Bob Bondurant's School of High Performance Driving - The Inside Scoop!"
I survived Day One. I'm typing this
from my hotel which has BROADBAND!!
I was invited to Bob Bondurant's School of High Performance driving for a 3 day Grand Prix class by Crossedflags.com, a Corvette Site. It pays to be a moderator at some sites. I would have done the 4 day, but I'm over weight by 35lbs and too large for the Formula Cars. Time for Jenny Craig.
I woke up at 1:00am Thursday, fueled up the Blue Meanie, hit the road at 2:00am. Covered 180 miles the first 2 hours, there was road construction that slowed me down. Since there is a time zone change, I arrived 8:00am. Very, very, VERY impressive place. This is how the "other side" lives. Movie stars, professional racers, and the rich and famous are common clients.
I'll write a full review when the class is over, but here's a brief account of the day:
We did some classroom lecture and discussion, then they took us for a tour of the facility. IT IS HUGE!!! It's right next to Firebird Dragstrip (Nice NHRA track) and is comprised of various areas:
Main offices: Classrooms, gift shop, offices, helipad, etc.
Garage area: Mini Museum, Shifter Cart area, large service bays, Formula Ford storage, etc.
Main Race Track: Multi-use configurable roadrace course with tower area.
"Skid-Pan" Lot: Multi-use flat asphault area for honing individual techniques.
After the classroom and tour, they loaded use in 1-Ton Chevy Passengers vans and took us around the track. EEKKK!!! One gal in the front seat FREAKED OUT BIG TIME. We were chasing the lead van only 3 feet off it's bumper at high speed around tight sections of the road course. I LOVED IT!!! Not sure if I'd try that in my van, but I was impressed.
Next we picked out cars. My group (only 2 in my group) was issued 2003 C5 M6 Corvettes. Another group got Mustangs, and the third group got Cadillac CTS?'s. All Manuals. They also had Crown Vics that were heavily mod'd, but the instructors were playing with them.
Our first exercise was "heal-toe" downshifts. I've never been good at it, but I improved alot.
We did some more classroom and had a 1.5 hr lunch. After lunch we got back in the cars and did:
Line selection: Constant Radius turns (late apex) and increasing radius turns. It was emphasising looking ahead, and trail braking. I got so good at it, that the instructor couldn't lose me in identical C5's. At the beginning, he was smoking me with the Cadillac.
Panic Gates: You accelerate to 45mph, and there are 3 stop lights, they push a button, and you must swerve into the correct lane, or come to a panic stop depending on the lights. I had that wired from square one. All those years of Freeway driving seemed to have paid off!
My instructor is a professional ASA driver between rides, and he's trying to get a ride for the 24hr of Daytona. Very knowledgeable, and a good professor.
I'll update this thread every day. Wish I could post pics, but I didn't bring the right hardware. When I get home, I'll post pics.
Pat "racin' rookie" McRat
I'm back. AND I'M TIRED!!
I'll write up today's adventures after I calm down. OH MAN!!!
PS - Is it worth the money? If I knew it would be like this, I'd have taken it before I bought the Camaro. I wuz RACING today, kickin' ass, taking names!
PSS - I never trail braked until yesterday while racing. For AutoX, there is no real big advantage. AND trail braking can get you into trouble if you don't use it correctly.
Day Two Bob Bondurant's School of High Performance Driving! Oh BABY! DEEPER, DEEPER!
Well, day one was great, but seemed like it could use some more seat time. Or so I thought. I headed down early, and talked to Rachel who helps run the school. They train about 3,000 students a year (60 a week) and have about 250 cars.
First went into the classroom to discuss the track layout. Then we fired up the Corvettes and went to the Mariposa Oval to practice Heel-Toe shifting and how to pick a line. We RAN, RAN, RAN! Cut a lot of laps. I got overamibitious and spun the car in the gravel. No harm. The track is set up very safely, with gravel, tires, and soft barriers. Wish I would have caught it on tape. The ass end came lose at the apex, I lifted the throttle and shot into the infield in a split second. My bad. The car filled with sand, but was unhurt.
