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Bridgestone Racing Academy. Click image to enlarge

Feature: Thrills at the Bridgestone Racing Academy

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Bridgestone Racing Academy

Article and photos by Michael Schlee

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Bridgestone Racing Academy

When I was younger, I had aspirations of being a racecar driver; I am sure many of you did as well. But money, time, and talent were not on my side, so my eight-year-old self’s dream never came true. Since then I have taken any opportunity I get to wring out my car (or others’) at various road tracks, drag strips, and ovals. However, the one constant that always remained was that I hadn’t driven a true, no-compromises, purpose-built race car; until now.

Located at the Driver Development Track (DDT) of Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (aka Mosport) is the Bridgestone Racing Academy. Designed for both aspiring racers as well as those who just want to get a feeling of what it is like to drive a true racecar, the Bridgestone Academy provides an opportunity to not only drive an open wheel racecar, but also learn how to get the most out of it.

Feature: Bridgestone Racing Academy motorsports customization auto articles car culture
Bridgestone Racing Academy. Click image to enlarge

Founded in the mid-1980s, the Bridgestone Racing Academy has been providing us regular folks a chance to be an open-wheel racer for the day for over a quarter century. Now in their 28th year, the academy is proud of their 27-year injury-free record and puts a strong emphasis on safety. During our in-class training session we were instructed about the four dangerous corners around the track, such as corner 4, which is the meanest, and corner 11, which is a kink that can be taken flat-out. Our instructor told us that this is the fastest part of the track and every lap, you have to think, “What must I do to make it through corner 11?” Then, suddenly, you are on top of corner 12. As it follows corner 11, it is at the end of the fastest part of the track and is the only corner with a giant concrete wall. It does have a safety run-off road that should be used if needed. Overall we were told that at all times we needed to be sure in our actions.

Feature: Bridgestone Racing Academy motorsports customization auto articles car culture
Feature: Bridgestone Racing Academy motorsports customization auto articles car culture
Bridgestone Racing Academy. Click image to enlarge

The vehicles at the academy are 2008 Van Diemen Formula Cars. These open-wheel racers are worth roughly $72,000 apiece, and fit anyone under six-foot-four and 275 lbs. The mid-engine car weighs a mere 409 kg and is powered by a 170-hp 2.3L Mazda-sourced inline-four-cylinder engine. For some perspective, that is a similar power-to-weight ratio to a 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Power is sent to the rear-wheels via an Elite 5-speed sequential-manual hinged gearbox that uses a conventional clutch. Since the car’s power band resides between 4,500 and 6,500 rpm, the gears are spaced roughly 1,000 rpm apart. Redline is 6,500 rpm.

Being that this is the Bridgestone Academy, all of the cars run on 195/50R15 Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 extreme performance summer tires. Although these may not be actual race tires, on these vehicles they provided tremendous grip and offered great linear feedback; you always knew how much grip was left on these tires. Another interesting thing to note with these cars is their lack of a neutral gear. Since the academy is designed for drivers of all skill levels, they disabled neutral to avoid having drivers put the car into reverse with the sequential gearbox by accident; transmission replacements were beginning to get too expensive.




About Mike

Mike Schlee is the former Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.