Blake & Scott's Excellent Driving School FAQ

Scott rounding The Glen's bus stop

Scott Hall (in Porsche) chasing a bimmer through The Bus Stop
photo by Blake Nancarrow (using Scott's digital camera)
Watkins Glen, June 2000

Welcome to Blake and Scott's Excellent Driving School Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page!

Please go directly to club sites for specific dates...

Thanks to Scott Hall and Phil Abrami for providing much of this information. Bookmark, enjoy. And critique! Send suggestions, omissions, corrections to me, Blake Nancarrow.

This page now uses Cascading Style Sheets 1!

Coming soon: this page will be subdivided into smaller, linked pages to improve on load times and better organize the information.

Shiny side up!

 

contents

  1. introduction
  2. definition
  3. scope
  4. links, to other schools, tracks sites
  5. driving schools
    1. what are the benefits?
      1. learn limits of a car
      2. learn driver limits
      3. safe place to experiment
      4. emergency preparedness
      5. experience different driving conditions
      6. improved confidence
      7. money savings
      8. fun!
    2. what are the risks?
    3. do I have to use my car or does the school provide one?
    4. what damage is done to my car?
    5. am I covered by my car insurance?
    6. how fast do I go, are there speed limits?
    7. who can I take a school from?
    8. how much are schools? updated!
    9. where are schools held? (now incl. driving time from Toronto) updated!
    10. tell me more about Mosport updated!
    11. tell me more about Le Circuit updated!
    12. tell me more about Shannonville updated!
    13. tell me more about Sanair updated!
    14. which school should I take?
    15. are there schools with less testosterone?
    16. when are schools?
    17. who should I contact for more school info? updated!
    18. what do I need?
    19. when should I sign up for a school?
    20. what time does a school start?
  6. lapping [coming soon]
    1. what is lapping?
    2. am I insured?
    3. who offers lapping days?
  7. go-karting
    1. when are the next go-karting events?
    2. who should I contact for more karting info?
  8. autocrossing
    1. what is an autocross?
    2. who runs autocrosses?
    3. when are the next autocrosses?
  9. other info
    1. what is rallying?
    2. who runs rallies?
    3. miscellaneous
  10. document authors

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introduction

This (very long) page of information is meant for those somewhat interested in driving schools. You've likely been referred to this web page by a driving enthusiast. They likely babbled on and on frantically about the school, throwing lots of dates and numbers and arguments your way. This FAQ is meant to coddle together all that information and present it in a useful way. You'll find information about where and when you can take schools, how you can sign up, what the risks and benefits are, etc.

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definition

The main topic of this page is driving schools. Not regular, square-one, raw beginner driving instruction to get your G1 or road licence. Rather, advanced, enhanced, or high-performance driving schools. Educational and safety programmes for mature drivers, that is, currently licensed drivers who are seeking improved basic and emergency car control, improved performance or speed, or to simply brush up.

These types of schools of available across Canada (and the US and the world) with a number of car clubs, including BMW, Saab, Porsche. These schools are described by various official or casual titles but most often are referred to as "advanced performance driving schools."

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scope

The scope of this document is fairly limited. We will discuss in detail schools and events run by a couple of car clubs with emphasis on events in Ontario and Québec.

With the closure of Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant in 2000, we began to include details of tracks and events outside Ontario and Québec but that are still close to these provinces. So you'll find details of schools in Ohio, New York, New Hampshire, to name a few.

This document will grow and change over time.

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links

We coddled much of this information from various other resources, including a number of web sites.

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driving schools

what are the benefits?

We are often asked why one should take an advanced driving school. There are many reasons... Talk to an advanced driving school enthusiast or instructor and they'll bend your ear. They'll tell you why you must take a school. They won't let up. They'll hound you for years and years.

learn limits of a car

An automobile (car or truck) will behave in surprising but predictable ways.

There are effects a driver may never experience in their entire driving career. But if a car understeers during heavy rain or snowy conditions, the inexperienced driver is forced to react properly. If one must come to a complete stop fast, what will happen? What if the car doesn't have ABS?

The driving schools encourage drivers to bring their cars and to learn its limits (in a safe space). This includes understeer and oversteer, minimum braking distance, threshold braking, weight transfer, tire adhesion.

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learn driver limits

New drivers are amazed to learn how much one gains in car control by simply adjusting the seat properly.

