Four race car driving schools dominate the high end of the market: Bertil Roos IndyStyle Racing School, Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, Russell Racing School, and Skip Barber Racing School. All four offer classes in single-seat, open-wheeled formula cars. Although their teaching methods have minor differences, each school is well regarded. If you go, you won't lose by picking the school that's closest to you.
This is the boutique among the Big Four, with a three-day road-racing course at the Pocono International Raceway and a two-day course in oval-track driving at Nazareth Speedway in northeastern Pennsylvania. Students begin by practicing in Volvo 850s, then graduate to Scandia F2000 formula racers that max out at 140 mph.
Heads Up: Large drivers are a drag -- there's a weight limit of 260 pounds. The three-day course costs $1,995; the two-day, $1,450. P.O. Box 221, Blakeslee, PA 18610; 800-722-3669.
In winter many hotshoes head for Bondurant's school at the Firebird International Raceway Complex in Chandler, Arizona. Take the four-day Grand Prix Road Racing class, and you'll drive Indy-type Formula Fords on a racetrack that was especially designed for teaching. Graduates of the corporate group events include fast trackers from Intel Corp., Motorola Inc., and McDonald's Corp.
Heads Up: Bondurant has a reputation for being booked up, so make your reservations at least three months in advance. The four-day course costs $2,695. P.O. Box 51980, Phoenix, AZ 85076; 800-842-7223.
Its three-day Techniques of Racing course emphasizes track time on the Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, California. Lap times are posted and passing is allowed from day one.
Heads Up: At $299, the Russell Test Drive -- where students receive instruction and lap the track for three-and-a-half hours -- is the most affordable way to try competitive racing. The three-day course is $1,895. 1023 Monterey Highway, Salinas, CA 93908; 408-372-7223.
Barber is the only major school that teaches at more than one track -- there are 24 in all. Graduates of the competition course can lap, practice, and compete in a Formula Dodge Race Series.
Heads Up: Registering on a standby basis saves money -- $400 off the three-day fare of $2,250. 29 Brook Street, Lakeville, CT 06039; 800-221-1131.