My Bondurant experience and some interesting tidbits.

Discussion in 'Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat' started by 762CAT, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    Just returned from the 3 day Hellcat High Performance Driving class. Bottom line up front....GO!!!!!! It was worth every penny and then some. What follows is a brief review, some interesting (I think) points, and a little youtube snack of some of my first laps on the track selected at random from the hours of go pro footage I acquired. Don't mind the commentary I was trying to channel the spirit of Randy Pobst. :D

    First some interesting factoids

    1.) They run 285/35 Good Year Eagle F1 tires on all 4 corners. Why?...they get them free as a sponsorship deal. They perform well and stick on the track especially with heat in them. In a straight line they are meh ok but in fairness the skid pad area at Bondurant where you do the slalom, autocross, braking exercises etc is very slick. This is the only place where I could record 0-60 times. Best was high 4s which is atrocious for this car. Pirellis I can get 4.1 and Drag radials 3.5 on 275s.

    2.) They run some form of powerstop brake pads. Still need to confirm which ones. That being said...stock Brembo pads are very noticeably better and bite immediately whereas these have a bit of mush in the pedal. My car at home literally throws me forward in the seat under max breaking. I noticed the difference immediately on the braking exercises and asked if they were running different brake pads....they are. They also squeak sometimes at low speed. They performed adequately on the track but more breaking power would obviously be better allowing you to carry more speed and braking later into the turns.

    I only experienced brake fade once but it was shockingly immediate and B-A-D. We did the heel toe shift exercise but I was in the A8 so for me it was basically an hour of play time. You were supposed to travel straight enter at 65mph into the breaking zone and go from 3rd to 2nd. Turn around rinse repeat. About a 1/4 mile stretch. Instead I turned it into a drag strip/max breaking exercise hitting about 95mph then braking and downshifting on the paddles. Towards the end I noticed very suddenly and a bit alarmingly my breaks were GONE! Heading toward a wall the car slowed enough to make the turn but the pedal was mush all the way to the floor. I let them cool off after that pass. I was surprised by how the brakes went from good to gone seemingly very suddenly once they got hot enough. In fairness to the pads it was after a good long while of very intense breaking with only seconds between application of max braking.

    3.) Each car I bothered to listen to which was only 2 had the supercharger noise at idle that I've now heard on every hellcat I listened to. Nothing crazy but not silent and you can hear it from outside but not inside the car. I mentioned it briefly to the staff and asked their opinion on the topic. They said if there was an issue surely they would know it by now. I agree. They run these cars HARD lap after lap after lap and inspect them every day and even between events with their large staff of mechanics on site. So thorough and efficient they changed a right rear tire on my car during a 10 min water and bathroom break. My point is these cars are arguably run harder than any other Hellcats out there on a consistent basis. They are inspected and serviced more and by professionals. Nobody there thinks there is an issue and the cars perform at their peak day in and day out.

    4.) After running a full hour on the Track pitting only to get room between slower traffic not giving me the pass signal the car never heat soaked and produced consistent power achieving a consistent 115-116mph down the back straight before hitting the breaking zone. Instructors noted the cooling marvel of the hellcat and said even in their naturally aspirated instructor cars (SRT 392s) they degraded after 7 laps or so. Pretty impressive.

    5.) BUY THE INSURANCE!!! I've seen debates on here...class is 4200 dollars minus your SRT discount of 1k. Insurance is 75 daily or 225 for the class. There is an 8k deductible but even if you total the car you are only out 8k. They have had cars depart the track and roll. They have had cars totaled. A Viper went of track in the 4 day Grand Prix class while I was there. At high speed going into the soft dirt can damage a lot. That Viper broke the splitter and some other fender damage. Initial estimate was 11k and that was a minor incident. Even with the deductible he saved himself thousands.

    6.) I debated whether or not to drive the M6 Challenger or the A8 Charger. I have an A8 Challenger and wanted the car most similar to mine. I opted for the auto to have the same muscle memory and driving mode experience. That proved to be a good choice. I got to drive the Charger....LOVED IT....and it drives just like the Challenger. Also the M6's spend most of the time in 3rd gear anyway with some time in 2nd so not a lot of shifting to be done.

