LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Advanced driving schools have existed for a long time now. My first one was with BMW at the testing centre in Blainville, Quebec, and I have since participated in Mercedes-Benz’s AMG training on the Mont-Tremblant circuit as well as the winter version of this course with the same manufacturer. Same goes for Porsche on the Mecaglisse circuit north of Montreal. Now, it’s Cadillac’s turn to offer this kind of driving experience to its loyal clients.
A group of Cadillac V-Series owners were called in for the occasion. This high-performance division of Cadillac is comparable in many ways to Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division and BMW’s M division. We joined the lucky participants for two days of intensive instruction.
Right from the beginning, the head instructor outlined the basics of track and testing zone safety. Next, there was a presentation of the courses and steps that we’d take. Honestly, it was the most complete course that I’ve attended to date.
Part one: Searching for the apex. In racing terms, the apex is the point of the corner that is closest to the right line. Entering too early or too late doesn’t help your cause and has a direct impact on how you will exit the corner. During this demonstration, the instructor taught us to look at the exit of the corner with its apex. It’s a hard habit to keep. Most drivers look in front of them on the road, but on the track, you sometimes have to look out the side windows to find this point.
Part two: Emergency braking and changes of direction on wet surfaces. Once again, this is a situation that could come up both in traffic or in competition on a track. This step had the added benefit of helping us find a better position behind the wheel. We inched closer to the steering wheel to make sure our hands remained at the same places on the wheel during tight turns, and we left a reasonable distance between our feet and the pedals to help us brake hard in case of emergency.
Part three: This third exercise helped us put what we learned about apexes into practice. On an imperfect oval, you have to brake, accelerate and maintain your speed in the right places. An instructor sits beside us in the passenger seat.
Part four: Full control of the vehicle is important. To measure our skills, we pushed the Cadillac in a controlled skid on a pad with a point in the middle. We had to go all the way around while keeping control of the car without fishtailing.
We finished our first day with laps on the Cadillac program’s official circuit. Our goal was to locate the difficult or tricky parts on the EAST Track. The complex is divided into three distinct circuits: the EAST Track, the NORTH Track and the WEST Track.
Part five: This was the second-last part, but it was also the longest. This time, we put what we learned the night before to the test. Behind the appointed instructor’s car, we headed out on the track in groups of three. Our leader indicated what we were doing well and what we were doing poorly. Then, after two laps, we alternated positions with the two cars behind us. We did this all day while steadily increasing speed. The last session was intense! We drove the Cadillac CTS-V at speeds near 200 km/h on the short straightaway. Not only did we come out better drivers for it, but it also gave us the chance to test the dynamic capabilities of the CTS-V and ATS-V in near-competition conditions.
The Cadillac program requires you to purchase a plane ticket and the complete course. The bill adds up to nearly CAD$5,000, including your flight, limousine service from the Las Vegas airport to the Spring Mountain circuit, two nights in one of the on-site condos, all meals and the use of a beautiful Cadillac during your stay. There’s a similar program for Corvette owners.