Many collisions and spins occur due to improper vision placement and techniques.

A form of impairment, often overlooked, even rears its head at schools--being tired. Skilled instructors can help drivers improve their limits, where possible, and heed them, when critical.

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safe place to experiment

The program gives you the opportunity to learn advanced car control through several exercises including skid-pad, slalom, collision avoidance and threshold braking. Some schools incorporate an autocross course wet setup. A great place to practice and test your car control. These skills are then applied to the race track to properly learn the line through a corner and car control at track speeds.

These schools are professionally run with emphasis on safety. Classroom Instruction is part of all courses to give theoretical discussion on the physics and dynamics of handling weight transfer and car control as they relate to driving.

A proactive driver may realize that they know little about their car, how it behaves, how they can handle it. But there is nowhere to explore. Not unless one is excellent at talking themselves out of tickets. Driving schools on the other hand offer safe areas for experimentation.

Skid pads are open and clear of obstacles. Well, except for those nasty plastic pylons everywhere!

While on the track, all cars travel the same direction. People and cars of similar ability are grouped together. Passing during lapping sessions must be performed in the designated zones and only when both parties feel it is safe to do so.

Students are accompanied by an instructor while on-track.

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emergency preparedness

Driving schools deliberately force a driver to react quickly, automatically through repetition, to emergency situations. For example, the accident avoidance exercise requires the driver to avoid an object simulating something falling off a truck ahead of the car or a child running onto a city street.

This is repeated many times during a single school. A student who takes several schools further repeats exercises. This repetition makes emergency corrective actions become automatic and instantaneous by building them into the driver's subconscious behaviour.

Incidents on track are carefully and clearly signaled to drivers and their instructors--an important test of vision techniques.

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experience different driving conditions

Braking and turning on a cold or wet skid pad or driving on a track during the rain or cold teaches a driver how an automobile, in particular tires, operate in different conditions.

Drivers with a need for speed may complain but teaming rain on the track can be the best learning experience one could wish for.

While schools generally take place in pleasant conditions, the theories learned apply to all driving conditions. In-class training explores hypothetical scenarios which are difficult to simulate.

Some clubs offer winter schools to improve a driver's repertoire.

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improved confidence

Out of all theory and practicum derives a confidence. Mind you, it is easy to cross this line into cockiness. But the school instructors know the signs, and can help a driver recognize this within.

The schools show a driver that driving should never be treated casually; but this very training gives a sense of preparedness, strength, safety. A curious blend of anticipation and relaxation.

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money savings

While school fees sound at first glance expensive, they are tax deductible. The government recognizes and thereby endorses driver training.

The costs saved in avoiding a collision...? Keeping a car on the road...? How much is the well-being of your family, your self, the good condition of your car? These schools are the best insurance you can buy.

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fun!

Most people, students and instructors, coming off a school will likely be wearing big grins. You'll notice them talking a lot with their hands. Some people come back for more.

Emphasis is on seat time and a great day is guaranteed. Previous first-time students have described the day as "the most fun you can have with your clothes on!"

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what are the risks?

Interested parties sometimes ask about their personal safety. There are some risks that we cannot deny.

You can suffer bodily harm at a driving school. There have been incidents of broken ribs, bruised shoulders, etc. That said, there has never been a serious incident with the Canadian BMW and Saab club driving schools.

A car can obviously be damaged in a mishap. This might be simply a broken part from stress, a damaged undercarriage from an off-track excursion. Worst case scenario: a car can be seriously damaged or written off in a bad mistake or failure. However, these instances are very rare.

Both of these risks are real. But, you needn't worry about these if you are a level-headed, serious, humble participant. That is, if you do as your instructor suggests, if you pay attention to your own internal cautions and fears, if you do not do anything dramatic or drastic, if your car is sound and roadworthy, you (and your car) will be fine.

The greatest risk, we feel, is that you'll really enjoy this, benefit immensely from it, and you'll want to come back more and more...

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do I have to use my car or does the school provide one?

A concern people often have when considering a driving school is for their car. Won't it be damaged? Is it covered by insurance? We answer those questions in a more detailed later.

While the concern for the car is not unwarranted, there is a point to using one's own car: the schools are designed to teach "the limits," particularly the limits of your car, your tires, your brakes, etc. Thus, most schools (like at BMWCC and SOCCI) where safety is emphasized strongly encourage you to bring your daily driver.

