Mazda offers challenge that will enhance skills and deliver thrills

Times Staff Writer

There's not a driver out there who wouldn't benefit from a bit of professional car handling instruction -- and few who can devote the time and money necessary to get some.

Japanese automaker Mazda, pushing its "Zoom Zoom" theme for all it's worth, aims to change that with a local, one-day program that offers a sampling of performance driving instruction for a mere $39.

It's an undisguised marketing effort by Mazda North American Operations in Irvine, but the low cost and potential benefits should override the commercial aspects of what it is calling the Mazda Rev It Up program.

The school and competitive driving challenge will be held April 4 and 5 at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, and April 12 and 13 in Orange County at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

Attendance at each weekend school is limited to 1,300 people -- or 650 a day, and drivers must be licensed and at least 18 years old.

For the $39 fee, attendees will get a 20-minute "chalk talk" lesson on the basics of proper driving and car handling; behind-the-wheel instruction from professional drivers in braking and turning techniques; slalom driving and figuring out "racing lines" -- the best paths to maneuver smoothly through a curvy course.

Although presented as performance driving instruction, the lessons come in handy for drivers who never leave public roads and wouldn't think of breaking a speed limit.

"The Rev It Up program will teach you to be a better and safer driver, skills that can be used in any situation. If you go through this program, and pay attention, you should come out with better skills," said program director John Faulkner.

The classroom session covers everything from proper seating position to driving dynamics and techniques to recover from a skid; the driving clinics give students a chance to practice all this under the tutelage of a professional driver.

And after the clinics, each student gets two chances to complete a timed run through an autocross course that emphasizes car control and handling over speed.

Students with the best times in each of the 15 Rev It Up programs being held across the U.S. this spring will be invited to compete in a national competition in August at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif. Winner of that contest will receive a new Mazda6 sport sedan.

In addition to driving instruction, the program includes lifestyle exhibits and interactive activities at no charge even to those who didn't register in advance.

To register, log on to the program's Internet site at or call (877) 311-5771.

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