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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I did this writeup for my local region SCCA and thought I would share, I am not affiliated at all with this school, but they did a good job, so I thought I would share.

Derek Daly Driving School Review

I was so unfortunate to get stuck in Las Vegas over SuperBowl weekend. A couple of weeks prior, I was told by my boss that I was needed in Las Vegas for a class for some in-depth training on some equipment that I support. The class was all day Thursday and Friday, so I figured I would hangout through the weekend. To pull this off, I invited my wife and a few other friends to join me. Of course the wife would come, but I could only get one more friend to indulge Sin City.

A few days before we leave, Jeremy, the friend, finds a driving school at the Las Vegas Speedway called the Derek Daly Performance Driving Academy. This is the same academy that has taught celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone for the movie “Driven” and the entire cast of the “Fast and Furious.” Although we would not call those guys “racers” from their performance in the movies, the school, however, trained “newbies” that have gone on to a full time racer career. I checked out the website (www.derekdaly.com) and it looks like a great time, so we book it.

Saturday morning, we show up at 7:45 am to meet the 3 instructors. There are a total of 8 students in the class, so the one on one instruction was great. The students were made up of a woman from Hawaii who raced dirk track on a motorcycle, a doctor from Chicago that had no racing experience, three locals from Vegas and us. The in class instruction started with the basics. They explain different terms like trail breaking, early and late apexing, tire contact patch, weight transfer, and how all these things play into another. In addition, they fitted us in a driving suit, shoes, helmet, and gloves. I felt like a real racecar driver and Kristie looked pretty cute and the suit!!!

9:00 am.

It is now time to get in the car. The car is a unique formula racecar that weighs about 1100 lbs and runs on a Pinto engine. Yes, I said Pinto engine, but it was no normal Pinto. Top speed is around 135 mph and is capable of reaching head rushing 1.5g in a turn. The first thing I notice is that these cars had standard Goodyear street radials. I thought to myself, this isn’t going to be fun because I am not going to be able to get any traction. I was wrong, I’ll explain later. We get situated and belted up in the car. They had predetermined which car we were driving based on our weight. This was a hint that was something the to the balance of the car.

9:15 am

We fire up the engine and drive down the side street of the Las Vegas Speedway to the outside road course. In the pits of the 1.5 mile road course, there were two small courses setup. The first was a short oval course. In the middle, was a figure eight style course. The figure eight course was for a “spider” or skid car. This was a BWM 318 setup with hydraulic riggers to raise and lower the front and rear end of the car. The purpose of this was to simulate over and understeer. This was the first exercise for the three of us. The instructor drove us around the course to simulate what he wants us to do. I think to myself, this is going to be easy. The figure eight was made up of most cones and some paint stripes to illustrate the apex. He raises the front of the car to simulate understeer (or pushing) and the does the same with the rear to show oversteer (or loose). Before he lets us go, he tells us that for every cone we hit, we owe him a beer. I think we were up to a keg by the time the session was done. Not only did we have to get use to the noticeable change in the cars handling, we had the 2-foot long beams sticking out on each side popping all the cones. Personally, I did not have a problem with the oversteering portion, but I tell you, the understeering was something that I have to get use to. One of the most important things I was reminded of in this exercise is that the tires can only do one thing fast. That has to be either braking or turning. Not both. To both, you have to compromise the other and you had to do it smoothly.

10ish

We get set loose on the short oval track. We were to practice trail braking and turning. The oval course was setup on the outside of the figure eight that we had just finished. Like many tracks, one corner was not the same as the other, although it looked like it was. This parking lot has a slight change in elevation; so one side was off camber. This was an interesting thing to get use to when practicing trailbreaking and looking a few seconds ahead of where you were going. This really hit home when one person spun in the off camber turn while the other two were coming hot into the turn. I won’t say the name of the person that spun because she will make me sleep in the garage tonight if I tell you. Thankfully, there was no accident.

I have a new respect for the racers who do this many hours in a day. With no powersteering, it gave my arms a workout. I now know why correct seating position is so important.

Noon
We break for lunch.

1:00 pm

We meet back in the classroom for some more instruction. In the morning session, we were not switching gears in the car. The gearing setup was allowing us to get to speeds of 60 mph before hitting the rev limiter in first gear. They now illustrated how “heel and toe” works. They also explained that in these older transmissions, there are not syncro gears as there are in modern day streetcars. This would allow us to upshift gears without using the clutch, but by just using a little blip of the throttle. Down shifting was a whole different story.

