In The Driver’s Seat 

The FIRM bills itself as “Motorsports Heaven,” and it’s about as close to car-driving heaven as you’re going to get. Whether your favorite car movie is as tame as The Love Bug, as nail-biting as Duel or as adrenaline-pumping as The Fast and the Furious, if you love motor-driven vehicles, you’re going to really love The FIRM.

The FIRM, also known as the Florida International Rally and Motorsport Park, is a multi-faceted sports facility located on Airport Road about eight miles south of Starke near the city of Keystone Heights. The site was a former European rally school developed by European rally driver Ivor Wigham until a high-performance track was built in 2008 and it became The FIRM. It is owned and operated by The Strategic Group in Gainesville.

The FIRM covers 430 acres and includes more than 20 miles of paved, gravel and off-road tracks, six European-style rally stages, a supermoto track, a half-mile paved kart track, safari and obstacle courses, and six gun ranges (pistol and rifle ranges).

If that isn’t enough, what really makes The FIRM unique is that the kart track can be rented for birthday parties while a group of Navy SEALs train on ATVs just across the way. The FIRM offers a RallyPro Performance Driving School, an International Security Academy and Special Events Track Rentals. So, if you want to spend the day with the kids leisurely racing go-karts or learn to drive off-road or Rally race, it’s all right here in one distinctive setting.

“If it has to do with motorsports, we do it here,” says William Bevan, marketing executive for The FIRM. “We do training, events, rally-race instruction, road course, off-road, ATV/UTV, driver education—we really just about do it all. On just about every Saturday and two or three Sundays every year, we have Open Track day, which means the track is opened up for anyone who wants to come out. You can bring your Corvette, Lamborghini, Porsche or the family car and drive our 1.6-mile road course. We even have instructors on-site that will teach you how to handle a car in different situations. On every Open Track day, we also have Open Trail day. Anyone can bring out their 4×4 or off-road vehicle and drive the trails all day long for one low price. We have beautifully contoured trails, and there are miles and miles of challenging terrain.”

Bevan says that The FIRM strives to provide everyone with the best experience possible and will customize their program to fit the client’s wishes.

“Someone may come out and just want to drive one of our exotic cars like the Lamborghini, or they may want to just race the karts or they may want to go so far as to skydive, shoot and race—we will do our best to give them exactly what they want,” he says.

For the real thrill seekers, The FIRM offers “The Ultimate Adventure Experience,” a two-day outing that provides the chance to drive a rally race car, shoot a machine gun and various other guns on the firing range, drive a Lamborghini on the racetrack, skydive and go-karting.

The FIRM caters to individuals and groups. They provide event-planning services for corporate groups, media, associations and private groups. This includes training and team-building programs, driving experiences and media events. The facility is also used for vehicle test sessions and has track rental programs for enthusiast groups. The facility also provides expert drivers to teach novice and budding professional drivers alike to rally or road race.

Bevan says The FIRM also has an International Security Academy that trains military and international security drivers to handle dangerous driving situations they might encounter in real-world situations.

“We have certified government and military instructors,” says Bevan. “We train groups of military personnel and security contractors with rally, ATV, SUV and off-road training. Some of the training includes high center-of-gravity, unimproved surface scenarios. It can include high-speed pursuit and/or moderate-speed vehicle control situations. Some military vehicles have a high center of gravity and can be hard to handle in emergency situations. This isn’t the training they get in their standard military training, so we supplement anything they have received.”

The FIRM is located within the Keystone Heights Airport security perimeter and is touted to be “one of the most private and secure motorsports and military training facilities in North America.” The airport is used regularly for military training exercises and is adjacent to the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, which is used as a training base for the Florida National Guard.

The FIRM utilizes the airport for military and security contractor skydiving training.

“Our primary use of the airport and our gun ranges are for military and security contractor personnel,” says Bevan. “Due to the high cost of bringing in instructors for a training course, skydiving and gun-range training aren’t something we generally provide for the general public.”

He says that anyone wishing to visit The FIRM can fly into the airport and company personnel will provide transportation to the nearby tracks.

The FIRM hosts several events each year. In November, they hosted the Florida Off-Road Invasion. The three-day event included beginner and advanced trails, mud holes, hills, an obstacle course, a night trail ride, bounce house, pony rides, on-site camping, vendors and a charity raffle.

“This was a very fun, family-friendly event,” says Bevan. “It was a festival atmosphere. Each time we hold it, we have more people participating. We offer the same things we offer during the rest of the year but at a fraction of the cost. These events are a great way to learn all about what The FIRM has to offer. The cost was only $79 per vehicle on the trails, and that covered the driver and any seat-belted passengers.”

Bevan says The FIRM is always looking for ways to offer the driving community just a little bit more.

“We are starting a drift school,” he says. “This is a fairly new sport that involves a controlled slide when you oversteer through the corners. It’s a lot of fun, and we know drivers are going to love it. We’re also doing VIP Arrive and Drives. This is a track day that is brand-specific for certain vehicles. For instance, we may invite just Corvettes, just Mustangs or just Porsches out to drive the tracks. This includes a full day of driving, food and instruction. You get to meet people who love the same cars you love and have a full day of driving fun.”

The fee for VIP Arrive and Drive is $200 per day.

Bevan says that if you wish to rent a track, please call ahead and book an appointment in case an event is scheduled for the track you want to drive. Also, you can visit their website, atgorally.com, to view scheduled events and contact numbers.

The FIRM Price Sheet

Road Course Driving School

Half-day Road Racing Course: $1,495

Full-day Road Racing Course: $2,595

Off-road Training Course

Two-day off-road course: $2,895

Three-day off-road course: $4,195

Four-day off-road course: $5,295

Five-day off-road course: $6,495

ATV/UTV Training Course (per rider)

One-day ATV/UTV course: $695

Two-day ATV/UTV course: $1,295

Three-day ATV/UTV course: $1,995

Four-day ATV/UTV course: $2,595

Five-day ATV/UTV course: $3,295

Photo/Video Package: $99

Open Track

Open Track: One driver $200 per day (second driver discounted),

$100 for first-time visitors

Open Track Driver Instruction: $75 per person (20-minute session)

Open Trail: $35 per day

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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