Almost three months after spending a week learning high-performance driving at Radford Racing School, I can safely say without any exaggeration that I think about the experience at least once every single day. The lessons Radford teaches pop into mind when I daily drive my 1998 Mitsubishi Montero in Los Angeles traffic, when I use my 2006 Porsche Cayenne Turbo as a ski season storm chaser, while I review sports cars and classics, and even when I ride my road bike in the canyons of Malibu.

My previous coverage of Radford focused on stepping up from a Dodge Challenger Hellcat Widebody to a Viper GT, an Evora GT, and eventually the no-holds-barred Formula 4 racer as part of the school's signature four-day Grand Prix road racing course. I also went in-depth on drag racing Dodge Demons (not to mention using the absurd Demon as a daily driver). Here, I want to focus on the lasting takeaways from a full week at Radford Racing School and how they still affect the way I drive, ride, and think about moving as quickly as possible in my day-to-day life.

Track Time As Classroom

Radford Racing School Day 1 6
via Michael Van Runkle / HotCars

As the Official High-Performance Driving School of Dodge SRT, Radford employs Dodge Challengers and Chargers for most classes. Other than how surprisingly well the Dodges handle being thrashed on a daily basis, they teach a number of important lessons—and mostly thanks to the exact reasons that might make such heavy, overly powerful cars seem less than ideal for track training tools.

The Challenger Hellcat Widebody I drove remained limited via Dodge's black key to only 500 horsepower. And yet, the supercharged torque allowed me to slide out the rear end at whim or, more frequently, with a mistaken application of throttle. At that point, the sheer heft made sure I felt the slide and forced me to purposefully correct with some countersteer. Weight transfer also shows up immediately in such a big car, especially with regards to compressing the front tires while braking, which creates a larger contact patch and more traction during upcoming turns.

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Car Control For Daily Life

Radford Racing School Skid Pad
via Michael Van Runkle / HotCars

Increasing traction to aid turn-in at sharp corners works well on the track, where finding the limits can seem much safer than on public roads. But Radford also purposefully teaches students how to stay in control past the limits of traction, through plentiful track time but also with a pair of Chargers used as skid cars. Throw in coned-off ABS exercises, where instructors advise that ABS stands not just for "Anti-lock Braking System" but also "Ability to Brake and Steer," and all of a sudden, hard braking feels more comfortable.

Oversteer while turning and ABS activation cropped up in the real world this winter when I drove to Utah and Colorado and encountered snow in the 5,200-pound Cayenne. Even with excellent Toyo Open Country A/T III tires, Porsche's SUV can still easily overpower icy traction and get a little loose—or, equally as easily, start to skid while braking. To be clear, Radford taught me to avoid those situations as much as possible, but I felt more confident in my abilities to react properly when the inevitable did, eventually, occur.

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Stepping Up To More Serious Cars

Radford Racing School Wrap Up
via Michael Van Runkle / HotCars

From the Challenger, Radford stepped me up into a 2017 Dodge Viper GT, my first driving experience where I felt like I sat in a real racecar. With 645 horsepower in a car that weighs more than 1,000 pounds less than the Hellcat Widebody, plus improved aerodynamics, much stiffer suspension, and a more precise shifter, the Viper taught me how to tame my own impulses on a whole new level. Next, I climbed into the Lotus Evora GT for some hot laps, my first in a true mid-engined sports car.

Low-end torque from the Viper V10 and the supercharged engines in both the Challenger and Evora helped keep that sensation of imminent oversteer at the forefront of my mind. But the Viper's nose-heavy design also creates necessary understeer in tighter turns (less so in an ACR). While driving a number of other cars to review in the interim months—a Mustang Mach 1 and GT500, among others—I've felt both oversteer and understeer crop up and witnessed my mind's ability to compensate correspondingly.

