Regular readers will know that after I graduated university, I trained and worked at the Bridgestone Racing Academy just outside of Toronto. This is a driving school that is probably most known for training aspiring professional and hobbyist racecar drivers, but by far the bulk of graduates were those with no such aspirations – the bulk of customers were just there to have a good time and enjoy a once in a lifetime experience in a safe environment.
Thrill Of A Lifetime for $245CDN
One of the more popular programs are the “Thrill Of A Lifetime” courses which are either a partial day, half day or a full day in length. The very entry level course costs $245 + GST – you can click here for a description of the course – which is ideal for those with absolutely no experience at all, and is still challenging enough for those who have lots of experience. The great part is that the instructors will divide drivers into groups based on their comfort and experience and everyone gets a chance to explore the awesome capabilities of a real racecar in a safe environment. The only caveat is that you must show that you are capable of going fast while maintaining control (your driving is monitored).
If you don’t want to go fast, that’s not a problem either – you control your day.
Why Is This The Best Father’s Day Gift Ever?
I’ll put it in financial terms – that’s kind of my thing right? :)
If you know anyone who is a big race fan, perhaps they go down to the Toronto Indy every year (just as an example). What does that cost? The best grandstand tickets are $225 (each) this year, plus you’ll have transportation and/or parking (estimate a conservative $50 for the weekend), you’ll get gouged for food and drinks just like with any public event, so budget another $100 for the weekend and already we are at $375. Sometimes, a race fan will bring a non-race fan with them because they don’t want to go alone – maybe we are at $750 now?
So to go to the Toronto Indy, the best grandstand tickets in the house are going to cost you close to $400 for one person, and maybe $750 for two people, one of whom is just there for “moral support”. :)
OR, for $245 you can get the mother of all seats. I can personally attest to the fact that not only will the lucky recipient (or YOU) truly experience something that only a handful of people in the world will ever experience, they(you) will have a greater appreciation for racecar driving going forward. It will take your passion and magnify it to a level you cannot believe.
24 Year Injury-Free Safety Record
Some people may be intimidated to come to the school or send a loved one because auto-racing is perceived as dangerous. It certainly deserves respect, but the school has operated with a 24 year injury-free safety record because the staff takes safety as priority #1.
Students are given a classroom session first before heading out to the cars and track. The first session is a warm-up session in which you crawl around the track to get used to your new environment. After the warm up session you come back to the pits before going back out – led by an instructor pace car. The instructor makes sure you follow him and as long as you drive in control, he will drive faster and faster. Those who just want to soak up the feeling of driving a real live racecar without testing its capabilities are allowed to do so as well. Some people just plant their foot on the throttle on the straightaways and coast around the corners – the point is, you are allowed to do whatever you want to do as long as you are in control. You are also grouped with those who are like-minded, or of the same demonstrated skill level.
NO DAMAGE RESPONSIBILITY
The school uses a “three strikes” rule for these types of programs. You are not responsible for any damage, BUT they have an “early graduation program” in which your day finishes early if you spin the car out, or drive off the asphalt track, more than three times.
They can also do this because there is tonnes of run-off room and only one “wall” on the track. This means that if you make a mistake and go off the track, it’s very unlikely that you will hit anything. Mostly you will just come to a rest in the middle of a grass field – the track is designed for beginners and is very safe.
The Best Kept Secret In The World
The Bridgestone Racing Academy does not have a large advertising budget, which is why it is probably the world’s best kept secret. Back when I was there I looked at some exit surveys which showed that over 80% of the business was by word of mouth. I’d like to help get the word out.
Get It For Yourself, Or Get It For A Loved One
If you go to the Indy every year, I recommend you sign up at the school – you’re crazy if you don’t.
If you know someone who is a race fan, this is a great idea for a Father’s day gift (or any other celebration, quite frankly). NOTE: I can personally attest to the fact that women are the best students (they don’t come in with any preconceived notions and tend to listen better – many times they end up being the best drivers of the day – so you can go as a couple and feel free to buy a school for a female.)
If you know someone who just like cars, this is a great gift too.
I’m going to be taking Fiona to the school this summer (she has no interest in cars at all and is excited to go), and I HIGHLY recommend you check out the website for more info…
There are other courses which allow you to driver even faster cars, get your actual racecar driving license etc. You can explore the website for more info and if you go to the Academy, they would be happy to explain all your options. Some people go back regularly as hobbyists after getting a taste (while maintaining their day jobs!)
If you are enrolling yourself, you can register online with the date and time of your choice (subject to availability). If you are buying a gift for someone, you can pre-register them but you can also purchase a gift certificate which allows the recipient to pick a date of their choice later – which is a very popular option.
Please Check It Out – You’ll Be Glad You Did
CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF ALL THE “FIRST TIMER” COURSES – note that the entry level course with the older Reynard F2000s is more than fast enough to impress anyone. The faster cars are cooler for sure, they even have the shift lights built into the steering wheel like a Formula 1 car, but a beginner will be equally blown away by an experience in either car, trust me.
Thanks everyone! Let me know if you sign up or buy a gift certificate for someone else! (NOTE: I receive no compensation for writing about the school or promoting it, I am just trying to help get the word out.)