We're not talking about ride-alongs, pace laps, or simply "experiences" with little instruction; we kept our roundup to just those programs that are designed around molding inexperienced students into knowledgeable drivers ready to handle a multitude of driving situations, as well as advance toward autocross and open-track racing. Are you ready to learn how to really drive your hot rod? Here are our top 23 schools in alphabetical order.
BIR Performance Driving School
Track: Brainerd International Speedway, Brainerd, MN
Cars: Spec Ford, Formula Enterprise racer
Programs and Pricing: Race your own vehicle, $265; Combination Racing, yours plus spec racer, $795; spec race car sessions, $295-1,395; Elite Driving Experience, $1,195-$2,495
Competition Licensing: Satisfies partial requirements for NASA competition license
Factoid: The Elite Driving Experience offers one-on-one instructor-to-student ratio in BIR's new Formula E racers for a fast learning curve.
BMW Performance Driving School
Track: Private facility, Greer, SC; Virginia International Raceway (VIR), VA; Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS), NC
Cars: A sampling of new Bimmers, including M3, M5, and M6 in the M Schools.
Programs and Pricing: 1-day Car Control School, $650; 2-day Car Control School, $1,095; 1-day M School, $1,295; 2-day M School, $3,295; Advanced M School, $4,200 at VIR; $4,600 at CMS.
Competition Licensing: Advanced M school satisfies requirements for BMW CCA
Factoid: Although SCCA and NASA are the most known competition licenses, a BMW CCA certification is just as legit.
Track: Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY; Lowe's Motor Speedway, Charlotte, NC; Virginia International Raceway, Alton, VA; Summit Point Motorsports Park, Summit Point, WV
Cars: Students provide their own cars, which must pass a thorough safety inspection. A checklist is available on the website.
Programs and Pricing: Decisive Driving Program
Factoid: Car Guys claim that their school is based on the pattern of Porsche Club of America (PCA) and BMW Car Club of America (BMW CCA) schools. Editor Hunkins has attended this several times, and gives it a strong thumb's up.
Faasst Performance Driving School
Tracks: Pueblo Motorsports Park, Pueblo, CO; High Plains Raceway, Byers, CO; Roebling Road Raceway, GA; Thunderhill Raceway Park, Willows, CA; MotorSport Ranch, Cresson, TX; Mid-America Motorplex, Sandia Motor Speedway, Albuquerque, NM; Virginia International Raceway, Alton, VA; European Rally School & Motorsport Park, FL; Circuit at Grand Bayou, Belle Rose, LA; Palm Beach International Raceway, Jupiter, FL; Harris Hill Road, San Marcos, TX; Milwaukee Mile, West Allis, WI; Arroyo Seco Raceway, Deming, NM
Cars: Students generally provide their own cars which must pass a safety inspection, though Faasst can set drivers up with rentals. The SCCA/NASA Accredited Racing School requires a race-prepared car with a log book and annual tech sticker, or proof of a recent tech inspection recorded in the log book.
Programs and Pricing: Bronze High Performance Driving Package, $425-$525; Silver High Performance Driving Package, $695-$895; Gold SCCA/NASA Accredited Racing Package, $795-$995
Competition Licensing: Faasst is an SCCA and NASA accredited racing school, so the one-day racing school counts as one school requirement toward an SCCA racing license or as a full completion requirement of a NASA provisional race license.
Factoid: The underlying theme of the Faasst Performance Driving School is derived from a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
Pro Drive Driving School
Track: Portland International Raceway, Portland, OR
Cars: Spec Ford Racer
Programs and Pricing: High Performance Driving Course, $499; High Performance/Car Control Package, $698; High Performance/Spec Racer Ford Lapping Package, $1,399; Introduction to Racing, $699; 2-day Road Racing School, $2,999; 3-day Road Racing School, $3,999
Competition Licensing: The 3-day Road Racing School is accredited by SCCA.
Factoid: Pro Drive's Racing School uses Spec Racer Fords, which allows students to easily transition into SCCA regional races and then work their way up to the Pro Spec Racer Series.
