An ordinary motoring life is filled with all sorts of dull or depressing events. The commute. Circling for a parking spot. Door dings. Really bad FM radio.
Break the cycle with a moment behind the wheel that gets your heart racing and your grin widening. Here are the ten best driving experiences that you should get out for to break the monotony and let loose and experience the full potential of all the horsepower and handling of your favourite rides.
HPDE track day
The simplest and most accessible way to enjoy your car the way it was designed is to hit up a high performance driver education (HPDE) day at your local racetrack. It’s fun, it’s safe, and you’ll be honing car control skills that might just make you safer on the street.
One of the biggest misconceptions about HPDE days is that you need to show up in a Porsche 911 or an MX-5 to have a good time. Not true: almost any kind of car, up to and including the family sedan on stock all-season tires, is plenty of fun out on a racetrack. If you’re a little worried about diving in to the deep end on a bigger course, most autocrossing societies have novice days with instructors, and those can be fun as well.
Another way to get the most out of your car is to fold some lasting memories into the sheet metal. The days may be short, grey, and ugly, but you’ll climb into your machine at the end of a long day at the office and smile as you remember swanning around the South of France in Mediterranean sunshine.
All the major European manufacturers offer European delivery in one form or another, and the costs are relatively minimal. You cover the airfare and accommodations for your trip, but picking your car up from the factory and then having it shipped over after you’re finished isn’t much more than the Freight & PDI you’d be paying anyway. More people should take advantage.
Rally driving school
Tarmac driving lessons are one thing, but getting sideways on gravel is even better. There are a couple of great driving schools around for those who would like to get into the rallying scene: Dirtfish on the West Coast, and O’Neill out East.
Rallying is one of the most accessible motorsports to get into, but you don’t need to be planning a career. Even just a day’s worth of slidey-slidey is worth the price of admission.
Winter performance driving
Speaking of slides, what better way to improve your Canadian driving skills than with a clinic on winter performance driving. Plenty of manufacturers offer courses involving ice-sheet skidpads and snowbound tracks, from the expected (Porsche) to the surprising (Lamborghini).
The best way to learn how to recover an out-of-control car is to get it all crossed up in a safe environment where there’s plenty of help with smiling faces to help drag you back out of the snowbanks. It’s the most fun you’ll have since you went tobogganing as a kid.
Ford Octane academy
As a freebie for purchasing a blue oval performance machine like a Focus ST or a Mustang GT350, Ford will take you to school. Specifically, they’ll take you to Miller Motorsports Park and teach you how to get the most out of your machine.
If you’re lucky enough to have got your hands on the Shelby Mustang, then it’s the funnest way to learn to get the most out of your car. If you’ve picked up a turbocharged, front-driver hatchback with an eye to practicality, you’ll be able to unlock even more fun than you expected.
Skip Barber, Bob Bondurant or Bridgestone Academy
Taking things up a level from the casual performance education day, professional racing schools let you take your skills to the next level, and also let you experience a kind of driving you can’t find elsewhere.
At Skip Barber, you can move up from race-prepped Miatas to single-seater open-wheel racing cars. At the Bondurant you can do everything from high performance driving to formula Mazda racing. Bridgestone Academy, based out of Ontario’s Mosport, er, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park offers multi-day driving fun and training on open-wheel formula cars.
Exotic lapping days or tours
If racing a tiny, revvy, low-displacement racer isn’t your idea of a good time, perhaps you’d like something loud and exotic? If you’ve always dreamed of driving a Lamborghini or Ferrari, it’s never been easier.
Along with destination rental places, like those in Las Vegas, there are also a number of companies doing exotics lapping days. These give you a chance to wring out a Lambo on the track, with an instructor keeping an eye out if things get too hairy.
Half motorsport, half performance art, drifting has long moved past the automotive fringes to a full-fledged industry. There are professional leagues, sponsored events, pro drivers and instructors. Plus it just looks cool.
Give it a go at a drift instruction school where you don’t have to worry about the cost of tires, nor clipping a curb. The only real risk is that you’ll be browsing autoTRADER.ca for rear-drive sports cars the moment you set foot off the track.
NASCAR driving day
Think oval track racing looks easy? Why not give it a go yourself with a NASCAR driving experience, strapping into a roll-caged, V8-powered beast and hammering across the tarmac?
You don’t need a race support team for your own Days of Thunder moment, you just need a couple of hours. Timid drivers can go for the ride-along; those who fancy themselves a bit of a hot shoe can set out on timed laps.
Going around in circles all day is a good way to test the driver, but testing the driver and the car at the same time means going the distance. That’s where adventure rallying comes in, and you don’t need to be a millionaire to run your own personal Mille Miglia.
Plenty of local clubs do multi-day driving events, giving you a chance to get out and explore your province. If you’re feeling a little more daring, there are events like the Alcan 5000, a 7,500 km trek into the arctic, which can be done either in summer or winter.
And, well, if you have more money than you know what to do with, there’s always the Gumball Rally.
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