Bondurant Off-Road driving school!

Let’s face it, when you buy any type of off-highway recreational vehicle (new or used), you sign your name on the check, load the vehicle in your truck bed or onto your trailer and head for your favorite recreation area to figure out how to operate it. If you are lucky, you survive a few puckerfactor moments as you find the edge of control and the limits of the machine. If you are not so lucky, you wad up your new toy and maybe even get hurt! Enter one of the most renowned driving schools in the USA, responsible for training many of today’s top NASCAR drivers, road racers, government employees, and now offering an “Intro To Offroad Driving” class for the ever-popular UTV market. There are also one- and two-day advanced driving schools for more experienced UTV pilots. Bondurant is partnered with Polaris, and many students are in the U.S. military.


The Bob Bondurant School of HighPerformance Driving is located in Chandler, Arizona, and is a multi-use facility offering classroom instruction, full skid-pad training, and a world-class Lucas Oil Off-Road course to practice your skills on. This class is a one-day school, which I was lucky enough to attend so that I could sharpen my existing skills and report back to all you tread-heads on the results. The classroom and track instruction were topnotch and taught by worldclass off-road racer Austin Robison, who has many years of experience racing desert trucks in Baja races as well as the toughest race in the world…. Dakar.


After a brief time for introductions, the day started with an in-depth overview of the vehicle we would be using (a Polaris RZR XP 1000) and the locations of all the controls and how to operate them. After we learned how to operate all the features at our fingertips, it was time to learn about vision technique, reading terrain, car control, weight transfer, and all the other basic driving techniques that would keep us running smooth, fast and safe.

Before we put those lessons to the test in new RZR 1000s, however, our first skills test was in a Cadillac STS. The STS skid car was used to teach proper slide control—how to control a sliding vehicle and recover as quickly as possible from any sideways situation. The instructor riding shotgun had the ability to lighten up the front or rear of the vehicle to induce a front end “push” or a rear end “loose” situation using a hydraulic outrigger apparatus. After about 30 minutes running a small oval clockwise and counterclockwise, I felt confident I could handle any slide situation that might occur.


On the opposite side of the skidpad was an RZR XP1K with the strangest looking accessory I had ever seen; I think training wheels for your RZR is the best way to describe them. The object of this part of the training was to be able to feel when we were approaching the edge of control and to learn how to correct or save the vehicle from an ugly crash or rollover. We all started this exercise as passengers, with instructor Austin Robison running a small oval, increasing the speed on every lap until we started to lift the inside tires on every turn and finally tipped up high enough that the out riggers caught and saved us from rolling over—now that was fun! Then, it was time to switch to the driver’s seat and duplicate the same exercise we had just experienced from the passenger seat. Once we found the tipping point of the vehicle, the goal was to go as fast as possible around the track without reaching that tipping point again. It was getting close to lunch time, but I was having way too much fun to want to stop, as our next session involved hitting the Lucas Oil Off-Road track and finally piloting our Ride Now RZRs.


After a superb catered lunch, it was time to strap on a 1000cc RZR and get some track time. This, my friends, is why I went to this class. Our first exercise was a combination of slalom and downhill braking exercises. The object of the slalom was to get comfortable with changing directions without spinning out or losing control of the vehicle. The goal of the downhill braking exercise was to “feel” the wheels as they clawed at the dirt and to try to stop as efficiently as possible without sliding the tires. After running the same exercise about 10 times, we moved on to cornering techniques and learning how to apex a corner properly, exiting the corner under full acceleration without wasting time or energy sliding sideways.


This cornering exercise involved two parts of the track. First was a simple sweeping turn that we ran both ways to get a feel for left- and right-hand sweeping corners. Each time we ran through the exercise, we increased our speed. On the third round through the turns, we were up to maximum speed and “feeling” the edge of traction for the tires. This is when you need to feed the power on smoothly to keep from spinning out. This is also where we applied our morning lessons of slide control and understanding the limits of traction and vehicle stability.


Having learned all of our lessons in the morning classes and now successfully applying what we learned on the track, it was time for running full laps on the Lucas Oil Off-Road track, just like legends Rob MacCachren, Brian Deegan and Marty Hart. All strapped in and ready to fly, we hit the track to put all of our new skills together. Leaving about 50 feet between vehicles gave us the safety cushion we would need if someone made a mistake. We gradually increased our speeds until we were flying off all the jumps and sliding (controllably) through each turn. I can honestly say that this Bondurant Intro To Off-Road Driving class is a great way to learn how to operate your offhighway vehicle safely. I learned to how to go faster and drive more efficiently than I had ever done before. Oh, and did I mention it was a blast too? If you’re going to purchase a UTV and have limited experience, this $499 class will sharpen your skills and pay for itself over and over in the future.

To contact the Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving, check them out at, or give them a call at (800) 842-7223 and ask for their “Intro to Off-Road Driving” class. Tell them Wally sent you.


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