Three days of hell at the Radford Racing School
Almost a year ago, the team at Street Muscle Magazine took a partnered trip with Dodge / Stellantis to the middle of the arid desert of Mesa, Arizona. It was a circus of mythical creatures that every self-respecting automobile enthusiast knows extremely well. But one that needs to be tamed by the masses – we’re talking, of course, about the Dodge SRT Hellcat in all its forms – be it Challenger, Charger, Trackhawk or RamTRX.
One of the things we’ve already praised the Dodge SRT for is that it emphasizes the safety of its customers. So much so, in fact, that they include a one-day driving course at the brand new Radford Racing School with the purchase of any Dodge SRT vehicle.
The one-day course is valid for one year and is transferable in the event that customers purchase second-hand. Now we wanted to go further. So when we contacted the folks at Radford Racing they were all in agreement! Instead of offering us a spot for a one-day course, they invited us to the racing school’s three-day high performance driving course and we jumped at the chance! But, wait there is more! (Insert Ron Popeil’s joke). They also offered to borrow one of their Hellcat fleet cars for a review. We scheduled our three day course about a month later, which gave us plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with the 717 hp monster. You can read about this experience, here.
Day 1 :
8: 00-8: 30 Arrival and check-in at reception with Christine and Kaelyn
8: 30-9: 30am Introduction and Walk of Facilities with Head Instructor Danny Bullock
9.30-9.45 am Allocation of vehicles and introduction of places
9.45 a.m. – 11.00 a.m. Slalom exercise
11h00-12h00 Formal ground school with instructor
12: 00-13: 00 Lunch (provided for all students)
1: 00-1: 30 Afternoon ground school
1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Skidding car training
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Accident avoidance / avoidance maneuvers
3:30 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. Recap of the slalom
3:50 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Class debriefing with the class
8:30 am-9:00am Morning ground lesson
9: 00-10: 00 High Speed ââBraking Clinic
10: 00-11: 00 a.m.Oval manipulation exercise
11: 00-12: 00 Auto-Cross 1 lap
12: 00-1: 00 Lunch
1: 00-1: 30 Afternoon ground school
1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Oval manipulation exercise
2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Auto-Cross 2 laps
3:30 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. Class debriefing
8h00-9h00 Car training on skidding
9: 00-10: 00 a.m.Oval manipulation exercise
10h00-11h00 Recap of the Auto-Cross over 2 laps
12: 00-2: 00 Introduction to the track / Animation and follow-up session / Open track with instructor comments
2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Graduation ceremony!
Now, the three-day High Performance Driving Course curriculum is designed for students to learn to crawl before walking, walk before running, and run before they can sprint. However, at the end of the three day driving course, they will certainly be able to sprint! The instructor team is as competent as any professional racing team – it is, after all.
Their instructors train future champions alongside famous celebrities, and everyone receives the same level of education – top notch. In fact, when people like Kevin Hart want to improve their driving game, they see the people of Radford. It’s not just education that sets the school apart, the team of mechanics who take care of the big cats, pull out the brake pads and swap the tires are as proficient as any NASCAR pit crew.
The program (described above) is divided into several main sections, of course each step is equally important, but in the interests of time and to eliminate the risk of spoilers, we will go over the most memorable parts. . The first section begins with some time in the classroom followed by a walk with the head instructor, Danny Bullock. Once the formalities are completed, students are assigned vehicles and are ready to embark on the first driving challenge – the slalom.
The slalom is perhaps the most humiliating of all the stages of the program. Students are literally starting to go under 15 miles an hour and of course that leaves a lot to be desired for the aspiring race car driver or just the enthusiastic hobbyist.
But students quickly learn that by increasing their speed in 5 mph increments, they quickly reach a point where squeezing around cones barely 60 feet apart and swinging that big Dodge through the open space becomes extremely difficult. By the time they are done going 45 miles an hour, they realize how important it is to look to the future. All of you drivers distracted by your cell phone, this last item is especially important due to the 15 to 45 miles per hour difference in reaction times. It’s like evaluating a toddler’s reflexes versus a fighter pilot’s reflexes.
Still, this creates an excellent basis for what’s to come, as the main takeaways are looking to the future as well as spatial awareness in relation to vehicle size and obstacles.
The skid pad
Taking the next step took us to the skid pad where custom Dodge Chargers fitted with a hydraulic system allowing the chief instructor to raise and lower the front and rear of the car. But this isn’t an old hydraulic system you might find in a super low rider show, but rather an advanced training tool to help riders learn what to do in the event of a skid or oversteer.
As you work your way around an eight, the instructor raises or lowers the front and rear of the car to create manufactured oversteer or understeer scenarios leading to either the rear of the car sliding away from you, or the front of the car nose-down towards your turn. Either way, these are key examples of why people train. In fact, Chief Instructor Danny Bullock told us that he thinks all riders should participate in this training whether they are racing or not as it would help in the event of a traction related incident. . Especially for those who often drive in snow, rain, gravel or dirt – basically anything that reduces the friction between the rubber in the road. The training really works!
We admit it, at first it was very difficult. We had to keep our eyes on the cones at the four corners of the figure eight, just long enough to enter the turn and initiate the slide and move our eyes for the next turn or exit – constantly keeping our heads up and our eyes ahead where to go. the car. A seemingly simple task in theory, but in practice a whole different animal. Yet at the end of our skidpad session. we were throwing that big charger around the eight like Dai Yoshihara or one of the big names in the vagabonds – Tanner Foust comes to mind.
Once we were done with the eight we moved on to autocross, which tested skills we had already learned in the car like initiating a turn, negotiating that turn and preventing a slip. Failure to follow lessons quickly cost students precious seconds which make the difference between winning and losing.
Autocross is unique because the riders don’t race against another person but race against the clock, so keeping their eyes up, entering the turn at the right time, looking towards the exit and always being ahead is what counts. the autocross course. It’s easy to get overzealous and initiate a slip or oversteer that costs the driver precious seconds.
When the students get into the car with the instructor, the instructors make it look effortless and they get through autocross in no time. Then the students getting behind the wheel didn’t realize how much the little thing makes a difference if you hear your tires squealing with your hands or you’re going to be slow if you feel the car’s butt slipping can’t sink you. gonna be slow, if you start looking at the cone you’re already passing instead of the one you’re going to be living you’re still going to be slow by the time we finished with the autocross course had cut us a good enough hot 129 to be accurate which was near the top of the list for the three day course, although we were beaten by some of the other students, it is a challenge there.
The big track / Lead and follow
After the autocross course was over, we moved on to the big track – the last stage where we put all our lessons to the test. The instructors got us out, and we did a short follow-up before all the students were allowed to really stretch their legs on the big track, those of you who never have, that’s really a exhilarating experience. However, it can also be heartbreaking at the same time. Hellcats have over 700 horsepower, and if you throw one into a turn that’s too hard, you can quickly find yourself in a wall or off the track all together.
Fortunately, no one in our class had that kind of fortune, and everything turned out fine. We circled the track like a team of synchronized swimmers, initiating our turns, spotting our exits, upshifting and downshifting at the perfect time, braking the track and modulating the throttle with considerable skill. Hell, we even learned how to downgrade the head instructor’s heel-to-toe – something we had always wanted to do.
The entire course ended with a classroom debriefing with the instructors and students reflecting on everything they had learned during the three-day (not literally) crash course on high performance driving. The instructors gave out awards for the fastest in the class etc. Sadly, the Street Muscle team narrowly missed out on first place, but there’s always next time.
We got a nice wall hanging diploma and helmet stickers to let everyone know where we learned to drive – something we’re very proud of.
Till next timeâ¦