    Bondurant is getting all new vehicles this spring and they will be getting A8 challengers. Of not they said SRT was ADAMANT they followed the appropriate break in for all their vehicles and they did. First 500 followed by 1000 miles of play time before using them for classes to get the recommended 1500 before "tracking" them.

    Thats longer than I thought so here is the video. This was some of my first laps, improved through out. Some I just had fun and induced oversteer with power on purpose just hanging it out and having a good time. :) Some I pushed hard and some I worked on the line and being smooth. IT WAS A BLAST! Heading back for the 4 day Grand Prix course in the Spring or Fall.


     
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  2. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    I'll try and keep the review brief.

    First the instruction is world class. Day one is some class room covering vision, weight transfer and car control. Basics like where to hold the wheel and how to set up your seat. Trail breaking and racing lines through constant radius, increasing radius and decreasing radius turns. You will ride in large vans which instructors give you a "tour" in and demo many of the exercises including a spirited lap around the track. Amazing what you can do in a full size van! That part is a real hoot. You will do slalom exercises, Max breaking drills with ABS and accident avoidance. I think we got on the small oval that day as well working on increasing and decreasing radius turns while trailing the breaks. Day one to me felt slower paced than I would have liked but I am a bit more aggressive than average and I recognize they are taking a building block approach. Oh yeah we got out to the skid pad as well to work correcting oversteer an understeer...that is also a lot of fun!

    Day two steps up the driving big time. You do Autocross for a good long while and the Hellcat is quite fun to Autocross! I was able to turn in the fastest times in the class running a 58.55. Instructor claimed lap times of 56 and I believe them. I'm sure I could get a 57 but on the next day we Autocrossed in the early AM when it was very cold and the track was slick. I digress..You also head out to the Maricopa Oval on the track. That is an absolute blast and is much larger and faster than the oval on day one. There you work more increasing and decreasing radius turns. You do heel toe shifting drills and you do lead follow on the 1.6 mile Bondurant track. Rumor has it the young kid doing the Advanced Racing class in the Viper ACR went and turned in a 55 on the Autocross in a Hellcat but I did not witness it. He was the grandson to a famous racer who's name escapes me and a Karting world champion getting ready to move to bigger cars.

    Day three...AHHHH day three! DEFINATELY DO DAY THREE! The lead follow on day 2 on the track was to slow for me and I felt like a caged animal. Day three you get let out of the cage. Morning started on the Maricopa Oval. Improvements were obvious and I was faster and feeling very relaxed and controlled ( a testament to the level of instruction). Then we Autocrossed again, hit the skid pad again and breached for lunch. After lunch there was a track intro, some lead follow and then you are let loose! The time on the track is about the most fun I think you could have! I drag race but I have to say...this is way way more fun. Since leaving I've been experiencing withdrawals and cannot wait to go back for the Gran Prix course.

    Miscellaneous ....

    Got to meet Mr. Bondurant. Very cool guy at 84 years young and he was out on the track in a Viper every day crushing it. Pretty impressive.

    William Hawkins was my instructor and I cannot recommend him enough. Great Dude.

    They have a professional photographer on staff who takes great shots. Recommend it.

    I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Golf Resort in Chandler. 15 mins away ( all freeway) but in the center of tons of great restaurants and it was inexpensive. Great place to stay.

    One of the funnest things I've ever done and I've done a lot.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
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  3. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    IMG_2505.JPG IMG_2510.JPG IMG_2554.JPG IMG_2581.JPG ClutchPhotos-21707.jpg ClutchPhotos-23794.jpg ClutchPhotos-22720.jpg
     
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  4. MABBRYFL30

    MABBRYFL30 NYS President Hellcat Car Club Gold Supporting Member

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    Very good thread. Thank you for this great review. I need to go
     
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  5. 527KW

    527KW Senior Hellcat Member

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    Thanks for all the details. I'm signed up for the four day racing class in March, so the information is helpful. It can't come soon enough.
    Totally agree on the tires and traction. Was there for the SRT experience last June. I wasn't sure if it was the tires or just me not being used to the A8 since I drive an M6. Had a hard time not spinning the tires out of each auto cross turn. Good for drifting, but not good for the clock time.
    I started to sign up for the HC class, but was talked in to the racing class to focus more on better track skills. I already track the HC doing about six HPDE events last year. I can see where the first two days would seem a bit slow compared to the open track time. Makes me glad I decided on the racing class. I'm curious to see how much freedom they give us on the track.
    Sounds like you have some track events in your future. The good news is that the HPDEs are much cheaper...well...except for all the brakes and tires. Have fun out there!
     
