For those of us who daydream about taking turns and flooring straightaways but don't own a souped-up sports car to do it, there's hope. Set amidst the mountains and palm trees of the Las Vegas desert, the Cadillac V-Series Academy is the newest driving school to open at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, a motor resort and country club that hosts races and driving schools for everything from a Corvette to a Radical SR3 Tracksport. The Ranch boasts a curvaceous 3.4 mile track, offering 125 feet of elevation change and reproductions of some of the world's most famous turns. Furthermore, the facility is also a resort, providing amenities – big glass chandeliers, private condos with personal garages, a plush clubhouse, and business center – that you would normally expect to find in a luxe golf resort. The new Cadillac racing program, designed by racing legend Ron Fellows, offers both one- and two-day classes to teach you racing-level driving skills that all translate to real-world roads.
We attended the one-day class, where we learned the basics: visual scanning (focus on where you want to go, not where you don't); heel/toe downshifting (make sure to "blip" the throttle before downshifting); and the proper way to take a corner (brake before and then accelerate through the apex of the turn). The morning exercises detailed the foundations of braking and turning via classroom sessions and short driving exercises. In the afternoon, the instructors let us loose to tear up the track. Every car is equipped with a two-way radio, allowing the instructors to provide real-time feedback. We started the day feeling that 60 miles an hour was pushing it. By the end of the day, we were screaming around turns at 90 miles an hour. (Click on "View More Photos" above for images of our day at the track.)
In the V-Series Academy, students get to choose any car from the Cadillac V-Series family– the CTS-V Coupe, the CTS-V Sedan, and the CTS-V Wagon – all of which have 556-HP supercharged V8 engines that let you feel, and hear, the revs. Their standard Nürburgring-tuned suspension, Brembo braking system, and Michelin tires smooth out that massive horsepower, making for a surprisingly controlled ride. "It's super dramatic on the outside, but there's no drama inside," the instructors like to say. We personally tested out both the Coupe and the Wagon. At first, we were worried that the extra trunk space would slow the car down, but we experienced no speed limits, and the knowledge that we were racing in a hatchback actually made it all the more awesome. Do not discount the Wagon.
"The goal of the Academy is to get a better understanding of the vehicle you drive every day," says Rick Malone, Spring Mountain's Chief Driving Instructor. In other words, this isn't a school of sports cars, but that's the point. Malone and the other instructors want you to come away feeling like you are a better driver on both the racetrack and the highway. After logging some hours on the regular streets, and some nearby winding mountain roads that we used to take slowly, we can testify that the Academy certainly makes good on that promise. A future speeding ticket seems to be promised, as well. [$1,295 for a one-day course; $2,295 for a two-day course; springmountainmotorsports.com]
See also: What to Do This Weekend