Honda Performance Driving at The Mid-Ohio School
The Mid-Ohio course is well-known to all of us as the place where our members and their Honda S2000’s participate in the parade laps for the Honda Indy 200 (IndyCar) race with the drivers riding shotgun. This event has become a tradition for the Ohio S2000 owners. Little known though is the fact that the Mid-Ohio Course is also home to the Mid-Ohio School, an organization that specializes in teaching driver safety and high performance driving on both two and four wheels. You may wonder, how this differs from any other school. It turns out that by virtue of its proximity to a town called Marysville, the Mid-Ohio School is supported by a company called Honda and is the only performance driving school to our knowledge that includes driving S2000s as part of the curriculum.
Having seen images of the S2000 pace car during the American Le Mans Series and IndyCar weekends, our interest was piqued and we reached out to pgarratt, our Community Organizer from Ohio, who in turn very kindly got us in touch with Jesse Ghiorzi, Media and Communications Coordinator at Mid-Ohio. We were also able to get in touch with Dave Roush, GM and Chief Instructor of the Mid-Ohio school via email.
First a little history. The 2.4 mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (which turns 50 next year) was opened in 1962. The Mid-Ohio School itself was set up much later in the year 1993 and Honda came on board the following year and has partnered with the school since then. Honda provides the vehicles required for the school and by virtue of their long association and Honda’s presence in Ohio, the track has come to be regarded by the Honda faithful as Honda’s home track in North America. The School contains a fleet of 57 vehicles that include the Acura TSX, the Honda Civic and the Honda S2000. Per Wikipedia, the school has graduated 41,000 students including 7500 motorcyclists and 12,500 teens, an impressive statistic for sure.
The Acura TSX is the vehicle of choice for lead-follow and open lapping sessions on track, while the Civic is used for teen-driving schools. The S2000 though is used for the autocross section of the high performance driving program (for safety reasons). On average a students gets to drive the S2000 for 10 minutes and it is regarded as the perfect tool for teaching students the basics of handling, steering and managing their contact patches. The S2000s have been with Mid-Ohio only for the last 6 years or so, but have come to become an integral part of the program there during that period. In the words of Dave Roush (who holds the record for most laps around the course in an S2000) “…we are just happy that we still have the S2000’s on site and can provide our customers the experience.”
In response to our question about S2000 owners who may want to attend a high performance driving school in their own car, we were told that S2000’s are welcome provided they are equipped with the factory hardtop or a roll bar. Owners that do not have the hardtop are still welcome and can use their car for the lead-follow sessions, switching to the Acura TSX for open lapping. Based on the program schedule on their website the lead-follow session appears to range from one to two hours, which is plenty of time to experience the Honda S2000 on track. The program fee is also discounted should someone decide to drive their own car. Below is a video of the S2000 driven around the course (ignore the tire spiel though).
All vehicles are the same spec as the vehicles that can be purchased from a dealer lot, except for tire and brake upgrades and suspension enhancements to match the program requirements of the school. All the vehicles are maintained on site by a full crew and are modified based on the program and specific activity they are used for. The school has also earned an endorsement and accreditation from the SCCA, NASA and Sportscar Vintage Racing Association. It’s faculty roster includes a who’s who of driving instructors with experience in several series including Formula One.
In a day and age where Honda appears to be coming under fire for their current vehicle line-up, it is heart-warming to see that racing is still a part of their DNA judging from their quiet support to the Mid-Ohio school. Honda has always believed that there are valuable lessons to be gained from racing, which is why it encourages its employees and associates to participate in racing. We are glad to see that the Mid-ohio School appears to be extending that philosophy to Honda customers and members of the general public who seek to improve their driving ability or have dreams of a career racing automobiles. Credit must go to Honda for allowing the S2000’s to remain at the school even though production has ended and we hope that the S2000’s remain there for a long time to come.
Sure there are several options out there like the BMW Performance School, the AMG Driving Academy and the Porsche Sport Driving School. But for the value in terms of the quality of instruction, affordable price, for its long history of operation, for the ability to learn by driving Honda’s and above all for being the only school to feature S2000’s, the S2000 fanboy in us hopes that a gift certificate to this program will magically make its way to our stocking this holiday season. Real fun lies in driving a “slow car” fast and to the limits of our ability, and this school (while lacking a horsepower monster) appears to provide that fun aplenty.
Thanks to Dave Roush, Jesse Ghiorzi of the Mid-Ohio School and pgarratt of S2KI for their insight and help with this article.
All images and videos are property of The Mid-Ohio School and may not be used without prior written permission.
Wikipedia – The Mid-Ohio School
The Official Mid-Ohio School Website
S2KI Puerto Rico S2000 Owners – Mid-Ohio Performance School (Spanish content)