There are a lot of race schools in the US nowadays all thanks to our love for speed and fine tuned speed machines. This means that it will be easier for the normal Joe or Jane to learn how to race. But with the availability of race schools brings with it a problem – how do you know which is the right race school for you?
Quality Means Safety
Choosing a race school is not as easy as looking for the nearest one and signing up right away. While there are racing schools, there are good racing schools and you would really want to deal with the latter. But why? Well, for safety reasons. Your priority should be a quality racing school that can not only ensure your safety while learning but they should be able to teach you the right and safe way to drive race cars.
How to Separate the Best from the Rest
- Try to find the type of program that specifically matches what your goals are. Are you simply seeking a few laps at high speed in some form of race car experience? There are a number of “NASCAR” experiences that provide a very inexpensive experience, mainly available through daily deal websites and operated using dated / detuned – these are designed as high-volume programs with hundreds of customers ‘processed’ in a day with very little training or preparation – essentially a thrill ride
- Are you seeking a program driving your own road car or would you want to drive real race cars? With the number of available race schools in the country, they offer various promotions. One such promotion is to allow their students to use their own cars on the track. A thing to note is that when you use your own car, the race school will not be liable for any repair or maintenance work that your car may require following a day at the track, especially for the wear that your brakes and tires may experience. Lastly, using your own car is a good choice, especially because any accidents that occur while on the race track is not covered by any regular car insurance policy and will be handled by the car owner alone.
- Are you seeking a Formula One car or Indycar experience? Note that there is a difference between the two. Not only will the cars be different but the two have different ideologies behind. The existing Indycar experiences are not actually Indycars – they are purpose built cars that just look like an Indycar. Bear in mind that there is an old adage in racing – ‘speed costs money – how fast do you want to go?’ There are a few Indycar and F1 experiences available and are typically very expensive, however bear in mind that most of the engines are extremely detuned. By comparison the Benetton B198 we use in our GP Racing Experience is a full 730 HP.
- Are you seeking an exotic sports car driving experience? Again, there are a number of reputable operators of these types of programs across the country offering programs from BMWs to McLarens – with hundreds of customers in a day there for a few laps to get a taste of the car, with minimal instruction
- Are you seeking a closed wheel racing school – there are many reputable closed wheel racing school programs available with varying levels of performance from front to rear-wheel drive cars – make sure that the track that is used is a full-scale racetrack. Note that unlike open wheel schools, the skills developed in these programs do not necessarily transcend into all other disciplines of road racing.
- Are you seeking a formula car / open wheel driving school? These are the original race driver training programs as all of the skills developed in a small open wheel racer can assist a driver to transcend into other forms of racing. A limited number of these schools are available in the country. Check if their equipments are up-to-date and “modern technology” (ie no steel tube frame chassis), that data systems are used for driver debriefings, and that the race cars are outfitted with wings and racing slicks – not road car tires.
- Check online review websites such as Tripadvisor before booking. Unfortunately, many racing schools have developed shady business practices such as selling programs for specific dates only to reschedule customers to new dates at the last minute. Check out if they have a long string of bad reviews with recurring issues. Don’t let a review or two hold you back though. No business is perfect so a hiccup here and there is possible.
- Is the school simply a brand? Many racing schools are owned or branded after a renowned racing driver. Is this driver actually present or even involved in the business? Some schools may feature the name of a well-known race car driver but is actually nowhere in the premises while you are learning. Look for a racing school who has the name of a well-known driver who is always there willing to help you out. Some schools even let the experienced students teach the course.
- What is their rescheduling / refund policy – racing schools operate on limited date and seat availability so do not look kindly on last minute rescheduling. Also many schools do not provide refunds after booking. Be clear on each school’s refund policy before booking. If you are unclear give them a call.
- What is the school curriculum / how much actual track time / driving will I get? Typically, racing school websites are not specific on the actual amount of drive time per day, nor how much is actually done on track versus on a skid pad. A driver can usually handle about 2 hours of drive time. At ABRS, all of the time in the race car is on full-size racetracks. We are one of the only formula car schools that allows open lapping (not following an Coaches at controlled speeds) on the very first day.
- Are you getting what you are paying for? Many businesses regularly offer discounts and special pricing. Bear in mind that again speed costs money and quality racing school programs typically cost a little more than those schools that offer lesser quality. Racing is an expensive endeavor and if the pricing seems much lower than what other schools advertise or there are sales / offers that seem too good to be true, then watch out.