Recently we here at Street Rodder magazine stepped up our car-testing program in order to bring our readers an accurate account of the performance capabilities of some of the cars featured in our magazine. This includes magazine project cars, which give us the opportunity to test a vast array of products advertised in these very pages. It also enables us to see if some of the cars featured in the magazine are mere trailer queens or actual road gripping performers. This is our way letting the car, not the owner, do the talking. Quite often we hear people talk about what their car can do in the quarter-mile, or how their hot rod achieved some amazing dyno numbers. We believe you... really, we do. We just need to see for ourselves that's all.

In order to seek out the full potential and/or limits of these vehicles we've put together a testing program consisting of quarter-mile, slalom, skid pad and braking. With that being said, the next step was to make sure we had a qualified driver who was in possession of the necessary skills needed to obtain peak performance of these vehicles. With only one of our staffers meeting these qualifications, it was time to send a couple of guys to driving school.

Next thing I knew, me and two magazine staffers which included Cody Wentz and Jason Scudellari, were in a rented Astro van on our way to the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix, Arizona. Well, I've had worse assignments, I just can't think of any right now.

We figured we would stay at the Sheraton Resort Phoenix since it was literally across the street from the Bondurant. We arrived a day early just to get settled in (hey, a little pool-time never hurts especially after a six-hour drive). Although the temperatures exceeded 105 we didn't care, we were too excited knowing we were about to spend the next two days having the time of our lives while learning the skills of high performance driving.

For our needs the two-day High Performance Course was perfect. On our first day we arrived promptly at 6:45 am ready for action. Instructor Jeff Keck introduced himself and before we knew it we were out on our first session. With Jeff behind the wheel, he slowly took us through the slalom course explaining the correct way to maneuver the car through the cones. Before long we were attacking the slalom course in our own hopped-up Bondurant Cadillac CTS's. While speed and agility were ultimate goal, safety is considered high priority at the school. As an example, the first couple of runs through the slalom course were done at 30 mph. Through instruction we were able to increase our speed by 5 mph in a series of runs until we reached the set speed of 45 mph.

As most of the lessons are taught in-car, some of the instruction is done in a classroom. A lot of time is spent on the topic of vehicle weight transfer and how to apply this through braking and acceleration. Under steering and over steering are common effects brought on by incorrect vehicle weight distribution and can be corrected with the right amount of braking and/or acceleration.

One of the more interesting aspects of the course was the time we spent in the skid car. This vehicle is equipped with an extra set of wheels connected to hydraulics, enabling the car to be lifted in the front or rear. With the push of a button the instructor has the ability to create the effects of driving on ice or slick pavement increasing the effects of under steer or over steer. Not only was this a fun exercise, it really helped to develop a quick reaction when the car loses traction. Overcorrection is a common mistake and this lesson is a great way to overcome just that. After just one day we've become much more comfortable driving at the levels expected by our Bondurant instructors.

On day two the boys and I were ready for some more intense driving. We spent a lot of time on the Bondurant oval working on our entry and exit points of the turns. It's really important to learn where to begin braking in order to establish the correct line to the apex. Our instructor spent some one-on-one time in the car during this exercise to make sure each of us were able to achieve maximum speed upon entry and exit of the turns. They really stressed on the importance of letting the car do the work and to maintain a relaxed grip on the steering wheel. This ensures smoother transition from trail braking in and accelerating out of corners.

The autocross course took up most of the day. Here the goal was to take what we've learned so far and apply it to this exercise. With the instructors paying close attention to detail on each pass, they were able to recognize our weak points and give advice on how to improve on our times each run.

Technique is a huge part of the Bondurant driving philosophy and heel to toe shifting is one of the more important driving tools taught at the school. This is learned with the instructor in the passenger seat making sure you've got the hang of it. Plenty of time is spent on this as it enables a smoother and more effective way to quickly reduce speed heading into a corner. If you really want to lower your times at the track, you've got to master this technique. This is one of the aspects of high performance driving that will separate you from rest of the pack.

After we gained the confidence in our instructor, we were then allowed to hit the Bondurant road course. Now it was time for the "big payoff." On went the helmets and we were let loose on 1.6 miles of heaven. Although we were required to follow our instructor while driving on the road course, Danny Bullock gave us plenty of room to put our newly found skills to the ultimate test. Not only was it a challenge to keep pace with his lead, but we were also required to keep our distance of one-car length between him and us. Locked in on the rear of a car that close at 70mph really gets the adrenalin pumping. It's just not something you do everyday. Although we would if we could.

With just two days spent at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving I've become much more confident behind the wheel. From highway driving to beating on potential project cars, I feel my driving skills have improved in every possible aspect.

The professional and personable instructors really help to make this a special hands-on driving experience. Weather you are interested in high performance driving, open wheel racing or highway safety, the Bondurant School offers many courses to fit your needs. They can also accommodate group sizes from 10 to 500 and offer programs from two hours to two days. This is a great way improve your driving ability no matter what skill level you're at.