Ron Fellows Corvette Owners Performance Driving School - Part 1
One of the perks of purchasing a new Corvette Stingray, Grand Sport, and Z06 is being able to attend the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School designed specifically for Corvette Owners at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Pahrump, Nevada, about 60 miles to the west of Las Vegas. As the title suggests, this post is Part I of a series accounting and describing my experience at the Corvette Owners School.
The instruction program was developed by the renowned Ron Fellows and is designed for drivers of all experience levels to include dynamic car control exercises, visual skill development, and proper cornering techniques while learning to master the performance enhancements of the award-winning 7th generation Corvette. Chevrolet covers a considerable portion of the 2-day tuition so, after spending your hard earned money on your new Corvette, this is a Must Do thing to put on your Bucket List. To learn more about the school, click here: https://www.springmountainmotorsports.com/driving-school/corvette-owners-school While you can click on the link to learn more about the school, read on for accounts on my amazing experience with this program.
The Corvette Owners School is available to first retail purchasers of new and unused 2016 and 2017 model year Corvettes within first year of receiving delivery of America's Sports Car. When you register, the dates of availability are based on the type/model of car that you have. For example, if you have a Z51 with Magnetic Ride Control, that is car you will will drive at the school. If you have a Stingray, Grand Sport, or Z06, guess what, that is what they you put you in. Also, they match you with the manual or automatic transmission option that you have in your car. Hence, the class dates that you can attend is contingent upon the availability of the car that they have that matches what you own.
Next, the Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort is nice with condo rooms on-site for convenience and many other recreational activities for other family members to keep busy with, even if they are not participating as a guest in the school. What is really great is that guests can take part in nearly all of the training program including classroom sessions and ride-alongs with instructors; they just can't drive. Since the facility is located in Pahrump, there is not much to do off the resort with respect to retail shopping or other activities so staying on-site makes it easier to adhere to the very busy driving school agenda.
For some perspective, since I became a proud 2017 Grand Sport owner a couple of months ago, I am amazed and impressed at the overall performance and handling capabilities of the C7 Corvette in comparison to my previous C6 Z51 Corvette. Having had a little previous experience with some autocross and some track events in my C6, I recently had the opportunity to take my Grand Sport out to High Plains Raceway and was blown away with respect to its handling, demeanor, and controllability at its limits (at least the limits that I was capable of producing with my modest experience). As such, I was really looking forward to what I could learn by going to the Ron Fellows Corvette Owners Performance Driving School to help me improve my competitive driving skills, become more confident in my own driving abilities, and learn more about what the C7 Corvette is capable of doing.
Well, enough of the background information. Here is more on the Corvette school program and what I did on the first day.
The day started off with a class room session which included introductions and information about the program, what we were going to do, and how things would work. One point the instructor made at the beginning was that most of the participants in class were probably only able to exercise about 20% of what the Corvette was capable of doing and that by the end of the class, that percentage would be significantly higher. I know that in my case, this definitely happened for me. After the session, we were split up into two groups to allow the instructors to split their time and share their knowledge and experience on a more personalized, individual basis. Throughout the remainder of the school, we typically would have a classroom session, then move to a track session to practice and implement the concepts that were discussed in class.
For my group, the serpentine driving exercise was next which consisted of navigating your assigned Corvette around a double S cone configuration while learning about turn and apex cones and proper technique for initiating a turn and how to execute it in relation to the car's position and line. The objective of this session was to recognize the turn-in cones on the track which were a visual cue to the driver to initiate the turn on a good line necessary to make the apex in an efficient manner. The key to this exercise was to look beyond the end of your hood and extend your field of view by using your peripheral vision to include your side windows in order to anticipate, plan, and execute your strategy for effectively and quickly navigating the course. To emphasize this point, believe it or not, the instructor had each of us place a windshield shade in the car so that we could not see ahead which forced you to look out your side windows to pick up the placement of the turn and apex cones needed to navigate the serpentine layout. Despite not being able to see through the windshield, everyone successfully navigated the course without missing a turn or hitting a cone. See the picture below of one of the students driving with the sun shade covering the windshield.
The next behind-the-wheel experience for my group was the ABS braking maneuvers. This exercise consisted of us driving on a watered-down course where we had to accelerate up to 35-40 mph, then hit the brakes as hard as you could while driving in a straight line to feel how the ABS works in wet road conditions. We did that several times then they changed it up for us. This change involved us accelerating up to speed and driving between two cones which represented our gateway (and visual cue to initiate the braking) but now, one of the instructors (standing far ahead in our line of sight) would wait until we were nearly to the gateway cones and then they would point to a right or left lane of cones that they wanted us to steer towards while braking. During my first attempted lane change, my car did not go where I wanted because I started steering before the ABS had taken effect, which reduced its efficiency to do what it was designed. After a couple of more tries, I felt more confident and better understood how the ABS system would help you maintain control of the car during emergency stopping maneuvers in slippery conditions.
The next driving lesson was called the Braking and Downshifting exercise. During this session, the instructors had us drive on the longest straightway of our course where they had placed signs to the side to indicate where they wanted you to initiate the braking and downshifting exercises. We were told to get up to 65-70 mph in 4th gear (using the manual mode and paddle shifters for the automatic drivers) then start braking. While braking, forward momentum carried me to the next sign where I was to downshift to third gear, then the next sign to downshift to second gear. The objective was to reduce the speed of the car to about 15 mph by the last sign (just beyond the 2nd gear downshift sign). It was hard to perform all these steps in sequence to achieve the target speed of 15 mph by the last sign because sometimes, I would slow down too much to where I would have stopped well before the last sign. To me, this exercise was intended to help you learn brake feel by braking harder at the beginning while gradually decreasing braking pressure to smoothly achieve a desired speed. Performing this exercise enable me to develop the "touch" necessary to brake, downshift, and maintain a balanced car while entering a turn on the track. This was part of a concept that the instructors described as "Slow in, Fast out" for navigating turns for fast track times. As it turned out in subsequent track sessions, this concept was very important to being able to attain good track times.
These events comprised the morning of Day One and took until lunch the first day. Stay tuned for subsequent posts for the remainder of the Day One lessons and Day Two lessons and driving sessions at the Corvette Owners School.