Autobahn Country Club
Track: Autobahn Country Club, Joliet, Illinois
Cars: Mazda 3, Audi S5, Lexus IS-F, Cadillac CTS-V, Porsche Cayman, BMW Z3
Programs and Pricing: Advanced Car Control, $695; 1-day Advanced Performance Driving School, $1,295 2-day Advanced Performance Driving School; $2,495; Racing Instruction AM Program, $450; PM Private Instruction, $125 an hour
Competition Licensing: SCCA and NASA licensing is available through classes in the race-prepped Z3s.
Factoid: Autobahn hosts several race series including Harrah's Autobahn Grand Prix Presented by Mazda, Bobby Rahal HSR Historic Grand Prix, Redline Time Attack, and One Lap of America to name a few. Several pro-level race teams use the track to test and dial in their cars as well.
Bertil Roos Racing School
Track: New Jersey Motorsports Park, Milville, NJ; Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA; Virginia International Raceway, Alton, VA
Cars: Formula 2000
Programs and Pricing: Drive-your-own-car, $495; 1/2-day AM Adventure, $525; 1/2-day PM Adventure, $550; 1-day Adventure, $1,195; 3-day Road Racing School, $3,395; 2-day Advanced Road Racing School, $2,295; 5-day Road Racing Race Week, $5,195
Competition Licensing: Upon completion of the 2-, 3-, or 5-day advanced schools, drivers will have fulfilled all of the requirements for regional and/or national SCCA Competition licenses. Five-day grads are eligible to enter the Roos Formula 2000 Racing Series.
Factoid: Bertil Roos is one of the only schools that offers intensive five-day packages for those serious about competition. They believe that shorter durations just aren't enough training, and the seat time to proclaim a rookie truly ready to race competitively is required. Also, Roos says they are the only school in North America that does not have any car damage liability or hidden insurance costs in any of its beginner programs, which can take some of the fear out of learning to push the limits.
Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving
Track: Firebird International Raceway; Phoenix, AZ
Cars: GM-supplied C6 Corvettes, Z06s, ZR1s, and CTS Caddys, and Bondurant-prepped Formula Mazdas.
Programs and Pricing: 2-day High Performance Driving, $2,325; 3-day High Performance Driving, $3,275; 1-day Intro to Racing, $1,375; 3-day Grand Prix Road Racing, $4,250; 4-day Grand Prix Road Racing, $4,795; 2-day Grand Prix Specialty, $3,395; 1- or 3-day Advanced Road Racing, $2,350-$5,850; 1- or 3-day Advanced Formula Car Racing, $2,350-$5,850; 2- or 3-day Bondurant Championship Race Series, $2,350.
Competition Licensing: Graduates of the three- or four-day Grand Road Race School who have shown competent vehicle control and safety, as well as grads of some of the advanced racing programs, are qualified to receive their SCCA license.
Factoid: Known as the "Fastest 60 Acres in America," Bondurant maintains over 200 race-prepared Corvettes, Caddys, and specially prepped Formula Mazdas, effectively making it the largest facility of its kind in North America.
Bridgestone Racing Academy
Track: Mosport Driver Development Center, Pontypool, Ontario, Canada
Cars: Chrysler Crossfire SRT6, Van Diemen Formula racer
Programs and Pricing (Based on USD to CAD conversion at time of press): 2-day Advance to Racing, $2,832.67; 1/2- and 1-day Lapping Practice, $875.73-1,756.35; 1/2- and 1-day Private Coaching $2,245.59-3,908.99; 1/2-day Single Race Day, $1,756.35; 1-day Double Race Day, $2,539.13; 3-day Race License Course, $3,908.99
Competition Licensing: The three-day Race License Course qualifies grads for SCCA or CASC race license. The school is also accredited for further advancement toward National or Pro licenses.
Factoid: Mosport was specifically designed to be a driver development track and features 24 unique configurations. It's technically located just across the border in Canada, but it's really only a short distance from the Great Lakes and upper Northeast areas.
