 GTR Driver Program that will be underway soon. The program follows a strict calendar of events where drivers start off with race-seat fitting and performance testing before taking a seat in McLaren’s racing simulator. Once the initial consultation is done, drivers will take a shot at running a 2016 McLaren P1 GTR around various tracks like the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, and Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.
It goes without saying that a man like Senna doesn’t need help driving a McLaren P1 GTR, so that isn’t why he is a part of the program. He joined the program as a mentor to help other drivers prepare to hit the track in the beast of a supercar. His role is to help drivers learn to safely take advantage of the increased performance that the GTR has. In coordination with the Bespoke training schedule, Senna will help each driver hone his skills so that he can push himself and the P1 GTR to the limit. It is only a matter of time before the program kicks off, as the first customer version of the GTR is now on its way to McLaren Special Operations, where it will be optimized and made race ready.
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Pick your poison – whether it’s a full-throttle blitz down the quarter mile, heavy trail braking at the autocross, a frenzied dice on the road course, a driveline-thrashing clutch kick at the drift event, or gravel-chucking insanity in a rally car, racing can transform even the most mild-mannered citizen into a superhero.
The truth is a lot of people have the desire, but end up couching it for one reason or another. Expense, accessibility, even intimidation can keep would-be racers at home. But here’s the thing – taking your passion to its limits is easier than you might think.
In Part 1 of this series, I gave a general overview of different entry-level motorsports, a few of the more prominent race organizations operating in the U.S., what to bring to the track, and what to expect once you get there.
For Part 2, I’ll dig a little deeper into the specifics of amateur auto racing, including car suggestions, a breakdown of costs, and an analysis of modifications.
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Well, well… you got the itch, do you? You know what I’m talking about – every time you get behind the wheel, all you want to do is push the throttle a little further, brake a little later, and take that turn a little harder. I get it. You want to go racing.
And who can blame you? Motorsport is one of the most intense hobbies on the face of the planet. It takes an incredible amount of mental and physical prowess to put a car on the limit and keep it there. It’s also astoundingly fun.
So what’s an adrenaline junkie to do? Take a risk on the street? That’s definitely the dumbest option out there, and the truth is, once you get a taste for the track, exploring a car’s limits on public roads is simply not as interesting.
But a lot of aspiring hot shoes just don’t know where to begin. Well don’t you worry, because TopSpeed is here to help. In this article, we’ll give you the quick and dirty on what it takes to get up and running at 10/10s. We’ll look at different types of entry-level motorsport, some of the more prominent race organizations operating in the U.S., what to bring with you, what to expect, and a few other helpful hints along the way.
Think you can’t go racing for real? Think again.
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When it comes to the pinnacle of motor racing, there are none who are greater than the drivers of Formula One. If you are going to learn from a former racer, why not learn from one who hails from this greater level of skill and dedication? Allen Berg Racing Schools are the only programs in the United States that feature a former Formula One driver on the roster of senior instructors. Allen Berg is a Canadian driver with experience in Formula One, Formula Two, Formula Three, Formula Atlantic, Touring Car and Sport Prototypes.
In his teaching career, Berg has held positions with BMW, Skip Barber, Derek Daly, Motorsport Racing School and Calgary Sports Club. Now Berg has set out on his own to create the premier formula car racing programs in America. As a bonus, Berg also ran his own team in the North American Toyota Atlantic Series, giving him valuable insight into the administrative side of racing. This can be used to teach his students valuable lessons in how a race team is run.
With six different course levels and schools at five different facilities around the United States, Allen Berg Racing Schools offer some of the best programs available to anyone looking into open-wheel racing.
After the jump we collected all the information you need about the various courses and tracks used in this prestigious program. We even have prices so you don’t have to bother navigating the Allen Berg site looking for any extra information. Hit that break and learn more about this incredible racing school.
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When it comes to racing schools the name Bob Bondurant comes up a lot. With the largest purpose built training facility, the largest collection of student cars, and one of the largest collections of student programs, the Bondurant Racing School is the biggest and one of the best options for anyone looking to improve their driving skills.
The school is also one of the oldest names in the world of advanced driving instruction, with a history that dates back to 1968. The school is set up to be a one-stop location for students from all walks of life to come and learn. There is a giant skidpad, four tracks, and multiple configurations of courses for advanced students. From karts to stock cars, there is something here for everyone.
If this sounds like something you may be interested in checking out, we have gathered all the information you would need after the jump. We have a breakdown of many of the courses, cars used, costs and more. When you get done checking it out, why don’t you hit the comments to let us know which course you would most like to take.
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Scrambling to complete your holiday shopping in time for Christmas Eve? Run out of ideas? We’ve all been there and we know how frustrating it can be. Fortunately, Aston Martin is swooping in to save the day after announcing that its Aston Martin on Ice event is returning in February 2015.
Similar to Lamborghini’s Winter Accademia program, Aston Martin On Ice gives drivers a chance to try out the company’s lineup of sports cars in the backdrop of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, far removed from the usual urban jungles prospective participants are accustomed to. Instead of nicely laid asphalt roads, Aston Martin prepared a venue in Creste Butte, Colorado to stage the event.
