Driving isn’t fair. You have this huge machine easily capable of moving over 100 miles per hour, which is full of glowing dials designed to remind you of how ridiculously fast you’re going, and a country of millions of miles of roads to barrel across at irresponsible velocities. But what else do you have? A strong sense of self-preservation, a moral duty to avoid mangling strangers, and an army of cops standing by to tone up their monthly speeding ticket quotas.
You don’t get tickets at the Brainerd International Raceway. It is a speed demon’s paradise, where you are taught how to drive full tilt by a professional driver and then handed a cherry red racecar for that very purpose. This is the place you dream of going to every time you’re stuck at a red light.
Andre Serra is the director of the BIR Performance Driving School. In the past he has coached drivers for everything from Formula 1 to IndyCar racing. He recently stunt drove for the production of Ford v Ferrari, and he often whips around new cars as they’re filmed for commercials. His job is better than yours or mine.
“I wish one day they would show my face,” said Andre in a warm Portuguese accent. “That way they would have to pay me more.
“I just began working here, and I love it. Working with the pros is a lot of fun, but I just as much enjoy teaching people who have never been behind the wheel of a real racecar before.
“We give you the full experience when you sign up for just one day of driving school. We kick off the morning with a driver’s meeting. If you’re very new to racing we’ll go over the basics of safety, braking, downshifting, and tracking out. No one gets on the track without the confidence they need to handle a racecar. If you already have experience, then we’ll keep developing your skills with more advanced instruction.
“Our guests drive the same spec cars that are used for competitive racing. They have 1.6 liter, 4 cylinder, 170 horsepower engines. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but these cars are also only about half the weight of a Honda Civic – which has just as much horsepower. They jump up to 130 miles per hour in the blink of an eye.
“Don’t want to spend your day on the track learning manual transmission? That’s fine! We have an automatic Miata with a roll cage for you, too.
“Every guest gets six 25-minute track sessions over the course of the day. They start off following one of our instructors, which is the best way to learn the proper lines they should follow. Usually by their second sessions our first-time racers are ready to go even faster.
“We let you drive your own car if you prefer. Our guests bring in everything from Neons to Lamborghinis, because our track is one of the only places where they can actually open up their prized possessions and see what they can do. You can also share your six sessions with a friend however you like.
“This is a beautiful racetrack with a lot of history. A lot of NASCAR and Indy 500 greats have driven down our original 3.1 mile track. It’s also where Paul Newman won his first professional race in 1982. We’ve improved it a lot since then with the addition of a 2.5 mile competition track, all new facilities and garages, and a tower with an observation deck where families can watch all the action.
“This is a great place to plan a summer vacation. On our private 580 acres we have 164 spots for full-service camping and 12 two-bedroom condos. And if you need a little help chasing the adrenaline out of your veins after driving a racecar all day, you can join us all in the Wheelie Bar right inside the track.”
In addition to racing BIR Performance Driving School offers defensive driving classes, Emergency Vehicle Operator Courses, and pretty much any other assistance you might need to master the art of zipping around. They also regularly invite the real pros to come and do their thing, like during the NHRA drag racing event this August 19th through 22nd.
To learn more about how to have a real gas this summer, please visit birperformance.com.
By David Scheller