Next was the Outrigger Skid Cars. These are Automatic Cadillacs with special hydraulic wheel like training wheels. They have the ABS removed. With these cars, the instructor can remove weight from the front or rear of a vehicle with a control panel. We learned how to save ourselves in understeer situations (plowing) and oversteer (ass-end washouts). It was very, very helpful, and if I had done that before the Mariposa, I probably could have saved it. DON'T lift the throttle when the rear goes away! Hit the gas and drive the car. I have video on that. I'll have to get home to post. See, the reason the rear gets loose is because there is not enough traction/weight on the rear, if you lift the throttle or hit the brakes, it gets WORSE not better because the car will transfer what traction it has to the front and lighten the rear more, making you spin faster.
Next we did ABS testing. ABS = Allows Braking and Steering, according to the Instructors, and they are right! First we hauled ass up to 70 mph, and nailed the brakes. We had to stop at a designated target, so at first you don't use 100%. But you keep getting less and less distance to stop in, until you are 100% brakes. Then we got going 70mph and slammed the brakes to the floor and had to navigate a through a "lane change" turn. Yep! A car with ABS will pull it off.
Then it was lunch.
Hmm... I'm so close to the dragstrip right now, that I can here the cars racing. DAMN! I need to pick Kathy up at the airport. She flew in to see me.
I'll post more with PICS when she gets here. She's bringing something that will allow me to download off the camera.
Sorry about the delay... Busy, busy.
OK, we went to lunch and came back, did a little short classroom about what we learned that morning and then they took us to the Helmet Room. I brought a helmet, firejacket and shoes, but they want us in a full suit. We got to wear cool looking Bondurant 1 pc firesuits. I mounting the camera in the car, and we were ready to ROCK-N-ROLL!
The instructors first took us in the 4-dr cars around the approxiamately 1 mi course. Not the full course, but lots of different kinds of turns and a straight that we could reach 90 mph on. Fast enough for my first adventure on a road-race course with other cars.
Our instructor Les gave us a drifting demonstration while we were in the car. You should have seen him!! He's very, very good at it. He drifted at 45 deg with a Cadillac full of people around tight right and left handers, with the tires roasting while maintaining the proper race line.
Then we fired up the Vettes and Mustangs. We followed the instructors for a few laps, then pulled into the pits. About 10-12 cars on course. They showed us the proper passing techniques and what the various flags meant, and said, "GO!" I sprinted to the C5 and it roared to life (Borla), turned on the camera and blasted off. After less that 3 laps, I already passed my first Stang in a wide sweeper, then I passed the other Vette, then a few more Stangs. Even when one of the instructors hopped in a Stang, they couldn't catch me.
We did lap after lap after lap. I was putting the heat on a Stang and suddenly all I saw was a cloud dirt and dust. I was just slowing down from the main straight, and didn't have a lot of room for error. I decided to just keep my line, and watch out incase he came back on course. Which he did a few seconds later, so I backed off and let him get back on the line.
I passed each car at least once and most cars 2 or three times. When I got out of the car after 2 hours of that, I could barely move my arms, and was soaked in sweat, even though I was running the AC full blast.
DAMN THAT WAS FUN!!!
I'll post some pics in my next post.
The main entrance. Giftshop, classroom,
Back of the main office, every where you look there are cars. Over 250!
Very nice multi-bay garage with a staff of race mechanics. Each car gets throughly checked out before each day and at lunch.
My camera couldn't capture all the buildings, but here's my best effort. The Shifter Kart and Formula Ford paddocks are to the left, the garages center, and the offices to the right. You can't see the classrooms or heliport.
In the small museum, they have the Cadillac GP? car:
And some Cobras! The Datsun was one of the schools first instruction cars, that was found years later in a barn thrashed. Restored and running.
The mainstraight of the racecourse. I would need the helicopter to take a pic of the whole track.
Skidpan area is huge as well. To your right is Firebird Dragstrip.
Formula Fords. The weight limit is 240lb and I'm 275. Time for a diet.
