Recently several of us New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) members were invited to spend a day with the Skip Barber folk at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut to see what they do.
We were treated to track time in some of the Barber Formula open-wheel race cars (yes that is me in the photo leading the packor holding up the line, depending on your point of view). Also on the schedule was negotiating the autocross (obstacle) courses in BMW M3s, Porsches, as well as the formula cars. But beyond the fun of driving were "classes" in the physics of automobiles and a better appreciation of the skills needed to keep a car under control. The former centered on the critical tire "patches," where the rubber meets the road, and how acceleration, deceleration, and turning affect a car's load balance, and what a driver can and cannot do. (One gains an appreciation of the athleticism of race drivers pulling Gs and maneuvering as you feel the strain on your abs getting out of the car after an hour or so on the track.)
Beyond the race school, Barber also offers performance driving schools that prospective buyers of high-end machines, such as Vipers, Corvettes, and Porsches, can attend to help them choose which model they may want to buy. But even more important are the programs for young drivers that allow them to experience avoidance maneuvers in a controlled environment and show them the basics of skid control and car behavior under extreme conditionsgiving them greater "street awareness" without close calls on the public roads.
If you have a young driver, such a course could be the most important gift you give themso check out driving schools or even auto dealer sponsored programs in your state.