Learning To Tame The Beast
Following in the footsteps of legendary performance driving schools such as Bondurant and Skip Barber, Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, has made a name for itself with a full line of Ford Racing High-Performance Driving Schools, teaching would-be racers the finer points of piloting the Ford Mustang GT around North America’s longest road-coarse. In 2013, Miller Motorsports Park will launch a program geared towards those of us who prefer the dusty kind of road. The Ford Racing Raptor Assault program is a one-of-a-kind experience designed to teach the fundamentals of off-road driving, vehicle dynamics, and low-traction handling from behind the wheel of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup.
Armed with a fleet of 6.2L crew-cab Raptors, Miller offers three levels of instruction: Raptor Assault Hot Laps, Raptor Assault Experience, and Raptor Assault One-Day School. We were fortunate enough to be invited to spend the last non-snow-covered day of the year going through the full one-day driving school.
The Raptor Assault one-day program started off with a brief but comprehensive classroom session and vehicle orientation. After all the waivers were signed we strapped into our assigned Raptor and headed out to spend a day in the dirt. The course included instruction on the rockcrawling course, off-road short-course racetrack, and open desert. After spending a full day behind the wheel we had learned a lot, had some fun, and were very reluctant to hand over the keys.
Overall we feel that this new set of Raptor Assault courses is a must for any current or future Ford Raptor owner, and for anybody even remotely curious about the capabilities of this phenomenal pickup truck.
The first discipline taught was on the rockcrawling course. Drivers were instructed to drive up onto a 30-degree side hill to demonstrate the vehicle’s stability and to practice the art of left-foot braking. From there the course moves on to hill climbing and descending. During this exercise drivers are taught throttle modulation and the function of hill decent control. Finally, drivers will take a second, more difficult line up the hillclimb. This time, however, the driver will be taught how the locking rear differential works as a traction aid, but also how it can hinder turning ability.
The off-road short course is not something most will experience, as it is typically off limits to the public. During this time of instruction drivers are coached on how to approach large, rolling moguls without damaging the truck—or themselves. A first pass is made at 20 mph and another at 25 mph. Next the group moves to jumping. Drivers are lined up a specified distance from the lip of the jump, and then given instruction on the technique of successfully launching and landing the 6,000-pound truck. Finally, before leaving the short course truck, drivers are treated to a hot lap around the full course with one of Miller’s professional drivers behind the wheel.
After lunch and a brief classroom session, participants head over to Miller’s 900-acre open desert area. Here is where high-speed open desert driving is taught. Drivers start out in a twisty dry wash, making passes in both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. Once the drivers are comfortable, the wash is watered down to make a fine, slick mud. Drivers are once again sent out to practice under the new conditions what they had just learned.
From here the group moves to more jumping. This time the jumps are larger, and the drivers are instructed to hit them going 50 mph. The whole event culminates with a 2-mile loop that combines the all of the open desert disciplines of tight washes, slick mud, and jumping.