On the other hand, there are some facilities, like the Oakville Skid Control School, where you use their prepared cars.

BMW Canada (not the club) offers advanced driving in their cars. Race schools provide cars. These schools or programmes are usually much more expensive.

That said, Blake (for several reasons), has rented regular vehicles and brought them to the track. This includes Plymouth Intrepids, a Pontiac Sunfire, a Chevy Malibu, a Volvo V70, Honda Accord, and a BMW 318 (E36). Feel free to contact Blake for more information.

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what damage is done to my car?

If you're a good driver, little damage is done to a car. It will experience some wear and tear beyond normal parameters. Overall though most cars enjoy being run at these higher limits. You can expect, if you passionately pursue driving schools, to replace the following parts and supplies at a higher rate.

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am I covered by my car insurance?

The BMWCC, BMWCCA, and Saab schools, for example, are true educational environments. That is there is classroom time with theory. There is an instructor in the car at times, if not all the time, teaching, giving advice and suggestions. In these circumstances, the event is recognized by the government (and is tax deductible) and is covered by your insurance company. Some drivers have encountered difficulties when they explain that an incident occurred at a race track but when it is clarified it was in a school teaching environment and there was no racing involved, then any problems were resolved.

If an event is strictly lapping or racing without instruction, there may not be normal insurance coverages. Check with the specific school as to the overall nature or style of the event. Timing equipment construes racing or lapping. For that reason, timing is not permitted at many schools.

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how fast do I go, are there speed limits?

We are often asked about the speeds at the schools... I think this is asked by 2 different types of drivers or for 2 different reasons. Consequently, there are 2 different answers.

  1. "How fast can I go?" asked by the speed freak. This question is raised because the driver with the need for speed or the very quick car wants to know how fast they are allowed to drive. In other words, they are curious if they'll be able to break any top land-speed records in their car. Our answer is "Not likely."

    If they are curious if the track has a speed limit, the answer is usually, "No." I believe some US schools post and monitor speed limits. But the BMWCC, Saab, Porsche clubs do not enforce or recommend speed limits.

    We say this because it is rarely possible on a race track, particularly a small technical track like Shannonville, for example, because the straight-aways are short and there are many corners. On the back straight at Mosport, many cars can get up to about 160-200 kilometres/hour. But then you have to get deep into "the binders" for corner 8.

    Advanced driving instructors are sensitive to this type of driver that asks this question, and they inwardly cringe, for this type of participant may often try to carry too much speed into a corner... Makes life difficult for all concerned. So then, the proper (required) answer, to the speed freak driver is, "You can go as fast as you and the car are technically able."

  2. When asked "How fast should I go?" from a novice or beginner, the answer is very similar: "You can go as fast as you and the car are technically able." In this case, the instructor will urge the driver to go at a speed where they make very few or no mistakes, perhaps the odd minor error that requires but a fine adjustment.

    The instructors at Canadian club driving schools do NOT ask the participant to drive at a speed at which they are not comfortable. Conversely, the participant may state at any point they are uncomfortable at certain speeds and they can drive slower.

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who can I take a school from?

how much are schools? updated!

Costs vary of course from venue to venue, club to club. GST applicable in most cases.

Don't forget that in Ontario (Canada), perhaps other provinces, driving education is tax-deductible!

where are schools held?

Advanced performance driving schools are often held at race tracks. The map below shows a number of popular tracks in Canada and the U.S. updated!

map of North America with race tracks marked

The list below briefly describes some of the facilities often used for advanced driving programs.

The "hours" column indicates approximate drive time in hours from Toronto. This assumes driving at the speed limits. ;-) Be sure to use MapQuest (among others) to plan routes, get directions, calculate drive times, and print maps. new!

