Radford Racing School Special Operations

If you have ever watched news footage of a police officer or member of the military performing a perfect pit maneuver and wondered how people learn how to drive like that, the answer might surprise you. While military and law enforcement agencies have their own internal training programs where officers and soldiers practice “takedown” driving maneuvers, the high-performance driving experts at Radford Racing School have a dedicated Special Operations program for those folks who want to learn how to handle themselves during both sides of an aggressive, high-speed pursuit.

“This class is one of the most fulfilling programs to teach. All of the instructors enjoy being a part of this program. Although mostly designed for military personnel, we see many people in the security industry out here for this class as well,” said Danny Bullock, Radford Chief Instructor. “I personally have taught clients from Israel, South Africa and Venezuela in this program because of the intense car control skills they are looking for that only we can provide. When military drivers come out for this course, we feel like we are giving back in some small way to the men and women that protect our country every day.”

While Radford Racing School is primarily known for teaching people how to race or drive high-performance cars in a closed circuit environment, the vehicle control practices taught at the program’s huge track facility in Chandler, Arizona, apply to all forms of driving – not just road racing. With that in mind, the team at Radford has established three Special Operations programs that teach a wide variety of skills that can be used during military, police or general protection field (bodyguards). Granted, these courses were developed for people who would need to use these maneuvers for their job, but they are open to anyone who wants to learn a truly unique set of new driving skills.

Special Operations Programs

Radford Racing School offers three Special Operations driving programs – Executive Protection, Enhanced Driving and Tactical Driving. Within them, the Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack, the Dodge Durango SRT® 392, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Ram 1500 are all used (with HEMI® engine power) for various exercises.

Every program begins with a review of the students’ ground skills, where the instructors go over things like seating position, vehicle dynamics, how weight transfer changes and affects the vehicle when steering, braking or accelerating, proper cornering techniques and general tactical driving practices. Some of the information will seem like common sense, while other aspects of the ground school will surprise some students. For example, during my time at Radford, I learned that I generally adjust my seat a touch too far from the steering wheel for proper control at all times, and this was something that many of the people in my class also said that they did incorrectly. On the more technical end of things, ground school explains how tire contact changes when accelerating, braking or cornering, and how that tire contact impacts your ability to control the car.

Much of the information in the Special Operations ground school is similar to what it taught in the other Radford Racing School programs, as the basic fundamentals of vehicle dynamics and vehicle control do not change based on whether you are racing or trying to get away from a potential attacker with a celebrity in your vehicle.

Confined Space Driving

After ground school, all three of the Radford Special Operations programs head out to the big, open tarmac that sits in front of the main building. This sprawling piece of paved land is lined with all sorts of patterns painted on the ground and more road cones than you’ve ever seen in one place, with the cones being situation on the painted patterns based on the exercise at hand.

This is where students of the Radford Special Operations program work on things like the slalom, paved skidding, accident avoidance, high-speed braking and performance driving maneuvers in a confined space. The slalom exercise takes place through a basic series of cones, as does the high-speed braking portion, while the accident avoidance exercises use a series of lanes created by cones, with a red-green traffic light above each lane that indicates which lane to change to while approaching at speed. There is also some heel-to-toe downshifting practice during this part of the program, allowing students to learn how to handle the manual transmission during tense driving situations.

Ultimately, the confined space drills teach the students vehicle control skills that apply in just about every aspect of driving, while also allowing them to improve their abilities when operating a very fast vehicle in a small space.

Open Driving Space

The next portion of the Radford Racing School Special Operations program – whether the students are in Executive Protection, Enhanced Driving and Tactical Driving format – takes place on a few different race tracks around the facility. The 4-day Executive Protection program uses the 1.65-mile main track, the 1.15-mile Lake Loop Carousel and the 0.32-mile Maricopa Oval, while the 5-day Tactical Driving program uses those tracks along with the 1.1-mile West Track. The Radford Enhanced Driving program uses all of those tracks, as well as the 1.57-mile Off Road Track.

In addition to continuing to work on the basic fundamentals of vehicle control on the tracks, students of the Radford Special Ops programs will use their large track time to practice throttle steer, surface transitions and other handling exercises, in addition to how to drive aggressively on unfamiliar roads. Those who take the Enhanced and Tactical programs will also spend some time working on night driving exercises, which includes time with night vision goggles. These exercises are held on dedicated tracks with tire barriers, walls and turns lined with grass, but the Open Driving Space exercises are often performed at higher speeds, creating a better simulation of open-road driving.

The Final Special Operations Exercises

After the Open Space Driving portion of the Radford Racing School Special Operations programs, the three differ slightly.

The Executive Protection class moves on to work on defensive driving maneuvers, such as forward and reverse 180-degree turns, how to breach a road block and how to both exercise and prevent a PIT maneuver.

The Tactical Driving program goes further into each of those categories from the Executive Protection, but it also looks at PIN manuevers and dead driver driving.

The Special Operations Enhanced Driving program doesn’t include those defensive driving moves, instead taking the students off-road for driving and recovery practice, followed by exercises on how to both defend and attack a motor vehicle convoy.

Finally, the Enhanced and Tactical Driving programs at Radford includes Full Mission Profiles, where students use what they have learned during the course of the week-long program coupled with problem-solving methods to navigate a series of a half-dozen special challenges.

While the Radford Racing School Special Operations programs are designed for police officers, members of the military and people who work in the protection industry, these are three more courses of study offered by the Arizona-based school that teach advanced vehicle control that can be used in any real-world driving situation.