driving schools

I'm starting to investigate driving schools convenient to my home, and Watkins Glen, NY, looks to be the nearest and coolest. Here are this year's plans: http://www.theglen.com/track%5Finfo/driving%5Fschools /
How can I determine which of these undoubtedly wonderful schools would best meet my needs? I don't intend to race my 98.5 2.8 A4Q 5sp, I just want to learn to drive it better and make sure my technique is what it should be to maximize my car's performance and my own safety.
Any suggestions? I do live in western NY, and Watkins Glen is only about two hours south of me.
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Hi KLS,
Well, you've got the first thing figured out--what do I want to get from the school. As an instructor for Skip Barber for the last 11 years, I can only speak for our school accurately. Skip has two main types of schools: Racing and Street schools. If you'd like to do a program with us, what you need to do is figure out if it's more important for you to go to a school aimed at street driving, or go to the convenient (and beautiful) Watkins Glen and do a 3-Day Racing School. Our racing school goes all over the country, while our street driving school is pretty much operated out of our base locations at Lime Rock Park (CT), Road America (WI), Sebring Int'l Raceway and Daytona (FL), and Laguna Seca (CA). We do this because it is fairly easy to haul race cars in one of our transporters, but it's much more costly to haul 3 Dakota pickups, 5 Neons, and 2 Vipers to different locations. Plus we know we have facilities at those locations suitable for our exercises.
Our Racing School is all in our Formula Dodge race cars except a few laps in a Neon so we can give you immediate feedback. You learn the vehicle dynamics, the line, double-clutch downshifting, passing, driving in the rain, what the flags mean, etc; all thing having to do with racing. You can take a lot of it to street driving and have huge fun learning.
Our street driving school is all in street cars: Dakotas, Neons, Vipers. The Dakotas are used for the skid pad (catching slides). The Neons are used for braking, lane-change, shifting, and autocross exercises. The Vipers are also used on the autocross. You can take a lot of this to the race track and have huge fun learning.
In some schools you can drive your own car. My feeling is that it's always better to learn this kind of stuff using somebody else's cars. Wear and tear increases exponentially when you approach the limit of a car. Use our cars, not yours. We send them to the dealership for service, and when their tour of duty is done, we ship 'em back to Dodge for new ones.
Go to www.skipbarber.com for more info, schedules and pricing. If you have specific questions, call 1-800-221-1131 and ask for customer service. Those guys are really nice and will gladly answer any questions.
Pete Stolz '84 CJ-7 with a bunch of engine mods. Looks pretty stock from the outside. '04 Audi S4 Nogaro Blue/White leather, bone stock.

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wrote:

Great information, Pete, thanks very much! Good food for thought.
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Great post, actually. I plan to send all 3 of my kids through a 'street driving'-type of school as they get their licneses. My oldest has his permit now, so next spring will be the time when he gets to do this. Oh, and I want to go too...... ;-)
Dan D '04 A4 1.8Tq MT-6 Central NJ USA
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....and then the real reason was blurted out......;-) Cheers! Steve Sears 1987 Audi 5kTQ 1980 Audi 5k 1962 and '64 Auto Union DKW Junior deLuxes (SPAM Blocker NOTE: Remove SHOES to reply)

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Hi Dan, It's great you want to send your kids to a school. Our "ideal" student in a street driving school is a kid that just got his/her license two weeks prior to the school. They know how to use the controls and the rules of the road, but they haven't built up any bad habits yet. The habits that are formed in the first 5000 miles of driving are the hardest to break. If we get 'em before that, we can instill the good habits and correct the bad ones early in their driving careers. As far as your oldest, if/when/as you are driving with him, be sure to tell him to plan ahead, and anticipate situations. The best way to do this is to use his eyes properly. Our eyes are the most important tool we have as drivers. Tell him to look 12 seconds ahead and scan his mirrors every 7 seconds. Awareness of his surroundings and how they contantly change is critical to safe driving.
--
Pete
'84 CJ-7 with a bunch of engine mods. Looks pretty stock from the outside.
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Pete Stolz wrote:

A scary story of the son of someone you may well know. Told substantially the same thing, this compulsive young man devoted more attention to *counting down the seconds* between glances than he did to actually driving. You can imagine the result: *crunch*!
Awareness is good. Compulsive awareness can be a problem. -- C.R. Krieger (It's what I do)
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Pete Stolz wrote:

Pete, you have hit the nail on the head with that one - that is one area that young drivers seem to really be missing - they assume that the guy at the interesction ahead ISN'T going to pull out, or that they guy with the blinker on will actually be turning at some point! They are too trusting in general when they drive.
Dan D '04 A4 1.8Tq MT-6 Central NJ USA
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Exactly right. A little paranoia is a good thing while driving. But even if we do have that awareness, sometimes we can get into situations where a good driving school can help get us out of trouble. Here again, we have to use our eyes and look at where we want the car to go, NOT at what we're gonna hit.

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Dano58 wrote:

BMW CCA Foundation was specifically founded by BMW CCA as a nonprofit organization to sponsor "Street Survivor" schools. While those are directed toward teen drivers, many 'CCA chapters also run very similar 'car control' schools that anyone can take. You need not own or drive a BMW to join. In my experience, the BMW club has so many more driver training resources than the Audi Club that it simply makes sense to join to avail yourself of them.
Not to take anything away from guys like Pete at Skippy (they are excellent), but club events are substantially cheaper because, among other things, you're using your own car. When you progress beyond what club schools offer, then you can better appreciate the professional expertise that schools like Barber's offer. -- C.R. Krieger (It's what I do)
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Pete Stolz wrote:

Pete! Fancy meetin' you here! Saw you this morning on the way to the Last Day of School in Da Jeep. Did you notice just enough rain for The Weather Channel to call it 'precipitation'? -- C.R. Krieger '88 BMW 535is - Cinnabar RED! and a damn red Grand Cherokee too ...
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Pete Stolz wrote:

Counterpoint: BMW CCA and (I think) the Audi Club NA both operate schools at the Glen. However, these are very popular and can be difficult to get into. The Gennessee Valley Chapter BMW CCA has a very strict, almost anal retentive, procedure for getting your mailed registration into their lottery. You may not have a postmark earlier than the opening date - and it's a good idea not to be late, either. They also offer preference to chapter members, so you might want to join them. That said, the track is among the absolute best. You won't regret whatever you have to do to get in there to drive - even if they make you drive that yucky 'Inner Loop'. >:^P

I wondered what those were for ... =;^)

OTOH, unless you actually crash your car (and I won't sugar coat it - it happens), it's only *use*, not *abuse*. You use up brakes and tires. Both are relatively cheap. I drive my cars on track regularly, as do thousands of other car club members. If you want to be conservative enough to virtually guarantee you won't crash, that's OK with us. You can still learn an awful lot within that parameter. -- C.R. Krieger (It's what I do)
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