Your dad may have taught you how to drive, given you pointers or let you grind a few gears in an empty parking lot to learn to work a manual, but as professorial as his instruction was, there’s better out there (believe it or not). Around the country, ex-race car drivers and former motorcycle champions have created schools, and not just to teach students how to lower lap times or win races.
The most common motifs across all racing schools and performance driving centers are lessons in car control and vehicle dynamics in the safety of a controlled environment. Once you learn the nuances of a car or motorcycle on a track, your real-world skill improves dramatically. Reacting quickly and correctly to situations like sudden lane changes and loss of traction on black ice or due to hydroplaning becomes second nature.
But, if Pops is adamant that he doesn’t need to go back to school for something he thinks he’s already the best at, hide your intention behind the allure of driving fast cars around a race track. Chances are he’ll learn more than a thing or two by accident. And these are the best schools in the country to help add to his already superior skill set.
Allen Berg Racing School
Best Beginner Open-Wheel School: Open-wheeled cars may seem alien, but since they’re made of only the bare essentials of a car, learning to drive one well can directly translate to driving almost anything with four wheels. The cars at ABRS are approachable enough for anyone to hop in and do a couple laps. Add to the mix Allen Berg’s F1 experience, and tracks like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and NOLA Motorsports Park, and you can bet any dad will come away a better driver. It’s also the only school in the country with a V10 Benetton F1 car available to drive — if you think your pops can handle that.
Recommended Program: Formula Car 3-Day $6,595
Famous Alumni: Allen Berg ex-F1 Driver
California Superbike School
Best School on Two Wheels: The maximum student-to-teacher ratio at this school is 2:1, making the course feel more like private tutoring. And, since the class is split up into two alternating groups (A and B), it’s a 1:1 ratio out on track, meaning your dad will essentially be getting a private lesson. Classroom time is spent breaking down crucial aspects of riding to help understand the bike and riding style once you’re back out on track. Riders of all skill levels are welcome and catered to.
Recommended Program: Two-Day Camp $2,450+
Famous Alumni: World 500cc Champion Wayne Rainey, World Superbike Champion Ben Spies, British Supersport Champion Leon Camier
Simraceway Perfromance Driving
Best Advanced Open-Wheel School: If your dad has been to the track a few times in a sports car or even a smaller formula car, Simraceway is the next step. Simraceway uses F3 cars, the same cars used in the stepping-stone series to F1. Think AAA league to Major League Baseball. That means they get a lot of their grip from downforce and offer up a completely new kind of driving experience. Simraceway also offer an Audi Sportscar Experience which lets you take Audi’s high-performance offerings to the ragged-edge and learn to control “everyday” cars at the limit.
Recommended Program: Performance Driving Course $295+
Famous Alumni: Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 Driver Matt Bell
Team O’Neil Rally School
Best East-Coast Rally School: Aside from being the most fun you can have on four wheels, sliding a car around in the mud or on snow and ice also makes Team O’Neil Rally School one of the most beneficial schools on this list. Going from FWD to AWD to RWD, your dad will learn how to control a range of cars in some of the worst conditions you’ll encounter on real roads. Learning how to perform a Scandinavian flick and drift on snow is just an obvious plus.
Recommended Program: 3-Day Rally School $3,900
Famous Alumni: Ken Block, Tanner Faust
DirtFish Rally School
Best West-Coast Rally School: If you live closer to the West Coast and still want to get a quality rally experience, and have your dad learn to drive well in rough conditions, DirtFish Rally School is located just outside of Seattle.
Recommended Program: One Day Rally Fundementals $1,399
Famous Alumni: David Higgins, Travis Pastrana, Bucky Lasek
Bondurant Racing School
Most Experiential: Not many schools have as much variety in one course as Bondurant Racing School. The four-day Forza Motorsport Road Racing Class starts off in a track-ready Dodge Viper and moves to a Formula Mazda car. Since Bondurant has a deal with Dodge, other courses include learning to tame high-horsepower monsters like the Challenger SRT 392 and Challenger SRT Hellcat.
Recommended Program: 4-Day Forza Motorsport Grand Prix Road Racing Class $4,799
Famous Alumni: Robert Wagner, Paul Newman
Skip Barber Racing School
Best All-Around: Between the driving fundamentals school, high-performance class, race school and race series, Skip Barber covers every type of performance driving. Because classes are so varied, there is one that will fit any skill and comfort level. Many professional racers have graduated from Skip Barber and come back for refreshers for a reason.
Recommended Program: High-Performance Driving School $995
Famous Alumni: Michael Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Raey, Juan Manuel Fangio II, Chip Ganassi, Paul Newman, Tim Allen, Josh Brolin, Patrick Dempsey (that’s just to name a few)