What to Look For in Racing Schools

Attending a car racing school can be a fantastic way for both novices and experienced drivers to improve upon your on-track driving abilities and race craft. Before you make a decision on which racing school you’ll attend, there are several important factors you should consider. What I suggest you do is to make a list of what you want to gain from participating in the school, and give thought to which are the highest in priority.

For most of us, the cost to attend a school is near the top of our list of considerations. The financial aspect certainly involves the initial cost to enter the school, but goes beyond this.

car-typeIf you are involved in an incident whether it be your fault or someone else’s, what is your liability? This can vary greatly beginning with no liability, a set deductible that you would be responsible for, to having to pay for all damage in it’s entirety. If the latter is the case in the school you are considering, I would suggest learning how they handle repairs and determine what your maximum liability is.

The location of where the schools are located will have an impact on the travel costs, although some schools such as Bertil Roos provide a discount to help offset this for people who travel further distances. Don’t feel like you need to do the school at a track you’ll be driving on regurally; gaining experience at different tracks is very helpful. Besides, flying to a historic track in a different part of the country can be an amazing experience.

Bang for the Buck
Racing schools are not cheap and it’s important that you gain what you’re hoping to from attending one. Beyond looking at their websites, don’t be afraid to call the schools. Get a food feel for their program and overall philosophy. How does learning take place? Find out how much time you’ll be spending in a classroom versus actually out on the track driving. Seat time is key! Who are their instructors, how long have they been involved with the company? What is their instructor to student ratio?

Type of Car
One question we are often asked (and I admit to wondering myself in the past) is if someone plans to race a sedan, should they steer away from a school that uses open wheel cars? My reaction initially was yes, but as I learned more I’ve adjusted my opinion.

I’ve spoken with a few friends who came from open-wheel cars but are now extremely successful sedan racers. They explained that open wheel cars provides greater feedback and everything that happens, you feel. Basically the small open wheel cars exaggerates the response compared to a Sedan race car which feels more sloppy. In this sense, they felt the open wheel race cars to be a better training device. I am sure there are others who feel if you’re going to be racing sedans, take a school that uses Sedans. For myself who is an experienced racer, I wanted something that is a bit out of my comfort zone. Plus I’ve always wanted to try an open wheel race car, and a school provides a great opportunity to do so.

I elected to attend a Bertil Roos school which uses open wheel racecars. The cars use an older dog box style transmission which requires a different shifting technique. I found this to be a bit frustrating as I tried to learn the new style and felt like it took away from other learning opportunities. Other students picked up on it quicker than I, and eventually I got the concept. The coaching however, was fantastic! The class included a diverse mix of students ranging from complete novices to experienced racers who have a proven winning history. The information was presented in a way where regardless of the knowledge level, everyone gained and took a lot out of it. The best way I can explain this is it was like how a child might watch a movie such as Cars, and an adult watching the same move picks up on many other nuanseenses.

Regardless of whether you decide on a school that uses open wheel or sedans, I would suggest avoiding a car with huge amounts of power as that will mask mistakes. You can also potentially get yourself into trouble quickly.

Earning a Competition License
Attending a race school is not a requirement to gain a competition license, but some schools are accredited and represent another way to earn your license. Sanctioning bodies also hold their own competition licensing schools but the primary purpose is to ensure you are ready to tackle wheel-to-wheel racing. They typically will not dive deep into racing techniques like a racing school will.

Other Alternatives
I thought attending a racing school was a great experience. Addmittedly, the cost to attend wasn’t cheap and I certainly want to continue improving my racing skill sets. I have also hired people to give me private coaching sessions using my own car. We’ll discuss this topic in greater depth in another soon to be published article, but know that this can be a fantastic option. Pricing for the coaching ranges from $500 – $1,500 depending on the coach. You also have additional expenses such as the event’s entry feel, plus wear and tear on your vehicle.