Most fledgling drivers in America go through some form of driver education classes during their high school years, where they learn basic rules of the road and motor vehicle operation. And if students manage to correctly answer a few simple questions and demonstrate a modicum of driving aptitude, they obtain a license. Unfortunately this isn’t enough of an education for most people, since basic “driver’s ed” doesn’t adequately train for adverse weather conditions, emergency situations or extreme driving dynamics. Fortunately there are schools that supplement basic driver education with proper training for all types of wheeled pursuits, from rally racing to winter driving — and they’re tons of fun. What follows is a sampling of specialized driver education opportunities across this great nation.
Skip Barber Racing School
One of the best-known schools in the country, Skip Barber Racing School has been around for more than 40 years. Operating at dozens of racetracks across the U.S., Barber offers classes ranging from Teen Safety and Survival to High-Performance Driving to Advanced Racing. The school also offers specialty classes and lapping sessions.
Locations: 22 different racetracks around the U.S., including Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, and Road Atlanta in Georgia.
Prices: One Day Driving School or Teen Safety and Survival School run about $1,000. A 3-day Racing School will run between $4,000 and $5,000 — depending on location.
Bondurant School of High Performance
Bob Bondurant has been training drivers since 1968 utilizing a track of his design for a multitude of racing and driving programs. In addition to the expected teen safety program and high-performance driving, students can learn off-road driving, karting and there’s even a class on Executive Protection/Anti-Kidnapping. Bondurant also offers a one-day Women’s Driving Academy.
Location: Chandler, Arizona.
Prices: Advanced Teen Driving is $799; High-Performance Driving in a Corvette Stingray starts at $1,650. The “signature Bondurant course” is the 4-day Grand Prix Road Racing course that runs $4,999.
Team O’Neil Rally School
Rally drivers often push their AWD race cars at crazy speeds down dirt roads in the middle of the woods while catching air over humps and sliding sideways through turns. If this sounds like fun to you, take a look at Team O’Neil Rally School. This New Hampshire-based school offers a range of rally classes that start students out in Ford Fiestas, eventually graduating them to more powerful vehicles such as the Subaru WRX or Ford Fiesta ST. Team O’Neil also offers classes for off-road, winter safety and personal security.
Location: Dalton, New Hampshire.
Prices: One-day Rally School is $1,300. Classes running two to five days vary in price — the latter running $5,990.
Bridgestone Winter Driving School
Considering the adverse weather across the U.S. over the last few winters, it seems no part of the country is completely immune to snowy or icy roads. Attending a winter driving school could be extremely beneficial for folks in most states. With three specially-designed, purpose-built ice- and snow-covered tracks, the Bridgestone school offer courses geared for safety or performance, with different levels available depending on student experience. Bridgestone also offers custom programs such as emergency vehicle operation, trailer towing and ice racing. Because they do require snow and ice, the classes are only offered from December to March.
Location: Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Prices: Introductory classes start at $280; two-day performance driving is $2,850.
Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School
If you’re looking for a career change and want to try your hand at a dragster, funny car or pro-stock motorcycle racing, this may be the place for you. Frank Hawley is a nine-time NHRA national champion and teaches many of the classes himself. With classes available at various tracks around the country, you’ll be able to earn your NHRA competition license in a number of different vehicle classes. For the ultimate experience, there’s the Dragster Adventure where students learn to drive a dragster and race side by side.
Locations: A variety of racetracks around the country, including Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, California, and Royal Purple Raceway in Houston, Texas.
Prices: Introductory classes start at $399 and can range up to $8,000 for the Top Alcohol Dragster or Funny Car.
For car enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better than a day spent at Exotics Racing. Granted, it might be a bit of a stretch to call this a school; however, participants do drive with instructors so there is some skill development involved. That said, five laps around Las Vegas Speedway or Auto Club Speedway in a Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Corvette Z06, Nissan GT-R or one of a dozen other exotic cars is certainly going to satisfy your need for speed.
Locations: Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California.
Price: Starting at $199 for five laps in a Porsche Cayman GTS, ranging up to $4,635 to drive five laps each in 15 different exotic sports cars.
Badlands Off-Road Adventures
A feeling of accomplishment is just one fringe benefit that comes from learning to negotiate a vehicle through what previously seemed like impassable terrain. If you’re in the mood to learn how to properly handle a vehicle off-road, check out Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Tom Severin, president of Badlands, has more than 40 years of off-roading experience. The school offers training for off-road beginners as well as those interested in advanced rock crawling, winching or traversing sand dunes. The school also offers multiple-day off-road adventures.