Track: Willow Springs International Raceway, Rosamond, CA; Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, CA; Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Bakersfield, CA; California Speedway, Fontana, CA.
Cars: Students bring their own cars, which must pass a safety inspection.
Programs and Pricing: 2-day Advanced Racing and Competition School at Willow Springs for experienced drivers, $495; 1-day High Performance Driving School in your own car, $395.
Competition Licensing: Completion of the two-day Advanced Racing and Competition School in addition to the requisite previous schooling or training will fulfill NASA and BMW CCA requirements.
Factoid: The Advanced Racing and Competition School program is open to qualified candidates only, which means prospective students need to submit an application with proof of completion of at least one High Performance Driving School, or a log of previous training and racing experience. The class has a high emphasis on transitioning drivers from solo and open track sessions to real fender-fender, nose-to-tail close quarters racing for competition preparation.
Ivor Wigham's European Rally & Performance Driving School
Track: Keystone Heights Air Park, Starke, FL
Cars: Mitsubishi Lancer, Dodge Neon, Subaru RS
Programs and Pricing:1-day European Style Road Course, weekday $850, weekend $975; 2-day Advanced Road Course, weekday $1,695, weekend $1,875; 2-day Race and Rally Combo, weekday $1,495, weekend $1,695; Individual Instruction, 1-day weekday $1,750, 1-Day weekend $1,950, 2-day weekday $3,250, 2-day weekend $3,450
Factoid: Ivor Wigham's 430-acre Motorsports Park is the only school we know of that offers both advanced training on both paved and dirt tracks. If you want to drive Gymkhana like Ken Block, this is a good place to start.
Danny McKeever's Fast Lane Driving School
Track: Willow Spring Raceway, Rosamond, CA
Cars: Fast Lane has their own race-prepared Toyota Celicas, or students can also bring their own car to drive for all or part of the class.
Programs and Pricing: 1/2-day High Performance Driving School, $495 ($295 driving your own car); 1-day High Performance Driving School, $895; 2-day High Performance Driving School, $1,795; 2-day Road Racing Experience, $1,795; 3-day High Performance Advanced Road Racing, $2,595; Lapping sessions are also available.
Competition Licensing: Graduates of one of Fast Lane's SCCA-accredited courses are eligible for licensing recommendation and can apply to SCCA for their Novice Permit.
Factoid: President/CEO of the school, Danny McKeever, started teaching for the California Sports Car Club region of SCCA racing school over 40 years ago and is also the current chief instructor for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race.
Jim Russell Racing Drivers School
Track: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, CA
Cars: FRJ-50, Lancer Evolution X
Programs and Pricing: High Performance Driving Course, $995; Lancer Evolution X Experience, $995; Grand Prix Masters, $995; 3-day School of Racing, $4,795, 3-day Advanced School of Racing, $5,495; Data Masters, $3,295
Competition Licensing: After successful completion of a 3-day School of Racing, students are eligible for an SCCA racing license. The real goal of many Russell students, however, is to climb the ladder to the Jim Russell Championship Series and eventually earn a seat in the FIA Formula Two Championship, representing the Jim Russell Future Driver team. F2 is the final rung on the ladder to Formula One.
Factoid: The FRJ-50 blasts 0-60 well within 4 seconds and 0-100 times in under 9 seconds, thanks to a power-to-weight ratio equal to 645hp per ton. That coupled with efficient aerodynamics means cornering forces can be
as much as 3 g. No worries though, the AP Racing brakes will bring it all to halt from 100 mph in less than 175 feet.
Miller Motorsports Park
Track: Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, UT
Cars: Mustang GT, Mustang FR500S, Ford 500, and Focus
Programs and Pricing: Ford Racing High Performance Drivin
g School: 1-day, $1,495, 2-day, $2,795, 3-day, $3,995; Race Licensing school, call for pricing
Competition Licensing: Miller Park Racing Association (MPRA) racing license, which is recognized by other sanctioning bodies including the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Recommendation for a Grand Am license is also possible.
