03. Happy Hour
We ended our first day by strapping on our helmets for some lead/follow laps with our instructor around the Bondurant road course. Now, if you think having to follow the instructor is a bad thing and they keep the speed down; it's pretty much the opposite. The idea here is to not only keep up with your instructor but you are supposed to stay within two to three car lengths of his car as you navigate the course at a fairly fast pace. The laps get faster each time around as our instructor notices our confidence and ability improves with each corner. This is where all the class time comes together, and it also got our adrenaline pumping. It's a total rush to hit corners at speeds you never thought possible before taking the course.
04. Day Two
Similar to day one, we started our second day of instruction with some classroom time. Bondurant instructor Corey Hosford, a Formula Drift competitor and three-time podium finisher in 2012, brought us up to speed on straight-line braking and the proper way to utilize trail braking (the process of reducing brake pressure at the same rate of turning the steering wheel into a corner). This is another aspect of driving that will make you a much better driver and reduce your lap times on any race course. And that's the whole reason for taking the course, right?
05. Maricopa Oval
After Corey handed us the verbal version, it wasn't long before we were back in the Camaros working on our trail braking skills and corner entry and exit on Bondurant's Maricopa Oval. It's a great tool for the school as it features a decreasing radius turn on one end and an increased radius corner on the other. Both have different entry and exit points, so we got a ton of seat time learning how to get faster at both. This will pay off huge for us next time we hit the road course.
06. Skid Cars
One of the more fun aspects of attending the school was getting behind the wheel of the skid cars. If you're not familiar, a skid car is an instructional vehicle armed with a hydraulic system that lowers a set of outer wheels designed to induce either understeer or oversteer with a push of a button by the instructor inside the car. Needless to say, we had a blast shredding a set of rear tires, and we also found that oversteer is way more fun than understeer. We're just thankful we're not the ones who had to shell out the money for new rubber.
So with a good amount of seat time and classroom instruction under out belts, we hit the Bondurant autocross for some timed laps. This is when we found out where we stood going up against our fellow classmates. Sure, it was a ton of fun, but this was one aspect of the class where every student was looking to graduate at the top of the class, and to us that meant turning the quickest autocross lap time. The competition was tight as our group of six students was within one second of each other's time by the end of the session.
08. Road Hard
With the "friendly" competition on the autocross complete, it was back out on the Bondurant road course for some more lead/follow laps. Only now we were equipped with tons of knowledge and understanding about what it takes to get around the course much quicker. This time we were hitting speeds quite a bit faster than the day before and it was a little easier keeping up with our instructor around the course. We were able to do so with more control and confidence—two important aspects of performance driving if you want to be fast and safe around a road course or autocross.
This portion of the driving school is the most exciting, as only one car length separated ours and the instructor's vehicle. At about 80-plus mph on a fairly tight course is an awesome rush and a great way to finish off two days of performance driving instruction.
09. Mission Complete
So, even though I had previously taken this course, this refresher visit really helped me to re-evaluate my driving ability and to regain the skills that had slightly diminished over time. There's no doubt I'm a much better driver than I was prior to attending the course and am looking forward to getting on a road course as soon as possible to put all this knowledge to good use.