The course includes everything drivers would want in a program of this sort. There’s a full circuit, a skid pad, a slalom course, and a braking and cornering exercise loop. Throw in Aston Martin’s finest vehicles and its roster of expert drivers and you have the perfect recipe for another scintillating three-day bespoke driving experience that only a company like Aston Martin can provide.
Should you be interested in participating in the 2015 staging of Aston Martin Once Ice, you can contact Aston Martin Driving at email@example.com for the full scope of details.
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Want to learn how to handle a car like Ken Block? Well why don’t you take a trip up to the same New Hampshire rally school he first attended? Team O’Neil rally school is located in Dalton New Hampshire and it is where the King of the Hoons learned the ropes and started his journey to international stardom in the rally world.
The school was started by Tim O’Neil, a factory rally driver who drove for both Volkswagen and Mitsubishi during the late 1980s and early 90s. During his time driving professionally, he racked up five U.S. and North American Rally Championships and became one of the very few American drivers to compete on the international circuit.
After working for a few years with manufacturers to train drivers, Tim decided to open his own school. He designed and constructed the skid pad, slalom, and multiple miles of the road courses that surround the school. Since the school opened in 1997 Tim has personally developed and shaped the curriculum, trains all the instructors and to this day he oversees operations to constantly learn from and improve the school.
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When it comes to making a true driver’s car, there are few companies in the world that do it better than Porsche. Having sampled several of its creations, I can attest to how each car feels like it wants to push you to be a better driver. With that in mind, what better company is there to help you hone your skills behind the wheel?
As you may have noticed by our recent coverage here on the site, there are lots of driving programs offered here in the United States that cater to different driving disciplines, cars and regional locations. Even with such a plethora of options available, it is hard to see why anyone wouldn’t pick a Porsche Sport Driving School. With classes ranging from short one-day schools designed to enhance your on-street abilities to full competition classes that end with your receipt of a legitimate racing license, Porsche has something for every driver of every skill level. Like many of the competitors, Porsche also offers simulator training as well.
To top it all off, the school takes place at one of the greatest circuits in the U.S., Barber Motorsports park. This venue is used to host races for IndyCar, AMA Superbikes and more.
If you live anywhere near the state of Alabama, you have very little excuse not to at least take a peek at what Porsche is offering. To make it easier for you we have collected information on all the cars, classes and features that Porsche is offering. We also have a collection of videos that show you just how wild and amazing these classes can be.
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In any list of ultimate dream jobs, “racecar driver” would undoubtedly take a top slot. Forget cubicles, how about going to work in a composite-lined tub flying down a track at triple-digit speeds? Like any professional athlete, practice makes perfect. Seat time is critical for the aspiring driver looking to make his or her living at the helm of a racecar. But breaking into professional auto racing is difficult at best. The question is – where to start?
The answer is Skip Barber. For the last four decades, Skip Barber has been responsible for a variety of instructional programs in high-performance driving and racing, as well as several championship series that operate as a ladder system to help aspiring race drivers reach the pinnacle of their ability. Skip Barber graduates can be found on the podium of most major motorsports events worldwide, with a short list of famous alumni including Alex Gurney, Bill Elliot, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Andretti, and Scott Speed.
If you’d prefer not to try your hand at wheel-to-wheel combat and would rather learn how to simply be a better driver, Skip Barber can help there as well. Beyond the racing school, there are several driving courses designed to help hone skills behind the wheel for every day safety and competency, no matter the road conditions.
With such a broad range of courses on the docket, Skip Barber employs a fleet of different vehicles to fit the particular task at hand, from lithe Japanese roadsters, to high-powered European sports cars, to open-wheel formula racers. The instructors are all extremely knowledgeable, as each bring a history of professional driving experience to the table. We spoke with professional driver Grant Ryley, whose day job duties include race coach for drivers in the Pro Mazda and IMSA Lites series, driving events and vehicle launches for manufacturers like Ferrari, Bentley, and McLaren, and high-performance driving for television commercials. Ryley is also a former Skip Barber instructor, with 13 years of experience at the company. During his tenure, Ryley traveled nationally as a teacher and test driver for the national race series. He’s also an alumni: “I started at Skip Barber as a student at a 3 Day Racing School, and when I left there, I was the Regional Chief Instructor.”
We asked Grant to give us the lowdown on the entire Skip Barber program, from the cars to the classes. Hit the jump to learn why Skip Barber is one of the largest racing schools on the planet.
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Just about anyone can drive a car, and most anyone can manage to drive a car fairly quickly on the street. But what if you are one of those crazy few who want to drive flat-out, usually sideways, down a dirt track, gravel road or snow-covered lake? What if you want to be a rally driver?
There are literally dozens of places that will teach you the finer arts of high performance track driving, but when the black-top ends, you are given far fewer choices to pursue a proper driver’s education. Thankfully we have Dirt Fish.
Dirt Fish Rally school is operated in part with Subaru and it can teach you the fine art of loose-surface car control with the aid of hands-on experience and well-qualified instructors. The school has classes for both AWD and RWD cars, and it is one of the best programs in the world when it comes to getting started in loose-surface racing. If you want to get your bearings before tackling a real track, the school has a simulator room with multiple racing chairs and wheel setups so you can practice playing Forza Horizon or Dirt 3 first.
If this sounds like the ride of your lifetime, we have collected all the information we can about the facility, cars, and classes offered by Dirt Fish, and we have them all here for you after the break.
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