Factoid: Miller Motorsports Park is the home of the Miller Mustang Challenge, which means drivers in race school are in the same spec Mustang FR500S and on the same track as race series competitors. According to Miller, the full track layout is also the longest road racing course in North America.
The Mid-Ohio School
Track: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, OH
Cars: Acura TSX, Honda S2000, Honda Civic EX Coupe
Programs and Pricing: High Performance Course, $750 ($625 with your car); Advanced High Performance Course, $850 ($725 with your car); 2-day High Performance Program, $1,450 ($1,225 with your car); 2-day Advanced High Performance Program; $1,620 ($1,275 with your car); 3-day High Performance Program, $2,345 ($1,875 with your car); Competition Licensing School, $1,000 ($470 using your competition car); Competition Course, $695 with your race car; Open Track, Test and Tune, and Private Coaching Sessions are also available.
Competition Licensing: Students who complete the three-day Acura High Performance Program, Lapping Program, or comparable program before enrolling in the Competition Licensing School will receive their NASA Competition License upon successful completion.
Factoid: The Mid-Ohio School is one of the only schools that allow students to use their own cars at every high-performance driving level, and their own competition-prepared cars for the racing programs.
Porsche Sport Driving School
Track: Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, AL
Cars: 911 Carrera, 911 Carrera S, 911 Carrera Turbo, Boxster S, Cayman S, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo, Panamera Turbo
Programs and Pricing: Precision 1-day High Performance Driving Course, $1,795; Performance 2-day High Performance Driving Course, $2,995; Women's Only 2-day High Performance Driving Course, $2,995; Turbo 1-day High Performance Driving Course, $2,495; Masters 2-day Advanced Driving Course, $3,495; Masters Plus Race License 3-day Competition Driving Course, $5,295; Legends 1-day High Performance Driving Course, $9,995
Competition Licensing: The three-day Race License Course is for graduates of the Masters program to receive SCCA accreditation.
Factoid: PSDS always maintains a fresh fleet of new Porsches of almost every model. Also, make sure to plan a little extra time to check out the awesome Barber Motorsports Museum.
Proformance Racing School
Track: Pacific Raceways, Kent, WA; Portland International Raceway, Portland, OR; Spokane Raceway Park, Spokane, WA; Oregon Raceway Park, Grass Valley, OR, Thunderhill Raceway Park, Willows, CA
Cars: Chevy Cobalt SS, Lotus Elise and Exige, Pro-3 Race Car
Programs and Pricing: One Day High Performance Driving, $555 using your car, $955 using school sedan, $1,155 using Lotus Elise; 2-day Competition Licensing Program, $2,550
Competition Licensing: Competition licensing program participants qualify for a license from SCCA, ICSCC, and SOVREN racing organizations.
Factoid: Founder and chief instructor Don Kitch, Jr. has over 200 professional and amateur racing starts in his 25-year career, and just last year teamed with Dempsey Racing in a Ferrari 430 GT2 race car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team placed Ninth in class and raised $200,000 for the Team Seattle Cardiac Intensive Care Unit located at Seattle Children's hospital in Seattle.
Track location: Grandsport Speedway, Houston, TX; Mosport International Speedway, Toronto Ontario, Canada; Race City Motorsports Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, Las Vegas, NV; Summit Point Motorsports Park, Washington, D.C.; Willow Springs Raceway, Rosamond, CA
Cars: Race-prepped C5 Corvettes or FFR Cobra Repliracer spec roadsters
Programs and Pricing: Level 1 and Level 2 Racing Adventures, $1,099,
($899 for the first 10 registrations of each date for a limited time); Level 3 and 4 Racing Adventures, $1,200; Private Lessons, $1,595/day; the cost per day to do a school in your own car is $399.
Competition Licensing: Satisfies partial requirements for NASA competition license
Factoid: Racing Adventures says they opted for FFR Cobra replicas because they wanted something unique, exciting, and visceral for students to learn in without sacrificing performance. Plus, at 2,100 pounds, the 302 EFI-equipped Cobras will do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds.
