4 Wheels, 5 Skills

Study Up: 5 Places to Learn How to Use 4 Wheels

When the bell rings, you won't want to leave

Becoming a skilled driver is about more than going fast and having big balls the will to beat everyone else. Understanding physics, driving the line well and having hours under your belt in both your vehicle and the track or road on which you’ll drive all play key roles in maximizing your abilities. But acquiring the skills necessary to be great behind the wheel doesn’t happen by just reading about it or watching episodes of Top Gear. The fastest and most comprehensive way to improve is by opening up your mind and your wallet to a reputable driving school.

Thirty years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find one, but now they’re strewn all over country, focusing on a variety of driving styles and proficiency levels. Whether it’s in a stock car, a rally car or a rock crawler, well-versed instructors are ready to take your novice butt to school in the right way. Here are five great driving schools that will surely make you the most competent driver, at least on your block.

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BMW Performance Driving School


Best Driving School for the All-Arounder: BMW Performance Driving School is a great place to learn comprehensive driving skills for both the track and everyday driving situations. Their wide range of courses caters to teen drivers, high-performance BMW M Car owners and those who want to focus on car control; expert instructors at BMW’s Spartanburg, SC Performance Driving Driving School teach ample classroom time but focus on track driving in actual cars. From skidpad, slalom and lane change to high speed cornering and hard drifting, the petrol poison is yours for the choosing. We prefer the Advanced M School, where you walk away with a helmet. Swag.

Skip Barber Racing School


Best Driving School for the Racer: The largest driving school around, Skip Barber Racing is a force to be reckoned with. John “Skip” Barber started his school in 1975 with the belief that racing skills could be taught like any other sport. It started with two borrowed Lola Formula Fords and a scant four students; today, Skip Barber Racing boasts schools held at over 20 tracks with more than 120 cars. You’ll learn the key elements of racing like heel-and-toeing, drifting and passing and even racing in the rain.

Ferrari Driving Experience


Best Driving School for the Fast and Furiously Wealthy: Okay, so if you don’t actually own a Ferrari, you’re SOL (on multiple levels). This driving school for Prancing Horse owners doesn’t ensure you won’t end up on a bad Youtube crash clip, but it will certainly help. You can drive the bonkers F12, 458 Italia, and the California on one of two North American courses — Austin, TX and Mont-Tremblant, Quebec — all while learning about vehicle dynamics and handling from certified instructors/race car drivers. No word on what happens if you wreck one of theirs.

Overland Experts (OEX)


Best Driving School for the Off-Road Junkie: The percentage of 4×4 owners who never deviate from pavement is disturbing. But if you’re one of the few who long to exploit your SUV’s capabilities, look no further than OEX. Founded in 1998 by Bruce Elfström, OEX is designed to teach students how to drive off-road with skill and a conscience for your vehicle and for the environment. You won’t see Gravedigger here. Using rough and ready vehicles like Toyota Hilux TDIs or Land Rovers (or your own vehicle), OEX shows you how to drive on seemingly impassable roads with patience and practical skills. They’ve even taken their craft to exotic places like Iceland and Bolivia. Who says off-roading is for rednecks?

Team O’Neil Rally School


Best Driving School for WRC Wannabe: If you’re more about throwing mud 20 yards than smoking tires, this is the school for you. O’Neill, in partnership with FoMoCo, will teach you the finer points of hard-edged rally driving in their multi-day courses in Dalton, New Hampshire. You’ll learn how to thrash stock Ford Fiestas around a big 6.5-mile forest course as well as the skid pad, obstacle avoidance area and slalom course while gaining a solid understanding of how a car handles when the pavement is absent. We’re not sure if they provide the laundry soap to get the stains out (of your racing suit and your underwear), we mean.