Exotics Racing: Christmas Vacation

Exotics Racing: Christmas Vacation

by Khiem Dinh

My dad, my girlfriend’s dad Joel, and my bro-in-law Clinton were all in town, so Christmas vacation was the perfect opportunity for a guys’ track day fun day. You know, it was the perfect excuse, er… Christmas gift for all of us guys to get out of the house to drive exotic cars on a track while the ladies watched all the kids back home. Joking aside, Joel was so excited; he was telling all of his friends about it for the week leading up to driving the Ferrari 458 Italia.

For a bit of background, all of you know I have a fair amount of track experience and I opted for the Ferrari 458 after having driven the Nissan GT-R previously. Of course, reading Mike Bonanni’s review of the 458 made it a no-brainer choice for me and I had to go faster in the 458 than the GT-R (videos are at the end). I also happen to be friends with the guy who designed the turbo on the Ferrari Formula 1 car, so it’s only appropriate I should drive a Ferrari. Clinton had a 2002 WRX wagon back in the day and would do lots of donuts in the snow in Nebraska along with AWD launches taking the kids to school, but no track experience. One of his dream cars is the Audi R8, but I told him to go for something a bit more exotic so he opted for the Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2. Joel has some fifty years of experience riding motorcycles, but had never been on a track before. He wanted to drive the 458, ‘nuff said. As for my dad, he was not up for driving on track, but he sure was excited to go for the ride along in the Z06! Joel was generous enough to write up his impressions which I’ll follow up with my impressions on driving the 458. You’ll see from Joel’s experience that you need never have driven on a track prior to visiting Exotics Racing and also the value in the driving instruction provided. The instructors are also able to tailor their level and techniques of instruction based on the skill level of the driver. Therefore, Joel, Clinton, and I all had unique instructor experiences. Like I mentioned in my experience from my previous visit, there is a LOT of value gained from having the instructor in the car with you, value that can be priceless.

 

Clinton inside his ride for the day.

The following is Joel’s recounting of his experience and I’ll follow up with my impression of the 458:

I was a teenager in the 1960s. This was the age of muscle cars and two seater sports cars. In the category of sports cars, one brand stood out as both faster and more beautiful than the rest. It was also such an expensive car that owning or driving one seemed to be an unattainable dream. In my view, Ferrari has maintained its premier position among sports cars. For decades and to the present, their cars are both beautifully designed and engineered to go very fast. From the perspective of beauty (art), the look of the various models of the Ferrari from pictures and occasionally seeing one on the street kept me engrossed over the years. Until now, my analysis of the driving experience had been limited to what I read about various Ferrari models in car magazines. Acceleration times, top speed, lap times, and cornering Gs in Ferarri road tests are impressive to read, but somewhat dry. It is hard to imagine what those translate to when driving. Now I know how impressive and exciting it was for the drivers who've had the privilege of doing the road tests.

 

Exotics Racing gave me the opportunity to fulfill the dream of driving a Ferrari, the 458 Italia which is a mid-engined, 560 horsepower race car with a 200+ mile an hour top speed. I did so at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana outside of Los Angeles. I was there between Christmas and New Year's so many customers were there to drive cars. I found that Exotics Racing was well organized to take care of everyone. Don't forget, however, to make your appointment to drive and choose the type of car. In addition, all the employees were competent and working hard to make sure their customers had a good experience. As we were in Los Angeles I suspect they had attended Disney training. In any case, they all seemed genuinely concerned and were extremely helpful.

 

We started with a drivers meeting during which the track was shown on screen along with a discussion of driving techniques for the track. There were explanations of the various colored cones (two orange – start braking, green for corner apex ), and paint on the road (red for braking or red and white stripes showing corners). All of this was to acclimate us to what we would see on the track and to aid us in driving as fast as possible.

After that meeting we were driven on the track in a Porsche Cayenne. There were three of us plus the instructor driving. First he drove a slow lap to show us where to brake and turn in for each corner. Then he drove a surprisingly fast lap with the tires squealing and at one right turn, the right front tire rolled over beyond the tread. . Also, we were keeping up with a Porsche GT3RS which was on the track ahead of us. There are no worries about running in traffic on the track. The cars are spaced on the track and there are generally not more than three on the track at a time. The race is against time, not other cars.

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