RELATED: Radford Type 62-2 Supercar Backed By Jenson Button Reveals JPS Livery​​​​​​​

Perfect Prep For F4 Fun

Radford Racing School F4 Cars
via John Dowd / Clutch Photos

Adding the Viper and Evora along the way definitely helped me step up to the F4 cars on Thursday. Louder, harsh, and punishing, the Ligier JS F4 chassis helps drivers with zero traction control, no ABS, and a screaming Honda four-banger directly behind the cockpit. To a certain extent, though, such a purpose-built platform can mask mistakes by allowing for immediate overcorrection—unlike the Challenger, for example. And yet, here more than ever I found myself focusing on the constant Radford admonition to keep my eyes up, vision focused away from immediate brake or turn-in points.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Radford CEO Dan Burge Clears The Air Around The New 62-2​​​​​​​

Lessons Learned, Then Reinforced

Radford Racing School F4 Cars 2
via John Dowd / Clutch Photos

Everything learned in the previous cars shines through when snugged into an F4 racer—but faster, more immediate, and riskier. Avoiding object fixation and finding the right line yields a rewarding drive, exactly the kind of racecar experience that Radford hopes to provide. Even in a carbon-fiber tub that felt prangy and darty at first, I found myself purposefully slowing down my hands as I eased into steering inputs, while I stood on the brakes and rolled into throttle.

Even the minor benefits of aerodynamics cropped up while drafting our main instructor, Will Parker, in his Challenger. Since then, I often think of that buffeting wind on my race helmet dissipating behind the Dodge as I draft friends while riding down steep descents on my road bike.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Ant Anstead And Jenson Button Discuss The Radford 62-2 At Monterey Car Week​​​​​​​

Road Circuit Takeaways

Radford Racing School Day 1 7
via Michael Van Runkle / HotCars

Parker walked us through the map of Bob Bondurant's purposefully laid-out track at Radford, making notes for braking and turn-in points, apexes, and where to find full throttle as early as possible. My main takeaways involve using brakes more to shift a car's weight to the nose while staying as wide as possible to use all of the circuit's real estate and keep my speeds high.

A good lap requires zero mental errors, since each builds on the last and leads to the next. That focus—yes, vision, but also mental acuity—requires an ability to fade out external thoughts and noise behind the wheel of a car, another lesson we can all benefit from while constantly distracted by cell phones, friends, music, and traffic in our daily lives.

RELATED: Take A Look At Radford's Project 62 Based On The Iconic Lotus Car​​​​​​​

Even Go-Karting Can Teach Valuable Lessons

Radford Racing School Karting
via Michael Van Runkle / HotCars

During a bonus round in Radford's go-karts with Lead Instructor Danny Bullock, I found myself surprised at just how much the lessons of the Grand Prix class transferred over to such small, underpowered cars. Despite having no suspension to speak of, I could still put weight on the front wheels to prevent chattering understeer, still find a wide line to keep my speed up (even more important without much power), and still find the proper (read: later) apex like Bullock did out front.

RELATED: This Is Why We Love The Radford Type 62-2 Built By Jenson Button And Lotus​​​​​​​

Dodge Demon Drag Racing

Dodge Demon Drag Racing Radford 3
via Michael Van Runkle / HotCars

And then, after the Hellcat Widebody, Viper, Evora, and F4 car, Radford graduated me up to the drag-specific Dodge Demon. Somehow, on a fifth day of high-performance driving, the Demon managed to feel almost underwhelming despite up to 870 horsepower on tap with high-octane race fuel pumping through its veins. Plush seats and straight-line power felt almost tame—and yet, I needed to take similar lessons from circuit racing onto the drag strip, like weight transfer and light throttle modulation to feel those rear tires hook up. And in an absurdly powerful modern muscle car, prone to oversteer more than almost nothing else on the planet, those skid pad lessons also shone through immediately.

All in all, Radford Racing School made me a much better driver—both professionally, so I can push the cars I review further to their limits while accurately perceiving their strengths and flaws, but also personally, while driving in traffic or riding my bike in the canyons. I even see my lines while skiing down steep runs changing, requiring less thigh effort to make turns, shifting my weight and keeping my eyes higher down the slopes.

A full week at Radford certainly seems expensive—running up to and past $10,000 with ease—but for those who can afford the investment, the lessons learned will last a lifetime. Even a day trip to soak up the basics of high-performance driving should fit into the plans for any enthusiast looking to improve their skills or boost their defensive driving techniques up to the next level.

Sources: radfordracingschool.com, ligierautomotive.com, and dodgegarage.com.

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