A Dream Come TrueJan 01, 2014 ● By Ben Johnson
As a boy who grew up trying to memorize the specs of every supercar, this was, quite literally, a dream come true. Driving into the infield of Texas Motor Speedway, chills ran down my spine as I got a feel for how huge the ring really was. However, I would not be driving on the ring. I would be driving on Texas Motor Speedway’s infield track, which has left- AND right-hand turns. Pulling into the main building, I knew I was in for a real treat. To my left were NASCAR team garages, with practice cars being prepped, and to my right were about a million dollars worth of supercars being unloaded. It was a real gearhead’s fantasy.
Now, obviously we weren’t able to just jump right into the cars and go. This is motor racing after all; racing has procedures. As I opened the doors, I was instantly greeted and guided through the check-in process. I took a moment to catch my breath as they handed me a sheet of paper with the supercars listed and asked, “Which car were you wanting to drive today?” I had walked in expecting to drive one of my top five favorite cars, until I saw my number one car on the list. “I’ll take the Gallardo Superleggera,” I tried to say calmly. I wasn’t calm.
After a few minutes of meet and greet, we were herded into a large room where we were given a brief history of the company and the experience they wanted to deliver to the public. We were also told we would have a racing instructor riding with us to offer tips and tricks for driving faster and really bring the car up to its limits. What’s great is they were just as passionate about having fun as they were about being safe. We then watched a video discussing everything we needed to know before heading out to the track. We talked about what to do when passing or being passed, where and what the racing line is, entry cones, apexes, exit cones, etc. As a racing simulator veteran, I already knew most of this but it was great to see how thorough they were. I don’t think a single person left that room with a question.
As we walked outside toward the track, the roar of Lamborghinis and Ferraris flooded the speedway, while the racing instructors were warming up the engines and tires by doing a few hot laps. The sound of a Lamborghini V10 was more than enough to get my heart racing again. We walked into a tent next to the track as they fitted us with helmets, giving us a chance to be acquainted with the cars before climbing in.
It’s quite a daunting feeling to be sitting behind the wheel of a 570 horsepower track monster that weighs the same as a Ford Focus; it’s enough to make even the most confident drivers’ hands quake. Filled with nervousness and excitement, my racing instructor went over a few things with me, reminding me of what we were going to be doing and the safety procedures. Then, we started engaging in more informal conversation, which really helped me focus. “Have you ever done anything like this before?” he asked. “No I haven’t, but I guess you can say I’m a Forza veteran, so I know about racing lines, braking points, acceleration points, etc.” I replied. “You have no idea how much that game helps actual racing drivers. Most of them have a set up in their home and they practice the same track for the next race for hours. It’s very accurate!” he told me.
As we pulled away from the tent, it started to dawn on me that at normal speeds, this was just an ordinary car. It wasn’t complicated or intimidating to drive at all! We began with a slow lap. I arrived at the first turn with my instructor giving me feedback, constantly telling me where I should be looking and where I should be on the track. I gained a lot of confidence when he was impressed by my spacial awareness, almost clipping the apex cone with the front passenger tire. The second and third corners went by piece of cake, each one giving me more confidence.
On the second lap, he leaned over to me and said, “Let’s pick up the pace on this next one, stay to the left and pass this Ferrari. So, I gave it a bit of gas and had that V10 sing me a little mechanical melody. As I blew past the other driver, I was coming into the first turn again, but this time at twice the speed. He told me to brake hard and just follow through. The grip was astonishing! I was pressed against my door as I flew past the apex cone without any tire squeal. That was the most rewarding feeling I had, being able to go through a corner with some speed while staying on the line and having a good exit.
As the laps went by, my speed went up and my times went down. Each time I passed the tent, I gave it just a bit more throttle, just to give everyone else the pleasure of hearing it. The straight-line speed was extremely impressive, but the real fun came when arriving at a corner. In a straight line, flooring it gives you an amazing sense of acceleration, but a corner is completely different. At speed, it’s an indulgence of different G forces and sensations. You feel negative G on braking, hear the revs bark through the downshifts, lateral G in the turns, then just before your out of the turn, you hear the engine bellow with torque to punch you straight out of it. It’s a euphoric and accomplished feeling when all of those things come together perfectly.
As I finished my last lap, I pulled back into the tent with two feelings. The first was excitement that I finally had the chance to do something I had always wanted to. The second was what is usually on the mind of every car guy after they do something like that, “I could’ve gone even faster.” As I took my helmet off, they pulled me over to a computer that tracked my telemetry data from my laps and put it on a flash drive for me along with a photo of the Superleggera and me.
Exotic Driving Experience gave me one of the most memorable moments of my life. Driving my dream car around a racetrack is something I will always cherish. The best part is that just about anyone can do this. It doesn’t take a purebred racer with lightning-fast reflexes to do it. You drive at your own pace while experiencing what its like to race a quarter of a million dollar car.