They had a very neat video of a guy going around the track. They had removed the body of the car and mounted a video camera above his feet so you could watch what his feet were doing.

Basically, in written terms, this is what a racer does when setting up for a corner:

Brake – clutch – downshift – blip (the gas with the same foot that is on the brake) – clutch – downshift (if needed)….etc. This would be done from 4th to 3rd to 2nd to 1st.

That might seem easy, but try blipping the gas to match the engine with the wheels while not letting ANY pressure off the brake. This is what we were to practice next.

1:30 pm

We spent an hour on the oval track practicing everything that we had learned in the morning, but the addition of “heel and tow.” This seems easy in the classroom, but I don’t think I ever got it down perfect. It was also coming apparent that I should be wearing a neck brace. After an hour of holding my head to one side of the car going round and round, I was getting sore.

3:00 pm

The whole group gets into a dodge 15-passenger van. The instructor takes us for a tour of the 1.5 mile 14 turn road course. This all seemed innocent enough, however, I think this guy would FTD some of our autocross events in the van. He also gave new meaning to bodyroll. I wish I had a picture of him coming out of turn 2 (hairpin) with the inside wheel smoking as all of hold on to each other for support. We were never in danger of crashing and the van was very well balanced, but the student in the far back seat got carsick.

3;20 pm

We get belted into the cars again and begin the first of two “lead – follow” sessions with the instructors on the road course. There were four students in one group and three in another. The guy who got carsick had to leave, so there were only seven of us. We followed the instructor for about 45 minutes learning the line of the course and taking turns following directly behind him. At this point I was getting kind of bummed out because I didn’t feel like we were driving hard enough. I was having fun, but I really wanted to see the limits of the car and the track. When we came in for a break, I explained to the instructor my thoughts and he said he would take care of it. And that, he did.

I traded positions with another guy in the smaller group. My group took off and followed the instructor out on the track. He takes off and us students take off after him. I have done pretty well in the autocross series and feel like I have good bit of seat time under my belt. So I would say that I am pretty comfortable taking a car to it limits. With that being said, this guy made me look like a chump. He ran off and wanted us to follow.

So, I do what anyone of us would do. I tried to keep up. In the process, I missed 3rd gear 4 times (downshifting to 1st), almost shot off turn seven (A 100 mph “S” curve ending into a 35 mph hard left) and reached g-forces I never have. Did I mention that this was all on regular street tires? You will be glad to know that we all made it though the 45-minute session with no damage or bad mishaps. We did have a spin on the track by one of the locals, but that was all.

In summary, I may have made this sound more dangerous then it really was. The thing that I will remember most is that there is always something to learn when it comes to driving and more importantly, seat time is the best way to learn. Also, correct setup of a car really dictates on how the car will handle, no matter what kind of tires are on the car. I was still amazed that after every session that we ran, the tires were never over heated or greasy.

This is not an advertisement for Derek Daly Driving academy, but I do recommend his class or something like it. The instructors were very knowledgeable, had a whole lot of racing credits and sponsors, and most importantly, were very helpful in teaching us students what it takes to make it in a racecar.
 

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Sounds just like the Russel school I took at Sears Point.


Also, you can heel-toe in your Viper. I have aftermarket pedals with a heel kick on the gas pedal to make it easier. I practice it all the time, on the street, track, etc. It is the only way to get it perfect on the track when you need to. It also makes a huge difference in your ability to keep control of the car at all times.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I am starting to practice in both manual cars I have. I have the stock pedals in the Viper, and with big shoes, it is hard to do. I am going to try and adjust the pedals for now to see if that helps. The trail breaking is one I am practicing as well.
 

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Trail breaking is good for that last bit of time on the table, but it has great pucker factor due to the traction circle.

Left foot breaking is next on my to-learn list. I can do it in a kart but somehow it feels completely foreign in a road car.
 

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I've found the Viper *very* easy to heel-toe in, and I have big feet. I prefer the pedals cranked almost all the way down to the floor. However, it's difficult to *practice* in the Viper, because you really have to be applying heavy brake pressure to blip the throttle pedal. Especially with aftermarket brakes, this means you're always braking extremely hard, moreso than you really want to on the street.
 
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