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      04-03-2012, 07:41 PM   #6
paradocs98
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Drives: 2014 991 Carrera S
Join Date: May 2009
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Just got back from Exotics Racing experience. Absolutely fantastic. I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Las Vegas area. Well-run operation. Only about 15-20 min from Vegas Strip by car service.

It's at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They've been in operation for just a couple of years, but their level of professionalism makes it seem like they've been doing this a long time. They originally used the infield circuit at LVMS, but it was relatively tight and low-speed, so they just opened their own dedicated, 1.4-mi circuit next door to the Speedway. It's a beautiful, new facility and they guide you through every step of the process--registration, orientation, brief classroom session, then out to a one-lap ride in a Cayenne GTS to get a quick idea of the course. After that, you get paired with your instructor and car and hit the track.

The basic package is a 5-lap experience in the car of your choice. It's an amazing stable, including a new Cayman R, a Corvette Grand Sport, a 997 Turbo S, a new 991 Carrera S, an Aston Vantage, a Mercedes SLS, an F430, an F430 Scuderia, a new 458 Italia, an Audi R8 V10, a Gallardo, a Gallardo Superleggera LP570, and even a new Aventador. They hope to get a new McLaren within the year.

You can customize your package however you'd like, adding cars and additional laps as your budget allows. I chose 7 laps in each of two cars that I thought were pretty evenly matched--the Superleggera and the 458 Italia. I chose the Superleggera because someone in my neighborhood at home has a new white one, and that V10 sounds amazing every time he goes by. My son and I run to the window whenever we hear it. And I chose the 458 because so many people say it's one of the most amazing supercars on the current market. The Aventador was tempting, but I got the sense it would be too big for a track experience.

Thanks to Dave above for his advice in asking to drive the Lambo first. Good call. The Lambo and the 458 are both small Italian supercars, but they couldn't be more different. I liked the 458 much more, and by driving it second, I already had 7 laps under my belt to start to learn the track.

First the Superleggera. Small and tight enough inside that I couldn't wear a helmet. I'm 6'2" and the instructors told us tall guys no helmets because our heads would be cocked sideways due to limited headroom. Meanwhile, my instructor wore a helmet. I thought that was one of the only curious things about the whole operation. Back to the car--sounds fantastic. He started me off in a more sedate mode (I'm assuming throttle sensitivity, shift speed, etc.). If I remember correctly, the e-gear transmission is a single-clutch sequential. And you could tell. In the non-sport mode, shifts were slow and clunky. Disappointing. My old SMG M5 was actually smoother. After a couple of laps he switched to a sport mode and the shifts became quicker and smoother, but still nothing like the DCT in our cars. Our DCT is fantastic. Overall the car was an amazing experience, but very heavy in its controls. You really had to manhandle it, whether it be the steering or the brakes. It carries an amazing amount of speed through corners, though. I would want to modulate the throttle a bit more coming through corners, and my instructor was saying, "Throttle! Throttle! Trust the car!"

About 5 laps into it the car overheated! I was accelerating down the main straight, getting ready to upshift at about 7500rpm, and the car upshifted itself at 6000. I told the instructor and he noticed that the temp gauge was in the red and the car had gone into protection mode. We pulled into the pits, popped the hatch and let it cool down for a few minutes. It was only about 70-75 out, but we were running with the A/C on. A couple of other instructors in the Cayenne stopped next to us to see what was going on--when my instructor told them we had overheated, they said, "Nice! You were really ripping out there!" Good for my ego, but they probably say that to everyone who overheats. We were consistently passing all of the other cars, though. It's a mixed group of people, many with absolutely no prior high-performance driving experience. We went back out for an additional 3 laps (one lap free!) and I felt I was just starting to get familiar with the car and the track when it was time to come in.

One interesting difference between both the Lambo and Ferrari and our M3s is that their paddles are column-mounted rather than steering-wheel mounted like ours. I know some journalists have criticized the arrangement on our cars, but I prefer it. I definitely felt awkward in the Lambo having to take my hand off the wheel to find a paddle if there was a bit of steering angle dialed in.

Then the Ferrari. Oh boy. Night-and-day difference. The Lambo's V10 sounds great, but the 458 is just a step above and beyond. The V8 just says Racecar. And the feel of the car is totally different. It is so delicate and precise. The steering is ultra-quick and the controls so much more responsive. It took some getting used to after the Lambo's heaviness. And the transmission is in a totally different league. It's a dual-clutch sequential like our cars, so lightning-quick and smooth--like our DCT, only a generation beyond. The 458 turned in so quickly and was very tossable--we were on "sport" mode on the manettino, so still two notches away from full-on bonkers, but it let me get a bit of rear-end rotation under braking on slower sections of the course. Felt like a big-boy go-kart. Was definitely over too quickly. Again, by lap 6 and 7 I felt I was finally starting to get a rhythm down and getting familiar with the track and car.

The instructors were great--each one stays with that particular car during the day, so I got two of them. They all have prior pro racing experience and are very friendly and encouraging.

And then the finale--I noticed earlier in the day that one of the Superleggeras was being driven by a guy with a custom-painted helmet, and was running the course twice as fast as everyone else, and mostly sideways! Turns out it was an optional ride-along with one of their pros. I couldn't pass up the opportunity, so I signed up for it at the end of my runs. Today the instructor giving rides was Richie Hearn, who formerly competed in IRL and placed as high as 3rd at the Indy 500. Very nice guy and obviously made it look effortless. I got in the passenger seat of the Superleggera in the pits, he said "Hi. How ya doin? Ready?", and then he proceeded to blast away from a dead stop in a lurid slide, carrying it almost all of the way to Turn 1, where he did a Scandinavian flick and drifted the car the other direction. Amazing car control, but you could definitely tell he was having to fight it. The Lambo really, really understeers. Drifting around a corner was a push-slide, see-saw fight for him. Fun but ugly.

I would definitely do this again. Pricey but worth it given the quality of the cars and the professionalism of the operation. I'd probably do the 458 only and do 10-15 laps.

An interesting side note: during some downtime I asked one of my instructors which of the fleet was his favorite car. I definitely expected him to say the 458. He agreed that the 458 was probably number one, but that a surprising close second was the 997 Turbo S. Really?!? Yep--he said the Turbo S understeers much less than the Gallardo despite its AWD, and that it easily kicks its tail out in a controllable fashion in the corners, then lets you get on the power early as the front helps pull you straight. And he says the power is mind-blowing. Especially with such huge low-end torque in a relatively small car, he says it feels faster than the 700hp Aventador.

Pictures and maybe video to come when I get home. Thanks for reading.

Last edited by paradocs98; 04-03-2012 at 07:52 PM.
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