With the death of the Grand Caravan, the last vehicles standing at Dodge are all performance-based, and the SRT engineers are on a never-ending quest for more power. As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben told him in Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. For Dodge SRT vehicle owners, that comes in the form of a full-day class at Bondurant High Performance Driving School to teach them how to harness all of that muscle. Enter your VIN and proof of ownership of your SRT-and-above vehicle and book your own way to Phoenix, Arizona. From there, Bondurant instructors drill safety and control into your head for eight hours. No doubt you'll leave smiling.
Verified owners get this class as a benefit of purchase, but you don’t have to be a new Dodge owner to enroll. For $1900, anyone can sign up for the day, which includes access to the stable of more than 100 high-powered cars, classroom and on-track instruction, and lunch. All of the cars on site are Dodge, including Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcat models, the Demon, and even a couple of Viper ACRs. For owners, considering the value on SRTs for the money, it’s a pretty good deal. Bondurant sales and marketing director Mike Kessler says it’s worth every penny.
“The class saves lives,” he told me. “These cars can easily get loose without traction control and hopefully what attendees learn they can apply to the street.”
He means safe street driving, by the way, not street racing.
The day starts at 8:30 a.m. with classroom instruction and the Bondurant motto "park your phone, drive the car" on repeat. Ground school includes a heavy emphasis on visual scanning and the skills drivers will learn on the asphalt. They use a skid car to teach attendees how to master over- and understeer situations, proper use of ABS brakes, and accident avoidance in a simulator. Then it's off to slalom drills, timed autocross, and lead-and-follow on the track. You'll be exhilarated but tired by the end of the day, for sure.
Kessler says there is a woman in her 70s who bought a Hellcat and participated in the lesson, then upgraded to an extended session, and has even completed a Demon drag racing class. I'm thinking I should bring my mom, since the last time she joined me in a Shelby Super Snake with Shelby President Gary Patterson behind the wheel, she giggled the whole time.
Mechanic and former TV host of Wheeler Dealers Ant Anstead was at the track with Kessler when I spoke with him, jubilant after completing a few laps. Professional racing driver, stunt driver, and television host Tanner Foust was there as well, and I got the impression that the school sees a steady stream of fast-car enthusiasts. Bondurant seems to be thriving after recovering from a tough 2018 during which the school reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The academy is not letting go of its upward trajectory, even during the pandemic. That means smaller classes, and each vehicle goes through a 24-point sanitization and inspection before it’s stickered; the seal is intact until the driver is ready to go. The classroom session is completed with participants spaced out in the school’s giant event facility with massive garage doors to allow for more air circulation. And instructors are on radios instead of sitting next to the participants in the cars.
They’re taking precautions very seriously to the point of being “overly cautious”, Kessler says. “It’s a small school and we don’t want to take any chances with our staff or clients.”
The academy, founded in 1961 by Carroll Shelby and passed on to Bob Bondurant, has been hosted at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park southeast of Phoenix since 1990. Five of the six full-time instructors are veterans of 20 years or more with karting or racing backgrounds, and the sixth has almost a decade of experience.
I challenged Anstead to a drag race; will keep you posted.
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