Ever want to strap on a helmet and drive exotic cars really fas…of course you do. Unless you are some sort of hipster and only enjoy driving cars nobody has heard of, pretty much anyone would want to do triple digit speeds in a Ferrari or Lamborghini. We did just that at Exotics Racing out in Las Vegas. Here's how it went.
We had a Lamborghini Aventador and a Ferrari 458 Italia queued up for us. But first, we had to get there, and it's a 20 minute drive from the Strip out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway where the track is housed. It was on this drive that I got the call. "Mr. Byrd?", "Yes, this is he", "Uh well sir, we have some bad news. Someone took the Lamborghini you had reserved for your session off track this morning", "Oh, that sucks", "Yes, well have to take it offline for the day, remove some gravel and thoroughly inspect it. We can offer you the Gallardo Superleggera as well as some additional laps", "That'll work".
Not a great start, it's early, I'm a little hungover (because Vegas), and I'm just happy to be standing upright. Now some no talent assclown wrecked my Aventador. Jeez. Oh well, it's better than wandering around the Strip collecting flyers.
The facility: Inside
Upon arrival, you'll hear lots of magical V8 and V12 sounds coming from the track. But first you have to check in. The images below come from their Google Map Virtual Tour and were better than my pictures, so I'm using them instead.
It's well laid out and organized and you are immediately greeted by friendly a staff in a (thankfully) nicely air-conditioned facility. I had to verify that I was cool with additional laps in the lighter Lambo and then I got scheduled for a driver's meeting. We chilled out on the red leather couches and started to hydrate a bit.
Up next, the driver's meeting. If you have done any sort of high performance driving event, and don't forget to check out our list of upcoming HPDEs, you've seen something similar, although this was a bit more basic. They need to cater to the first timer who has never driven on a track before, much less driven on a track in a supercar, as well as aspiring Räikkönens. They do a very good job explaining the racing line, as you can see in the imagery below, the general course layout, safety, rules, etc. They also ask if anyone has any track experience, the handful of raised hands are done with one part sheepishness, one part bravado. My hand is in the air, I'm ready to go fast.
The image below is roughly were I stood waiting, staring out at the cars, feeling a bit like a high school kid hoping to get into the big game. Or something. I worked through high school to pay for car insurance, but I can imagine it's a tense, exciting feeling. I basically stood there drooling until someone said "excuse me sir, people need to get out to their cars". "Oh, right, sorry". Depending on how busy it is, you'll have to wait a bit for your runs to start.
The Facility: Outside
No worries, I wandered around and took a closer look at the track and the cars. Out near the track, you can get a great look at cars entering the track and those coming around on hot laps. Most entertaining were the professional drivers in C6 Corvette ZO6s drifting around the track with terrified passengers. Those guys were a hoot to watch. Did I just say "hoot". Hmm.
The Exotics Racing track isn't long, but it's a lot of fun. Below is an aerial view from Google Maps next to their diagram. The business end is just after turn 1 and comes in the form of a 1800 foot straightaway which, with cars like these, will easily see triple digit speeds. At the end of the straight, you get your first brake test. And it's a doozy, a banked right hander which you don't get much time to recover from before getting tossed into turn 3 and then a sharp left at turn 4. Take a late apex through turn 5 and turn 6 brings you back past the spectators. This is one of those hero moments, you don't need to brake, just let the exhaust howl as you guide your chosen car through and then set up for the nice chicane of turn 7. Then back to the sharp right hander and a return to the straight. It's not hard, but it's not easy, and most certainly a great time.
Outside, you also get to take a look at the merchandise.
When it's your turn, you get to take a quick lap with one of the pro drivers in an SUV. When I was there, it was a mix of Touaregs and Cayennes, people from your run group would pile in and get to see the track before doing fast behind the wheel of a quarter million dollar car. Pretty smart. Then it's go time, you find a helmet and wait for your name to be called. Nerves are elevated, but so is excitement. You get paired with a (former) pro driver who sits shotgun and guides you around the track. First up, the Lambo.
Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
This was my guide for the Lambo sessions. Cool guy, former touring car driver I believe. He pushed me fairly hard.
Time to get out on track. The Superleggera is a very tight car, both in handling and space. I am 6 feet even, 5'11 if you ask my Wife, and with a helmet on I barely fit in this car. In fact, my pro driver told me that any taller and they would have switched me to another car. But I wanted to drive the Lamborghini. I had a Countach on my bedroom wall after all, this was my destiny. Clicking the right paddle, we pulled out onto the track.
The V10 makes some excellent noises, and as I found in this, as well as the car from Maranello I tried next, all of the electronic nannies were set to "on" and you weren't turning them off. But it's not the end of the world, these computers make you look like a God damn hero. My guide would urge me to drive full throttle up until the braking point, downshift, brake, and toss it through the corner. And it went. I've been racing a long time, and there isn't much like tossing a street car like this through a turn that physics says it shouldn't be able to make. The little black Lambo made it through and through all 7 laps (+2 more than normal to make up for my lack of Aventador) passing lesser cars (drivers?) along the way. It truly was a treat. But like any Italian princess, she comes with some work. After we were done, he had me pull around back and ran a hose up through the front end to cool the car down. Not sure if that was from how hard I pushed her, or the hot Nevada sun. I wouldn't necessarily want to have to hose my car down after some hot laps on a longer track though. #firstworldproblem I suppose. I pulled back into the paddock and went inside to cool down for a moment. But not for long because my next race driver was waiting for me, as was my next car.
Ferrari 458 Italia
I'll admit, as much as that Countach dominated my bedroom automotive dream scape as a child, cars from Ferrari have surpassed them in my adult life. The 458 in particular I find stunning to look at, and I couldn't wait to drive it. This was the exact iteration I wanted as well, bright red with black wheels. Gorgeous. Inside I fit much better with actual headroom over top of my loaner helmet. I got to know my former pro driver and he got to know me. He found out that I've had some seat time in fast cars on a track and he seemed excited to proceed. I figured that was a good sign. Let's see how this F-car drives, time to head out to the track.
While there are plenty of exotics, it's technically not "racing". Not that I could tell the difference once I was out on track. My Ferrari copilot pushed me. Hard. Much harder than the other guy had during my first session. He had me diver deeper and deeper into braking ares, had me shift at just the right moment, and I was on the throttle in such a irresponsible manner that I figured there was no way I wasn't going to come out totally sideways. But the Italian computers kept it all in check. Woo Haa! Sorry. I passed a lot of other drivers, which is good fun. The pro alongside you has been trained to make sure it happens safely, and in the right spots on the track. If you are familiar with getting a "point by" on a track, it's basically the same. I got a lot of them. Yep, it's the guy who had his hand raised at the drivers meeting! The exhilaration of driving these cars at 10/10ths is worth the price of admission. And the 458 is just better than the Gallardo in almost every way, from the steering to the engine wail, to the ergonomics, everything. It was just superior. I mean, that make sense, it's a newer car, but wow, what a striking difference. I ended up with a shit-eating-grin after it was over.
In summary, it's not a cheap outing. Prices range from $249 for 5 laps in a new C7 Corvette Z51 to $499 for 5 laps in an Aventador. I tried the combo pack, Aventador and 458 and ended up with a DVD of the experience to show my friends. Perhaps I'll edit it down to YouTube length and post it on the RFD channel. You can't legally have this much fun Vegas without spending a lot more so if you find yourself out in the desert for a long weekend, and you have already realized there is nothing to do during the day, go see Exotics Racing to drive a few laps. You won't regret it.