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by Larry Roberts

October 02, 1998

Anybody can drive a race car, right? Whether it's a NASCAR Winston Cup stocker, a CART Champ Car or a FIA GT1 endurance racer, all you need to do is drop it into first gear, step on the throttle, let out the clutch, point the car in the right direction and go!

But it takes more than just a valid state driver's license and a will to win to make it as a professional or even a serious amateur race driver. It takes years of dedication to the sport to even get a shot at the Big Time and most world-class stars started in their early teens as go-kart racers and progressed up the ladder. Like child actors, many are guided through the maze by ambitious parents who invest lots of time and/or money into getting their offspring a shot at the top.

But if you're over 13 and don't have a dad who is driven to glory, there is a way that you can at least get behind the wheel of a genuine racer and give it your best shot - if you have the money. During the year, we get brochures from several driving schools and I don't mean the kind that train high-school kids in high-mileage Dodge Omnis, either. These schools want to turn their students into racers. But from our research we've found that besides the high-profile operations like those run by Bob Bondurant, Jim Russell, Skip Barber, and other over-the-hill race drivers, there is a plethora of various high performance schools out there.

One of the problems interested but not "in" neophytes have is how to find an academy for speed that's close to home and doesn't require traveling two or three thousand miles to attend. Another is finding one that caters to the particular type of racing that the potential Andretti is interested in. There's no sense in you're signing up for a school that specializes the techniques of driving a single-seater Formula Ford 2000 SCCA/USAC road racer when you are really interested in electric go-kart racing.

Being state-of-the-art auto writers, we immediately turned to that world-wide friend of all journalists, the all-knowing internet. We called up "" and the results were amazing. We first asked for an alphabetical list of the schools and found over 80 operations that teach students how to do things that involve vehicular competition.

Up near the top of the list is the "Antree Racing Driver's School" at the Antree track in England. It uses some terms that are strange to American eyes (saloon car racing means stock cars, for instance, and the price structuring is in pounds) but other than that, its curriculum looked a lot like the American schools that teach road racing.

Further down the list I came across "Bobby Ore's Motion Picture Stunt Driving School" which was "...formed in 1996 due to a popular demand of members of the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG).." to teach the techniques of kidnaping avoidance as well as how to stage spectacular crashes for the Silver Screen.

In the lineup are several schools that teach the fine points of kart racing as well as CART racing, a Canadian school that introduces you to driving the little "Legends" micro-retro hardtop cars, and the "Western Adventures 4X4 Driving School" that will guide you through the ins and outs of off-road driving. Several other schools will give you hands-on experience in driving a drag racer and sprint car driver Jimmy Sills will teach you the quick way around an oval dirt track.

With 80-some odd sites to explore, you probably won't have much trouble finding just the school you're looking for but they all have one problem that most American post-secondary colleges and universities won't have a problem with. None of the schools listed on the racing schools web site have football teams that get alumni support.