I have already written about this. My dad was a racing car freak. He enjoyed driving fast cars and watching sports car races. He even rode a Triumph TR-3. Sometimes he talked to me about racing. He mentioned that he had always wanted to go to a great high performance driving school in California. There was a school that offered a week-long course in racing, defensive driving, and driving for bodyguards. Anything you wanted to learn about driving, you could learn at a school like this. A taxi, truck or race car driver would benefit.
Time flies. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that I write about the things you want to do when they come your way. Sometimes opportunity doesn’t knock twice.
A friend recently purchased a Lexus sedan. He was lucky enough to go to a high performance driving school as part of the deal. He called me and asked if I wanted to go to something like this.
What to do? Of course I wanted to go. I’m not particularly passionate about cars, but that opportunity is there and it may never come before me again.
I also learned that nothing is easy. This course was in Wisconsin. A few quick trips and we were on an airliner bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An hour’s drive later, we’re in Plymouth, Wisconsin and on the trail of Road America. There is a problem however. When we arrive in Milwaukee, it is snowing. There is snow everywhere. It’s a balmy 80 degrees in South Carolina.
The start of the course is postponed from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. A quick little conference and the participants are divided into groups. Now the fun begins. We will be driving brand new Lexus sports cars.
I know you think you can drive. You get in this new car that has 470 horsepower, buckle up, then hit the accelerator. Now you try to run this course without scattering little cones all over the place. Turns out it’s a little harder than you think. Three laps of that, then it’s on the skidpad.
There’s a big concrete slab and they’re spraying water everywhere. You are supposed to start the car and stay in a controlled skid or drift the car. It’s all about turning the car around. Remember, you just thought you could drive. It’s fun to spin a car. It’s just that seeing these kids drift cars is a lot harder than it looks.
Lunch time brings a guy who tells us the history of the track and all kinds of racing stories.
The good news is that the main track is cleared of snow and we can ride on the track. This is set up with you getting in one car and your instructor is in another car. You follow the instructor on the track and he gives you advice by radio. It’s quite an interesting experience. He gives you instructions on where to brake, where to speed up and even though we’re only going about seventy miles an hour he tells us that in a real Indy car race we’d be doing about 200 miles an hour on the straight parts of the course. “I don’t know anything about driving!”
Just to let you know there’s more to this ride than you might think, I completed the slalom course in about 40 seconds. Most people would complete the course in about 30-35 seconds. In the afternoon, the instructor told me to drive more aggressively. I finally got down to 32 seconds. Of course, the other guys were around the course in 28 seconds.
Then, of course, the Indy driver carried three passengers and he did the lap in 25 seconds.
The flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte only lasted 90 minutes. Now I try not to step on the accelerator when stopping at a stop sign. All those things you always wanted to do, you should go do them.