Bob started the school after a crash had the doctors saying he would never walk again. His legs were like rags in the front of the car.
Well equipped classrooms were where we discussed technique.
My instructor for the GP course is Les, who is a professional racecar driver.
Lot's of the big name drivers go to Bondurant to hone up.
I'm just a rookie. But I'm learnin!
You buy insurance if you want, but the deductible is $3500. It's pretty easy to do
$10,000 damage to a Corvette if you hit another car at 100mph.
Just like real life, Do Not Hit Sh.t!
I graduated, and will post when I gather my notes. Tired.
Thanks! I can barely walk! Full report on Day three (the BEST) coming. This is not directed at you, but is in response to your general questions: (cut and paste stuff)
WHADDA RUSH!!! I'm still BUZZING!!! Every bone in my body aches. But it is a GOOD pain.
Yes, you can use your own car after they tech it to be safe. Dunno if they supply tires. I went through 8 tires in 3 days, and about 20 gallons of gas. I thought about running my Z06, but the Bondurant cars have 4-pt harnesses, roll-bars, and a flame-out system, and are checked every 4 hrs by a team of mechanics. I went the safer route. Got small kids at home, don't need to be killed roadracing.
Cost? I'm not sure. It's at Bondurant.com, about $3500? for a 3-day course that qualifies you for your SCCA Competition license. I was sent there to evaluate the school for CrossedFlags.com a Corvette site. Many moderators pay for the priviledge of being a moderator, in both time and money. It blew me away to be offered such a killer opportunity. I would have never done it myself, but...
Now that I went, IT IS WORTH THE PRICE of admission. It's the most fun, adventure, and excitement I've ever had in a car. And yes, I've had sex in a car. If I would have known it was so intense, I would have saved my "mod-money" and went there instead. I'm still suffering from an intense adrenaline rush even though I stopped driving almost 3 hours ago. Cocaine ain't got NOTHING on this. Driving at 50 to 100mph at the limits of a car though twisty-ass asphault for 2 hrs non-stop will do that to you.
How does the cost of a professional driving school compare? What does a Lawyer cost (an average one)? $250 hr? A plumber? $100/hr. The Phone Company Guy? $150/hr. Do any of them save your life? What you learn at Bondurant can for $150/hr.
You are on a mountain road. You come too fast into the corner, so you hit the brakes hard. The ass-end of your car starts to rotate violently (spin). If you spin, you are going off the road.
What do you do?
A) Lift the gas and steer into the skid?
B) Hit the brakes and try to turn sharper?
C) Hit the brakes and steer into the skid?
D) Hit the gas and steer into the skid?
E) Hit the gas and try to turn sharper?
F) Lift the gas and try to turn sharper?
Answer correctly, you're fine. Answer wrong, and you're going to be a passenger in a broken carnival ride.
Even if you know the answer, have you practiced that for several hours? Are you confident that you will instinctively make the right move in the right amount?
Our cars are VERY fast. They exceed the skills that an average driver has. Everyone THINKS they are a good driver, and in 99% of situations they are. But the 1% kills. No room for mistakes in a 300+ HP car.
Many people buy life insurance for thousands of dollars a year, but that doesn't SAVE your life. If you are 16-25 your biggest danger in life is trauma: Car Accidents, Crime, Other accidents, in that order.
The money you spend on driving schools can save your life if you like driving fast. And possibly if you don't.
If you CAN'T spend the money? Here's what I'd suggest:
GO to www.scca.org and look under Solo2 competition, which is AutoX. Find a club in your area, and attend events. Ask lots of questions, and ask a "pro" to ride shotgun with you. Cost? $40 tops. Or attend a local AutoX school. But they won't teach you what a car feels like when it's getting loose at 100mph. It's scary at first, but the way the Bondurant school handled it was to get you good at low speeds, and migrate up.
Last edited by McRat on 12-06-2003 at 06:37 PM
OOPPSSS!! Bondurant is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Lovely city. They own their own track and facilities. Weather could not be better the 3 days. But Phoenix is BITCH in the summer, 100 deg is a cool day.