track name, web site near city regular users hours
from
"TO"
Atlantic Motorsport Park (AMP)
http://www.bmwclub.ca/motorsport/tracks/amp.htm
Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia BMWCC Bluenose chapter 20.0
Toronto Motorsport Park (formerly Cayuga) updated!
http://computer-ease.com/socci/tmp.htm
Hamilton, Ontario ? 1.0
Findley Driving School skid pad Alymer, Ontario (near London) Findley school 2.5
Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant Village Mont Tremblant, Québec (near St Jovite) BMWCC Québec, Ferrari, PCA, Jim Russell 7.0
Lime Rock Park (LRP)
http://www.limerock.com/
Lakeville, Connecticut BMWCCA, New Jersey, Boston, Patroon chapters, PCA, others 8.5
Mid-Ohio
http://www.midohio.com/
Lexington, Ohio Northern Ohio chapter of BMWCCA, Buckeye 6.5
Mosport race track Bowmanville, Ontario (east of Toronto) BMWCC Trillium, Ferrari, trackmasters 1.5
Mosport "driver development track" Bowmanville, Ontario (east of Toronto) Bridgestone racing school 1.5
Northern Alberta Sports Car Club (NASCC) Ice Racing track
http://www.nascc.ab.ca/
Edmonton, Alberta NASCC, BMWCC Alberta 40.0
Nelson Ledges (NL) Warren, Ohio Northern Ohio chapter of BMWCCA 5.5
New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS)
http://www.nhis.com/
Loudon, New Hampshire BMWCCA (Boston, White Mountain) and COM 12.0
Oakville Skid Control School skid pad
http://www.skidcontrolschool.com/
Oakville, Ontario various private and public companies 1.0
Pocono. A super speedway (and a few infield configurations).
http://www.poconoraceway.com/
Long Pond, Pennsylvania Used by PCA and CCA. 7.5
PMG: The Canadian federal government and some auto manufacturers test cars, trucks, and other vehicles at a large test facility.
http://www.pmgtest.com/
Blainville, Québec (just north of Montréal) BMWCC Québec 6.0
Race City
http://www.racecity.com/
Calgary, Alberta BMWCC Alberta 40.0
Sanair race complex Montréal, Québec BMWCC Québec, PCA 7.0
Sebring. You might wonder why this is here. Well, a good track for beating the winter blahs... ;-)
http://www.sebringraceway.com/
Orlando, Florida BMW CCA Sunshine chapter 24.5; 28.0 with trailer
Shannonville track and skid pad Shannonville, Ontario (between Belleville and Marysville) Saab, Raven 2.0
Summit Point
http://www.summitpoint-raceway.com/
  BMW CCA, trackmasters 10.5
Virginia International Raceway (VIR)
http://www.virclub.com/
Milton, North Carolina BMW CCA 16.0
Watkins Glen International Speedway (WGI, The Glen)
http://www.theglen.com/
Watkins Glen, New York BMWCCA, trackmasters, and COM 5.0

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tell me more about Mosport updated!

Mosport is north of Bowmanville, about 45 to 60 minutes from Toronto. The main race track is typical used by BMWCC, Porsche, Ferrari, TAC, COM, and others. The "driver development" track is used by the Bridgestone racing school.

Track and surrounding grounds are being changed. Track repaved and widened in 2000.

See these web sites for track information, directions, "driver" lap descriptions, photos, etc.

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tell me more about Le Circuit updated!

Some people call the track Mont Tremblant. Some call it the track near St Jovite. The track's official name is Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant. It is in the small community of Village Mont-Tremblant. Vince Loughran is track manager.

It is about one hour north of Montréal near the Mt Tremblant ski area and the fair-sized town of St Jovite. The race track is used by BMWCC, Porsche, MCO, COM, Trackmasters, Jim Russell, and others.

Good news and bad news for year 2000! The track was sold to Lawrence Stroll of the Tommy Hilfiger Group. However, a condition of sale was that it still be used as a race track (and not turned into condos). Not a problem for Stroll owns several race cars...

The big news though was the track was renovated! The work was done through 2000 and 2001. The finished track is slightly different, with the north and south loops more easily separated, an optional chicane at corner 2, many improvements on and off the track, including a newly paved surface!

See these web sites for track information, directions, "driver" lap descriptions, photos, etc.

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tell me more about Shannonville updated!

Just east of Belleville, about 1.5 hours from Toronto. The track is often used by Saab (SOCCI) and Porsche (PCA) clubs. Bridgestone's racing programme was located here for several years but they've moved (for 2000) to the Driver Development track at Mosport.

Also, Race Inc. is now located here. It's expensive but you can drive a real F1 car!

There are two main tracks (Fabi to the north, Nelson to the south) that can be interconnected permitting multiple configurations. There is a large skid pad south of Nelson that can be wet down.

