To my surprise I had access to a free day of performance driving school included in the cost of the new car I purchased a few months ago, a Ford Edge ST. Apparently because they are considered ‘high performance SUVs (to me an oxymoron)’, Ford Performance sends out letters to all new owners inviting us to this training.
Since it was included in the cost of the car, and a good excuse to spend a week running around Utah, off we went. And the good news was Ford provided the cars for the day.
The instructors were all professional drivers, mostly those who run in the SCCA or IMSA type races. Our leader was referred to as Reverend Jim who preached the gospel of speed.
We left Park City for a 45 minute drive to the town of Midway. Each car had a walkie talkie where Reverend Jim gave us play by play of the drive, the features of the car and other amusing, if not always useful, comments.
Eventually we arrived at the Soldier Valley Olympic Facility. This facility hosted the cross country skiing, as well as the biathlon – a combination of cross country skiing and target shooting.
The first part of the day was learning how to manage your vehicle during a skid. To do this they have a car outfitted with specialized hydraulics that the instructor could at any moment force the car into a skid.
Next up was to show the amazing ability of the Ford Edge ST (and many of today’s cars) to apply the brakes if the car decides you are not paying attention and are going to run into something. This is done with a combination of Radar and the cameras in the car.
The training was to accelerate towards a ‘balloon car’ and once you get to the point of no return you let off on the accelerator, do not touch the brakes and steer directly ahead. The car will sense the balloon car just ahead and hammer on the brakes for you – a very weird sensation but some cool technology.
The Olympic cross country loop is paved, allowing for athletes to train year round using rollers on their ski’s. Because we had the facility to ourselves today we were permitted to drive the course – slowly.
We arrived back at the start/finish line where the target shooting facility was located.
Once there two of the U.S. Biathlon Olympic team members were there to give us an overview of the sport, some history and some instruction on the target shooting. I last shot a gun when Gerald Ford was president but with their instruction was able to hit the target, which turned out to be 7 times larger than the target the Olympians shoot at.
Our day continued with an auto-cross. This is basically a course set up in a parking lot with constant sharp turns. We used what Reverend Jim and the others had taught us for the day and saw how fast and hard we could get Ford’s cars through the course.
All in all it was a fun day, with Reverend Jim and the other instructors helping facilitate a learning experience.