If it is for a "fun" day, I think they have a "Z06 Experience"
program, where you drive a Z06 around the track. They also have "Shifter Carts"
that are the fastest vehicles on the track. 0-60 in 3 seconds, and can pull 2 g's. And
The Bondurant school is very, very impressive, and if you give a gift from there, I guaran-fk'n-tee it will impress the crap outta him. Unless he is Roger Mears. OPPSS!!! Strike that, I think Roger goes there too.
Yes they DO have "open-wheel"
Formula Ford racecars. And if I wasn't Godzilla, I would be racing in one tomorrow. So I
had to settle for a measly 2003 Corvette M6.
I'm not sure if they have a "one-day" open-wheel program. I'm not sure how fast anyone will let you drive a Formula car with just a couple hours of training.
To answer an earlier question about the
Yes they have Cobra 4.6 motors and T-45 manual trans. They have exhaust and intake mods, rollbars, super heavy duty suspension, and sound like NASCAR racers. One of the instructors won a drifting contest in SoCal with one. Who says only ricers can drift?
When I get home tomorrow, I'll post videos of my instructor drifting BIG TIME in both a Cadillac CTS and a C5 Corvette. I'm following his bumper at 60mph while he is in a 45 deg drift through the corners.
WOW!! Where to begin... I'm still amped
big time from the day. I was pacing back and forth for the last few hours. Screw drugs,
you want a BUZZ??? Buddy I gotz da GOOD STUFF!!!
Brief synopsis of the day's craziness:
I arrived early again (with Kathy) so I could shoot some more stills. I'll post some more photo's soon and some video when I figure out how to edit them. 3 gigabytes of video, and about 2% is good. Steven Spielburg, I ain't.
First we hit the class and discussed the new, longer track layout we would be racing. Because the track share it's left end with the dragstrip, we had to run the longer, faster, and more technical right end of the course.
We suited up and went for a ride-along with the Les (the instructor) in the CTS. Next thing you know, he is doing massive drifts around sequential left and right hand turns, and staying perfectly on line. YEE HAW!!!
Now our turn in the C5's. First we play follow the leader for three laps. That CTS can MOVE!! at least in the right hands. I'm curious as to what is under the hood, as it's a heavier car with less power. I should have looked. Let's put it this way, when Les was driving a C5, he was just slightly faster in than the CTS. I know, because I was following him alot in both cars.
He pulls off the course, and we have the track to ourselves. We crack da whip! Tony (the other student)was following me close, so I let him pass, but we are running the same speed. TOny improved a TON! We are hitting the top of third through the back of the course which is a series of turns with changing elevation. We actually get air time in one section. Scary at first, but the killer instinct takes over. Top of third in a C5 M6 is about 100mph+. Then we pit and Les does a ride-along with each of us to critique our technique. Then Les does a few laps in our C5's with us riding shotgun. More high speed drifts, but also some impressively smooth high speed driving.
We ran for a couple of hours straight. Let me tell you, if ANYONE thinks road-racers are not athletes, they have another thing coming! :shock: By the end, I could barely hang on. Musta done 80 laps of a 1.2 mile course. Even with the AC blasting full-bore, I was cooking in the car. We parked the cars, then headed to the CTS Outrigger "Vomit Comit" Car.
We now did some more, faster Understeer/Oversteer training. We learn how to tell when a car is misbehaving with virtually no "feel", and to correct quickly. We do this all until lunch, many, many laps. It certainly makes the correction instinctive.
Now back to the racetrack in the Vettes. We are going to demonstrate how the Outrigger training applies to hauling ass around the track. The instructors gave Kathy and several spectators "joy-rides" while Tony and I put the pressure on them. I was following Les with Kat in the car, while he was drifting like a madman. What did I learn? Drifting is COOL, but slow. I didn't have to use the brakes to follow him. Very EXTRA cool to watch when you are 10 feet away chasing. Finally we parked the cars.
