A detailed review and overview of Spring Mountain's Level 1, 2 Day, Ron Fellows Performance Driving School
7:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - Arrival at Spring Mountain Motor Resort!
As I pulled in, I proceeded to what I perceived to be the building that I needed to check in at. It's a building that has Ron Fellows Driving School and C7 Cross Flag Emblems on it, so I thought, "This must be the place!"
No other students were around when I walked in, but a nice young female employee greeted me as I came in. I said, "I just arrived. Is this the place I need to be?" She replied, "Yes, this is it!" While I waited on others to arrive for the 8:00 a.m. class start time, I looked around their C7 product area.
I made my way into the classroom with the other students and took a seat. As class began, it didn't take long to figure out that I was with a group that had already been there for at least a day. I later learned that this was a Level 1, 3 Day class group that was beginning Day 2. Walking out of the classroom, I asked the young lady I had previously spoken with where I was supposed to be. When she realized that I was in the wrong place, she said, "I am so sorry. When you asked me if you were in the right place, you acted like you knew what you were doing and I thought you were in this class." She then told me to go to the Radical Racing building. So I quickly drove over to that building.
I was now about 5 minutes late, but my late arrival story gave everyone a good laugh, so all was well. After some initial comments and introductions, our class of twelve students was dividing into two groups of six. The two days would be spent divided between driving time and class time. While one group was driving, the other group would be in class, and vice versa.
Spring Mountain has an impressive fleet of new Z51 Corvettes. They keep them in their stock configuration with the exception of added brake rings. The cars are meticulously inspected and maintained. I also learned that as the tires wear, they move the tires from the track to the driving exercises, using them as appropriate and safe. I was very impressed.
Day 1 morning instruction began with braking exercises. We learned about threshold breaking and ABS breaking while practicing our breaking and accident avoidance on a wet pavement area. The next topic was visual scanning. Driving time for this consisted of driving around cones in a serpentine fashion while looking at a fixed point to our left/right and using our peripheral vision to know when to make each turn. During one run through this course, they even added a sun shade so we could not cheat by looking out the front windshield. This was a fun and revealing exercise. The rest of the morning was devoted to heel/toe shifting. This was something that I was not at all familiar with, but I learned a lot and also learned how awesome it is that GM has given us rev matching to do what heel/toe shifting would normally do. The heel/toe driving exercise consisted of driving down a straight away, getting up to about 60 mph, then downshifting at the end from 4th to 3rd and then from 3rd to 2nd using heel/toe shifting. I didn't use rev matching until the end of the exercise, which is a great way to check your heel/toe proficiency.
It was now Noon and time for lunch in the club house.
A very nice lunch was provided for us each day. The first day's lunch consisted of salad, grilled hamburgers and grilled chicken breasts, vegetable side dishes, a couple of dessert options, and various beverage options. The second day's lunch was similar with chicken pesto being the main entree item. The food was tasty and plentiful.
While I spent most of my lunch time visiting with new friends, there is a pool table inside and a ping pong table on the patio for those wanting to play before class resumes at 1:00 p.m.
I was excited to get back to class at 1:00 p.m. because we would soon be taking our first laps around the road course track. We were first taken around the track in a van so we could learn the appropriate line together. Our group used the 1.5 mile track exclusively because the 3 Day class was using the 2.2 mile track. In the next photo, you can see the track configurations. The 1.5 mile track is the configuration on the left.
It was now time for our first lead/follow track time, complete with head socks and helmets.
An instructor would lead a group of three for multiple laps around the track. The instructors drove Camaros for the most part, until a group of students were performing at a level that required the instructor to upgrade to a Corvette. I was thoroughly amazed at the ability of every instructor to tell each driver what to do, when to do it, what we were doing, what we weren't doing, as we were doing it or not doing it, all while driving a perfect line around the track just in front of us! It was honestly as if they were in the same car with you. Each time we were on the road course, we would rotate in such a way that each one in a group would have several laps directly behind the instructor for personal coaching.
Once we had spent some time on the road course, we were back in class to review everything we had learned to that point and then to head out for driving time on the skid pad and oval track.
On the skid pad, we practiced in a figure 8 pattern, hitting the throttle and letting the rear end slide out and then attempting to make the correction and continuing on. I may have done a few 180s and 360s as well. LOL On the oval track, we worked on getting as close to the apex as possible and driving the proper line. Once these exercises were concluded, it was time to call it a day.
The resort's condos are beautifully furnished and decorated. A personal note was waiting for me on a table in the room describing the activities I could participate in that evening should I desire to do so. There is a swimming pool outside the club house as well as a basketball court and a racquetball court near the condos. I chose to spend some time relaxing and then headed into Pahrump for dinner.
Day 2 was a a blast! Our day was spent in classroom review sessions and road course driving. Rick Malone, Driving School Director, is the most enthusiastic performance car enthusiast and driving instructor I have ever met. He loves what he does and it shows, not only in his enthusiasm and instruction, but in that of his instructors.
At one point, the instructors had us ride with them for a couple of laps around the track so we could see what they did as they drove the track. They performed this exercise at approximately 70% of their normal track speed, which was still superior to any of our track speed. They took us out in groups of four for this exercise, so I took a couple of shots while others were on the track.
The day ended all too soon. Around 4:00 p.m., we were presented with certificates of completion, and then headed back outside for a class photo. An independent photographer took the photo of our group after spending the afternoon taking photos of each of us as we drove around the track. My photo set included over 100 photos of me driving, so I purchased the set provided on a thumb drive for the price of $100 for all of the photos. I have attached a few of theses photos at the conclusion of my review.
I couldn't have asked for a better learning experience, both on and off of the track. From the provided water bottles, water, and Gatorade, to the instructors making sure our windows were down after track time so the cars would be cool for the next driver, to the high quality personalized instruction, to the assistance of the instructors with one's in-car video equipment, to the patience and encouraging comments from the instructors, to the cars, to the track quality, to the condos and amenities, Spring Mountain Motor Resort offers the best performance driving school money can buy. This was my first road course/track experience and I learned more than I could have imagined about our Corvettes, track driving, and myself. The information we were taught is applicable both on and off the track and I have found myself employing various elements in my daily driving. I am looking forward to going back to take Day 3 of Level 1 along with the two day Level 2 class. If you own a new Stingray, don't miss out on the opportunity to attend a Spring Mountain school at the reduced price. It's worth every penny!