VIDEO: Performance Driving School at Thompson Speedway

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We mentioned a few weeks ago that Thompson Speedway underwent a huge renovation in the last year, and a couple of weeks ago, we got a chance to sample just how good it is at the speedway’s Performance Driving School.

Over the last year, the track underwent a transformation turning it into one of the premier sports car courses in the Northeast.

The High Performance Driving School is designed to give drivers some time behind the wheel of a real race car.

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Our instructor was Ryan Arciero. One of the reasons the track uses the former Volkswagen TDI Cup cars as trainers is that Arciero ran that racing series the years it was operational here in the United States.

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The cars are from 2009. The drivetrains are all stock Jetta TDI — with the DSG automatic trans — but the cars get brakes from the R8, a handful of other modifications and a full set of safety equipment.

Every one of these cars has the same set of safety equipment, including airbags, a five-point racing harness, a roll cage, a fire supression system, and an FIA rated racing seat.

This is lead-follow racing instruction, so there’s nobody in the car with you. Your job is to get a half a car length behind the instructor and do exactly what he’s doing.

So everybody in the class gets the benefit of individual instruction, there are several instructors on the track, leading groups of racers around the track. In your pack of three or four cars, you follow directly behind the leader for a lap, and then your instructor raises a hand out the window to signal you to move to the rear of your pack so that the next driver can follow the leader.

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The tricky part is trying to figure out what he’s doing when you’re three cars back. Your inclination is to hang on the bumper of the car in front of you, but there’s no guarantee that he’s doing the right thing.

The track runs several types of sessions, from a two-hour, “get acquainted with a race car” kind of class, up to more intensive sessions as you get more experience.

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Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at