Me and Kat took the Meanie to the hotel for lunch. Guy wanted to valet park it. I parked there for quick stops several times with no problems, and I tipped the same as if they parked the car($5), but this prick said no. Like I'm going to let an 18 year old have my keys for an hour while I'm at lunch. I was born, but it wasn't yesterday. We go the restraurant and have the Buffet. Kathy makes a burger for me, and one for herself. I eat 1/2 the burger and the cook runs up and snatches the burger away from my knawing fangs. "OPPPSSS!!! That burger is no good! Don't eat it!!! I'll get you another!!!" Great. I eat 1/2 the bitch and NOW they tell me! :mrgreen:
We get back to the track, and do some classroom. Now comes the Finale. We must do a SCCA rolling start complete with Mustang 5.0 Pacecar, and running two cars abreast. Out of 3 starts, I only won one of them. It was very intense. You are door to door and the pace car turns off it's roof lights. You stay in position... wait... wait... look at the tower... GREEN FLAG!! THEIR OFF! You nail it try to get to the first corner before the other cars. You also try to psyche out your opponents, by nudging closer to them, doing false starts, and insulting them through the window. It was a RUSH!!! One pass, I let a second row car by me. Too much gap. Next pass, I won, on the third, I did a 2-5 shift and got passed. My first 2-5 all weekend. We were bumper to bumper with pro-racers trying to get the jump on them. It's very, very distracting.
We also did a Yellow Flag restart. We follow the pace car, and when he pulls off course, we wait for the green flag and hit it. This time, we are single file. I think I won that one, but almost lost it by carrying too much speed into the first corner.
Finally we just fired them up for play time. I tried to practice a drift or two and just don't have the talent yet. An instructor was drifting with a passenger 10 feet in front of me in a Vette, and lost it, and I easily read his car and avoided him easily by taking a turn-off. Les had a tire come apart with a spectator in the car, and put the C5 into the infield gravel. DAMN!! PARTY TIME!!! Hot laps, hanging it out, finally it was was time to park the monsters. Tony was running outta steam in the end, and I was soaked in sweat from head to toe. I could have died right there. My life was complete. I was in Internal Combustion heaven. I was tired, sweaty, my legs were shaking, my arms were jello, and I had a ****-eating grin on my face that a thermonuclear weapon couldn't erase. I think I creased my ears perminately from my grin.
We stripped off our helmets and fire suits, laughed, teased, and knew what heaven is really like. I almost wanted to kiss my instructor! Yep, tongue and all!
J/K Kathy, but I was pumped to 45psi and at 10,000 rpm, and the world was my friend.
We went back to the classroom and did our closing. We both graduated, and received glass plaques, diploma, SCCA Competition License application, etc. It was hard to leave...
But I'm still amped, and can't stop grinning. Remember the first time you drove a car by yourself? It was better than that.
YES! The answer is D! But how are you going practice that so it becomes second nature? On the street, you lift the gas and hit the brakes when an obstictle approaches. The Vomit Comit is the perfect tool for learning it to make the right move instinctive. It happens by complete surprise, then you must react instantly. Understeer, Oversteer, Normal, all at random while you are making turns.
The weight transfer concept applies to
all cars. FWD is less likely to oversteer, but realize that many times oversteer is not
the result of too much throttle, but too much brakes at the wrong time.
Here's how it works:
The more weight that is on one end of the car, the more traction you have on that end of the car. So under heavy braking, the front has excellent traction, and the rear has very little. If you are in a corner, the rear will wash out if it gets light enough. Engine braking has the same effect. It plants the front, and takes away the rear, and you wash out.
The reverse is true as well. Let's say the car's ass is coming loose while you are driving around a corner. If you hit the throttle, it removes weight from the front, and gives you more traction in the back. This will stop all but the nastiest slides. If the car does go 100% out of control in a spin, just nail the brakes, and wait until the front comes around 360, and try again.
To control understeer - Same rule. You
carried too much speed into a corner and are starting to drift way wide and possibly of
You need weight on the front! Apply brakes and keep turning the wheel. With ABS, you can steer and brake at the same time. You can brake VERY hard and still have steering control. So nail the brakes and turn.