Skip Barber Racing School
Track: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, CA; Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, CT; Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, FL; Road Atlanta, Braselton, GA; Roebling Road Raceway, Savannah, GA; Putnam Park, Mount Meridian, IN; Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY; Summit Point Raceway, Summit Point, WV; Virginia International Raceway, Alton, VA; Road America, Elkart Lake, WI
Cars: Formula Skip Barber cars, and Mazda MX-5 Cup racers for the Racing School, BMW M3 coupes, sedans and 330i sedans, Lexus ISF, Lotus Exige S, Mazda 3, RX-8, MX-5, Porsche 911s, Caymans, and Boxsters for the driving schools.
Programs and Pricing: 2-day Advanced Racing School, $3,499; Intro to Racing, $699; 1-day MX5 Cup Intro, $699; Lapping Session, $1,199; 1-day Racing/Driving School Combo, $1,495, Mazdaspeed Racing School, $3,999, Mazda 3-day Racing School, $3,999; Mazda 1-day Driving School, $999
Factoid: Skip Barber Racing tells us that the school has trained more motorsports winners and champions than any other organization of its kind, and Barber alumni have won every major U.S. auto racing championship. They also claim that over one-third of all Indy 500 competitors and one-quarter of the
current NASCAR Sprint Cup field are former graduates.
Sports Car Driving Experience
Track: Homestead/Miami Speedway, Homestead, FL; Palm Beach International Raceway, Palm Beach, FL; Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, FL; Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL
Cars: C5 and C6 Corvettes, and race-prepped Z06s
Programs and Pricing: $1,550 for 1-day novice or advanced school; $2,250 for two days; $1,650 and $2,800 respectively at Daytona International Speedway
Competition Licensing: Completion of two courses meets full qualifications for SCCA license.
Factoid: Instructors ride along with students to give instant feedback on driving techniques, and the whole experience is captured on video for later review.
Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch
Track: Spring Mountain, Pahrump, NV
Cars: C6 Corvette, ZR1, Radical Racer
Programs and Pricing: Ron Fellows Level 1 3-day Corvette Driving School, $3,695; Level 2, 2-day Corvette Driving School, $3,295; Corvette ZR1 Racing School, $2,500; Corvette SCCA Classes & License Recommendation Course, $3,395; Corvette Private Instruction & Race Car Driving Lessons, $2,500; Radical School For Racing Program, $4,195; Radical Private Instruction & Driving Lessons, $2,800; Radical SCCA Classes & License Recommendation, $4,395; Lotus Performance Driving School 2-day Program, $2,145; Lotus Level Two 2-day Program, $2,345
Competition Licensing: Spring Mountain is SCCA accredited, and completion of any of the advanced SCCA driving schools (plus the basic driving school
prerequisite) meets requirements for completion.
Factoid: Billed as the only Motorsports Ranch on the Left Coast, Spring Mountain is a driving enthusiast's paradise with multiple programs available, as well as a full-fledged resort with all the amenities. Spring Mountain is also a country club, and membership in Club Spring Mountain includes private garage rentals, luxury condo rentals, luxury car rentals, indoor firing range, karting on the track, and a racquetball court.
Track: Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY
Cars: Your car
Programs and Pricing: Open Track and Novice or Intermediate school, $270; Open Track only with no school, $290
Factoid: Trackmasters states they teach car control dynamics and high-performance driving, not racing, but many of the techniques carry over into competition. Open Track format allows highly experienced and licensed competition drivers four-plus hours of track time per day. Drivers who meet qualifications for Trackmaster's Open Track programs can expect four hours or more of track time per day.
Turn One Track Events
Track: Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw, SC
Cars: Your car
Programs and Pricing: 1-day Driver's Ed Course, $275; 2-day, $450; Also runs Solo, Super Solo, and Test and Tune events, 1-day $225, 2-day $350. Membership in the Palmetto Motorsports Club at CMP is $5,500 annually or $465.83 monthly.
Factoid: Members of the Palmetto Motorsports Club often rub elbows with teams who compete in NASCAR, Champ Car, ALMS, Grand AM, Koni Challenge, and World Challenge who use the track for testing.