We learned a host of other things, including braking, apexing a curve, heel-toe shifting (while keeping your foot on the brake, you blip the throttle with your heel to bring your rpm up, downshift, and take your foot off the clutch, the whole time continuing to brake, all the while going through a curve, which is every bit as difficult as it is to describe), slaloming, and a whole lot more. But for the most part, what I came away with can be summed up in four things: I'm not nearly as good a driver as I thought (though I'm a lot better now than I was), racing is addictive, Neons rule, and if I modify the brake and gas pedals in my Dakota so I can heel-toe, I should be able to shave a good two or three minutes off my morning commute!
Hey Buddy, I Heard Your Wife's Fast!
There's no doubt about it-life is better if you involve your spouse in your hobbies. I can tell you from experience that if she has a fun car to drive, she isn't going to be upset with you for spending time and money wrenching on yours.
I taught my wife to drive a stickshift about two years ago, knowing that some day she would be behind the wheel of a performance car. Driving is fun, and cars are a huge part of my life, and if she wasn't able to share that fun, it wouldn't be as enjoyable for me.
Justin Bell's Viper Driving School has a one day program geared toward the ladies, and I signed her up. My thinking was that she'd come out a better driver (not that she wasn't good to begin with), she'd get a taste of SCCA racing, and most importantly, she'd have a good time. I knew I'd made the right decision when she got off the slalom course and said, "We need a Neon with a roll bar!" Ever since then, it's been "apex-this" and "heal-toe" that. With her behind the wheel, we made record time on a recent trip to Atlanta in a rented Neon. If I could come up with a way to afford a race car, I'd get nothing but support from her. I'd also probably get very little seat time.
In the one day class, you spend a lot more time in the Neons than in Vipers, and that was fine with her. The Neon isn't intimidating, and a lot of the students, men and women, felt more at ease in the Neons. Women also know their limits and don't push them, unlike men. Suzi thought the Viper Venom was too much car, and didn't like that feeling. Most of the men in our class agreed, but we men push the limits, whereas women usually don't. As a result, we men spin Vipers; women don't. The instructors told us that women actually make better students because they take instruction better and don't think they know everything. If you go through the Justin Bell Viper Driving School, sign your wife or girlfriend up. It'll be the best investment in your hobby you'll ever make.
Is there a down side? Just one: Suzi got the unofficial "Most Improved Driver" award for the class, beating my best slalom time by over 1/10th of a second in the process. "Don't tell me how to drive anymore," was her only comment to me. I've created a monster!-and it's the smartest thing I've ever done.