One of the perennial favorites is the autocross. Using a course set up on the infield of Atlanta Motor Speedway, instructors cycle drivers through 2013 Mazda3s and 2013 MX-5s, teaching more braking, handling, and timing finesse, while giving students a better feel for how both a front-wheel and rear-wheel-drive vehicle drive on a track. The instructors sit shotgun and provide feedback and instructions the entire time during the first day.
The second day, students climb back into the cars for a competition. The instructors pit the two groups against each other on the autocross in a relay-style team exercise. Each team has its members drive around the autocross course as quickly and safely as possible, twice. The team that performs the deed the fastest wins.
The prize? Bragging rights. Of course we were on Team Winning, and naturally, we won by a few seconds.
What did our classmates have to say?
In all, there were 16 people in our two-day class, and from the start, the instructors broke us up into two groups of eight. During the two-day class we asked our fellow classmates what they thought of the experience as far as content and value. One of the gentlemen in our course has owned several Porsche 911s, and currently drives a Honda S2000. He told us that while he's owned fast cars, he's really never known how to drive them. He went on to say that the autocross exercise alone was worth the cost of entry. Another student in our class was a 16-year-old male who has had his license for six months. This was actually his second Skip Barber course, as he's already attended the teen driver class. Both him and his father felt the teen driver school and the Mazda Driving School were a value.
At least one father is ready to put his daughter through the equivalent of a Barber master's degree. Gene Morales is the owner of Euro Motorsport in Fort Lauderdale, where he sells exotic cars. His daughter just turned 16 and recently received her learner's permit. Both Gene and his daughter feel the driver's education system has failed them and that she is unprepared for the road. He has signed her up for every Skip Barber course that's offered.
So what's the bottom line? The Mazda Driving School that we attended had a $1,400 price tag. That's all inclusive including the vehicles, gas, anything you break on the vehicles (someone may or may not have dropped a clutch on one of the Mazda3s), lunch both days, all the coffee you need, and a course book.
For students who aren't yet prepared for the road, or for those who just want to learn how to drive at a higher skill level, the Barber two-day courses are a great starting point. You can't count on the usual driver's ed to take your skills to the next level--you have to take it into your own hands.