Ever want to spin a car out without crashing into other cars or drift a 500-horsepower Dodge Viper or even just drive really fast without fear of the po-po? Then I highly recommend going to one-day combo driving school at Skip Barber in Laguna Seca.
This year was my third time going and every year I always have fun. It’s stressful and my day usually ends with a huge headache from all that adrenaline, but then I always emerge with some mad driving skills.
For this one-day session, we got to practice threshold braking by hauling Dodge Neons to a foot-stomping stop from 40 mph. This sounds like the least exciting of the three exercises we do but even then, my heart was pumping a mile a minute having to stop short of a gate by flooring the brake pedal.
Then there’s driving Dodge Vipers around an autocross to prepare us for the big track later. Here we practice
trail braking in order to get us around the course smoothly and quickly. The instructor coaxes us around the cones telling us how to read which cones symbolize when to brake, where to hit the apex and where to track out to after the turn. The trick is to look where you want to go. If you look at what you want to avoid, you’ll most likely end up going there which can lead to crashing.
Third is the one involving a 4.7-liter Dodge Dakota pickup and wet pavement. The instructor tells you to drive full speed toward a cone, brake on the slippery surface and when the truck starts to spin out, try to recover before you spin out of control. FUN! But the really fun part about this exercise is when the instructor jumps behind the wheel to show you how it’s done. Those guys get so crazy that I got bruises from my seatbelt as we pirouetted in the pickup at full speed.
But the piece de resistance has to be when we take everything we learned about driving that day and apply it to the Laguna Seca racetrack. That infamous corkscrew? Piece o’ cake! Fitted into small 2.0-liter Formula 4 cars with jumpsuits and helmets on, we hot lap the course at 5,000 rpm, the engine roar serving as our soundtrack.
It’s so awesome heading full speed to a corner, braking hard at the entrance, hitting the apex and then speeding out again. You get to do that through 11 turns for who knows how many laps. By the time you get your checkered flag signaling you to return to the pit, you’re exhausted.
Can you really apply what you learn on the racetrack to real-world streets? Most definitely. It can help you avoid and prevent accidents. Spinning out on a rain-slicked street? No problem. Cell-phone-armed SUVer switches to your lane with you still in it? Dance around that sucka.
A one-day combo course costs $1,395. This would make an awesome birthday gift for any speed-freaky loved one.
1021 Salinas Highway
Monterey, California 93940
Skip Barber (800) 221-1131