Part I of “Learning to drive fast at Radford Racing School” is available here
Class begins with Will going over the “Keys to Optimum Performance”. The PowerPoint presentation starts with proper hand position on the steering wheel; 9 and 3 is preferred, not the traditional 10 & 2 we learned in high school driver ed class. It’s good to go back to fundamentals and then he rolls into “Vehicle Dynamics”.
Class is dismissed and Will takes the students to the car for today’s Performance Driving Course. Both drivers will pilot a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody. With 718 horsepower on tap from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine the power is ample at any RPM and it takes a smooth touch for the curves.
The first tutorial is the slalom. Both cars head to the open area of the track and then take turns weaving the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody past cones set about 20-feet apart. It’s a good starting exercise to gain familiarity with the Mopar and how it responds to the throttle and quick steering inputs. Speed is nice, but a soft touch leads to greater achievement on track in the obstacle course. It’s more ballet than fox trot. Vinesa is smooth throughout and only hits one cone in numerous passes.
My wife has no racing or performance driving experience, but she was raised in New Mexico and has had her driver’s license since she was 15 years-old. Motoring on rural roads and the possibility of an animal crossing in front of her car’s path have made her a precise and safe driver. She is a better driver than me in every facet and will add performance driving to her resume.
I observe the slalom driving from 50-yards away while sitting on the bleachers drinking coffee. I know she is in her element. I can see her handling the Hellcat with grace beyond her first five minutes at Radford. Definitely a quick learner.
The accident avoidance drill is next. Each driver starts at 25 mph and head towards three lane options. The instructor selects a lane and it’s up to the driver to react quickly and choose the correct path. Slow reactions and a poor choice have the driver going down the wrong path.
Will manages the lane choice from a control panel and mixes up the correct path each time. With each successful pass the driver’s speed is increased by 5 mph until a 45-mph maximum speed. The drill teaches drivers to look forward and react quickly. Focus, discipline, and quick reflexes will get you home safely. Vinesa reacts quickly in each pass, and I consider myself lucky that I am often in the passenger seat during family outings.
Will mentions to me that accident-avoidance drills are part of many Radford programs, regardless of skill level. Ultimately Radford should make you a safer driver.
After numerous passes the students head to skid control training where a Dodge Charger is modified with an outrigger that can simulate unsafe driving conditions in a safe environment. Will controls the outrigger and can make the Charger spin out anytime he wishes. It’s up to the driver to get the car going in a safe manner from the controlled chaos. Not for the faint of heart, and I’m glad that I can be a spectator for this round.
Afterwards Vinesa looks spent and mentions nausea. A ginger ale and a stable environment without a skidding car help her perk up. The oval is next and will be her first experience driving on a track.
To Be Continued…