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  6. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    I think you made the right choice. The instructors remarked to me that I should have been in the 4 day Grand Prix class and were adamant I come back to do it which I will. Part of the experience for me though was pushing the Hellcat specifically to not only improve my skills but to test the limits of the car. I had a blast overall and I'm jonesing bad to be back on the track. I will say the car is very capable and it is a lot of fun to drive on the track. The massive power and acceleration make it challenging and thrilling to drive. Bondurant has been through fox body Mustangs, C6 corvettes and Camaros in the recent past and all the instructors said they really like the SRT products. Will said he enjoys a car that is challenging to drive and that takes some skill to operate. I agree 100%.

    I even asked if I could drive the Hellcat in the 4 day Grand Prix class. They said I probably could but I think trying the Viper out may be worth it....then again it may end up costing me money! One of the guys said somebody took the course and literally changed their flight on the way home to pick up a Viper and sold their Vette...haha.

    Please let us know how you like the 4 day course. Also I see you are in Alabama. Where do you do the HPDEs at?
     
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  7. jwalker793

    jwalker793 SRT Hellcat Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    Nice write-up. I signed up for the 2-day course in March but will most likely change to a 3-day based on this information. Thanks.
     
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  8. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    So worth it! 3rd day is incredible. Day 2 is fun but day 3 was unreal. After the lead follow we pitted and shut down for water/bathroom break. I was like uhhh are we cleared to go? They said yes so I jumped back in the Cat and took off immediately and never stopped until it was over.
     
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  9. TNCHARGER

    TNCHARGER SRT Hellcat Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    Thanks for posting this...Me and a friend that also owns a Hell Cat are doing this class Feb 6....We decided a 3 day class would be more cost effective since we were traveling about 2,000 miles...From what you posted it sounds like we made a good choice..
     
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  10. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    You made a great choice!

    Hey can you guys see the video? I could before but now it's doing something weird?

    Edit...fixed it I think
     
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  11. 527KW

    527KW Senior Hellcat Member

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    Thanks for the insights.
    I'm fortunate to live a couple miles from Barber Motorsport Park in Birmingham. The Honda Indy race runs there and it is also home to one of the Porsche Drving Schools. I'm heading there this weekend because I can't get enough of it. I also went to the Corvette Museum track in Bowling Green, KY last spring. There are several tracks a few hours away near Atlanta and I'm planning to make a trip up to VIR sometime. I went to Daytona last month...still grinning about that experience.:) I know the car had more to give than I had nerves to push it. Sounds like you learned a lot about the limits at your class. I like one of the other threads where the guy got out of the viper after the lead-follow and decided that he should have bought a viper. Then, he got out of the Hellcat after the hot lap and knew he had the right car.
    I'd like to take the class in the hellcat since I'm already comfortable with it. Doing the lead-follow in the viper at the SRT experience took some getting use to. I know it's going to be fun either way.
     
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  12. 527KW

    527KW Senior Hellcat Member

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    Thanks for fixing the video. I thought it was just me that couldn't get it to run.
    Nice to have that real-time instruction. So much to pay attention to all at the same time. I need more practice. Yes, definitely more practice.
     
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  13. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    ya sorry bout thet lol. Just to clarify that is me talking while driving. The instructors will hop in with you though. When my fiancé first watched the video she thought that was my instructor talking lol. I was like...dont you recognize my voice?
     
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  14. 762CAT

    762CAT Gold Member

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    I just signed up for VIR on May 1st! Check out www.performancedrivingexperience.com if you haven't already. Just spent some time on the phone with the guy who runs it. Should be a great event.
     
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  15. 2dogs1cat

    2dogs1cat Hellcat Member

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    This class is not the same class as the SRT experience is it? That is just a one day thing free of charge, correct?
     

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