See these web sites for track information, directions, "driver" lap descriptions, photos, etc.

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tell me more about Sanair updated!

Used by PCA and the BMW Club of Canada Québec chapter. It is about 1 hour south-east of Montréal. It features a drag strip, high-speed banked tri-oval, short stock car 1/3 mile oval, and a road course (which uses the drag strip and small oval).

See these web sites for track information, directions, "driver" lap descriptions, photos, etc.

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which school should I take?

Which school you take, which club or organization you get registered with, is very much a personal decision depending on your goals.

are there schools with less testosterone?

For female drivers, a special school was run by the SAAB club in the late 90s. These schools were for women only and were great successes.

Look for a repeat in 2003.

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when are schools?

Subject to rapid change. Consult directly with a club for more information.

Again, see the links section for sites which list events, particularly in the US.

Some BMWCC and BMWCCA driving schools are organized the same time as some club racing. Students do not participate at the same time at club racers! This reduces slightly the total weekend track time for students; it is made up for in excitement however.

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who can I call for more info?

what do I need?

"Okay, okay! I'll take an advanced driving school! Just stop pestering me."

You will need the following to participate in a school.

These are general requirements. Be sure to visit a specific club's website or ask of the chief instructor or registrar of specifics.

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when should I sign up for a school?

If you're very interested in these driving schools, you should sign up ASAP. The BMWCC schools fill up almost immediately, despite many slots in introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. Half-way through the season, they are usually sold out and wait listed.

Register early!

Some schools accept a deposit to hold your spot. This means you can book early and still think about it. Approximately one month before the event, you must finalize your decision. If you cancel, no charge. Check with the particular school as to their policy.

To complicate matters, BMWCC limits registration start times. Do not call until the registration is "officially" open. Keep an eye on the specific club's web...

The SAAB club provides pre-registration and registration information on their driving school web site.

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what time does a school start?

Early!

Registration for a driving school usually begins quite early so to process all the participants (including instructors, drivers, possibly racers, volunteers, and visitors). This so the instructors, advanced students, and racers can hit the track by 9:00am, if not sooner.

Enquire of your chief instructor or check your driving school "package" for exact times... Here are general times used by a few clubs:

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go karting

Successful, energetic go-karting events are run during the "off" season. Good for beating the winter blahs.

when are the next go-karting events?

Subject to change. Consult directly with club contact for more information.

For the last few years, karting series were organized by several clubs and people... These usually take place in the cold months...

SOCCI/Hanson:
Masters Karting Championship. Sponsored by the Saab Owners' Club of Canada (SOCCI). Cost is approx. $35 to 40 per evening. Location: ProKart. For more information contact Peter Hanson. Sunday evenings. Registration at 5:00pm; start time is 6:00pm sharp! Please arrive early!
BMWCC/Trillium:
A 7 to 8 race night go kart series usually begins in January and runs every other week thereafter. The 401 Mini-Indy is the venue of choice. Contact Gerry Low for more info.

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where can I kart?

There are far too many go-karting venues to list here. We note ones used in the scheduled events.

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who do I contact about go-karting?

autocrossing

what is an autocross?

Closed course, timed, parking lot events with cars in different classes. The driver scores by performing against the clock, trying to match or improve on their best time. These are also referred to SOLO events.

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who runs autocrosses?

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when are the next autocrosses?

other info

what is rallying?

A car rally is an event where a car must be navigated along a particular route. Fun rallies are casual, usually requiring simple observation or collection of tokens. Navigational rallies are more serious, require a navigator to determine the route based on obvious or cryptic instructions, then pass on this route information to the driver. These are often timed but do not require the driver to speed or race. Performance rallies are a race. All of these typical take place on back roads, sometimes gravel surfaced, rather than smooth race tracks. They are often run all year round.

who runs rallies?

misc

Blake manages an internet "listserv" or "mailing list" for driving enthusiasts (read: nuts!). Check it out. There's not too much traffic. Open to all! See the Driving Enthusiasts page for information and rules.

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Contacts

Blake's M3 at the BMWCC April 98 Mosport school

If you have any questions about the information presented here, you can contact any of the people below. Thanks to John Fulford-Brown, Ginty Burns, and Emre Kayaalp for proofing, and Phil Abrami for info! Photo of Blake by Greg Stanisci.

last edited on 03 May 2005