Location: Southern California.
Prices: Getting Started courses are $250, a 2-day Death Valley all-inclusive adventure is $2,970 per vehicle.
Allen Berg Racing School
Not everyone can be an open-wheel race car driver, but how do you know if you have what it takes unless you try? At Allen Berg Racing School — run by former F1 driver Allen Berg — not only do you get to try, they’ll teach you how to do it. Attending classes at a number of legendary racetracks, students learn the fundamentals and skills needed to pilot the school’s Tatuus Renault Formula 1600 cars. More adventurous drivers can sign up for the GP racing experience, spending the day in the role of an F1 driver, which culminates with a stint in a 1998 Benetton B198 V10-powered F1 car.
Locations: California Speedway, Fontana, California; Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Salinas, California; Willow Springs, California; Thermal Club, California; Arizona Motorsports Park, Litchfield Park, Arizona.
Prices: One-day programs start at $1,695, 3-day courses range up to $6,495.
Porsche Sport Driving School
Many companies producing high-performance vehicles offer their own schools, so owners (and potential buyers) learn how to properly drive their cars. Porsche offers courses in three locations, including their new headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. You don’t have to be a Porsche owner to take the course, but afterwards you’ll likely want to buy one. Classes range from car control and high-performance driving to full competition driving courses. Porsche also offers special classes for women, or a vacation package for couples that includes the driving school as well as a stay at a spa resort.
Locations: Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; Birmingham, Alabama.
Prices: One-day High-Performance Driving School is $1,800; Advanced car control and lapping clinic is $3,000; three-day competition driving course is $6,000.
Jaguar Performance Driving Academy
Every seen (or heard) a Jaguar F-Type R drive by and think to yourself how much fun it would be to drive one? Or maybe you’ve purchased one of these high-performance Jags but don’t really know its capabilities — or your own. If so, head to the Jaguar Performance Driving Academy and you’ll have professional drivers show you how to get the most out of the F-TYPE R, XFR, XJR or XKR. Three different levels of instruction are available.
Locations: Monticello, New York; New Orleans, Louisiana; Las Vegas, Nevada.
Prices: Level 1 is complimentary to Jaguar R-model buyers, and $895 for non-owners. Level 2 is $1,895. Level 3 is $2,895.
BMW Performance Driving School
BMW builds a number of high-performance vehicles ranging from sport sedans to SUVs to motorcycles — and for those who want to experience what these vehicles are truly capable of, there’s the BMW Performance Driving School. A variety of classes are available, including teen driving, proper car control, high-performance driving in the company’s ‘M’ cars and motorcycle riding, both on and off-road.
Locations: Spartanburg, North Carolina; Palm Springs, California.
Prices: One-day car control is $775; two-day is $1,550. M school starts at $1,550 for one day.
SRT Track Experience
Dodge SRT models such as the Charger or Challenger have a lot of performance on tap, but buyers often have no place to safely discover the true performance and power of these amazing cars. With the SRT Track Experience, both current and future car owners can learn how to get the most from these rides — with the help of professional driving instructors. Best of all, you’ll be using the school’s SRTs, so you won’t have to buy new tires at the end of the session.
Locations: Multiple tracks across the U.S.
Cost: Complimentary for SRT buyers; $699 for general public.
Ford Performance Racing School
Fords have been racing since the company was founded — and now you can experience a race-prepped Mustang for yourself at the Ford Performance Racing School. Multiple course levels teach valuable high-performance driving skills; you can even earn a racing license. Or if you prefer heading off-pavement, the one-day Raptor Assault program lets you experience what the SVT Raptor is truly all about.
Locations: Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, Utah.
Prices: One-day performance school is $1,695; three-day is $4,695. Raptor Assault school is $1,595.
AMG Driving Academy
Many people associate Mercedes-Benz with luxury sedans, but the AMG division of Mercedes is all about high-performance driving, which is what you’ll learn if you attend the AMG Driving Academy. Three levels of instruction are available, ranging from basic skills to a Pro level that features three days of intense instruction and maximum speed.
Locations: Circuit of the Americas, Texas; Lime Rock Park, Connecticut; Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Salinas, California.
Prices: Basic course starts at $1,795; Advanced is $3,495; Pro is $4,495.