Top Speed, No Tickets
Fast cars and racetracks go together like Monaco and money.
Were you the kid who raced toy cars over the hills of your bedspread at night and then dreamed of winning the Monaco Grand Prix? Were you the teenager who sneaked car magazines into class between the covers of your textbooks? Are you the grown-up whose head swivels in response to every sports car that revs by? If so, an outfit called Supercar Life is ready to fulfill at least some of your dreams, offering a day on a racetrack driving some of the most exciting sports cars ever built.
For $4,990, anyone with a driver’s license and a yearning for high speeds and internal-organ-shifting g-loads can climb behind the wheel of five spectacular automobiles — a Porsche 911 Turbo, Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari F430, Mercedes-Benz CLK63 Black Series and an Aston Martin DB9 — and be expected to do nothing other than enjoy the cars, at their own pace, without any pressure to be faster than the other guy.
No Checkered Flags
A team of expert instructors, led by Grand-Am driver Matt Plumb, is on hand to teach Supercar Life’s clients a few basics about high-speed automotive dynamics, the cars’ controls and the track’s layout. But the emphasis is on having a good time and not learning how to heel-and-toe (all the cars are automatics) or become a race driver. There is no timing equipment; there are no checkered flags.
For your five grand, however, there is a fully catered breakfast and lunch, a cocktail reception the night before the event, a photo of you and your favorite car, an in-car DVD of you driving each car, a gift bag with Supercar Life gear, and a glass of champagne to share with your fellow drivers at the end of the day. The gallons of fuel you burn over the course of your many laps are free.
Supercar Life conducted four of its one-day programs earlier this year at the giant Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, where its road course runs through the infield and over part of the high-speed oval used by the boys from NASCAR and the open-wheelers of the IRL. Jan Otto, founder and director of Supercar Life, was on hand to greet the drivers — and to stretch the legs of his own Porsche Carrera GT. As he roared around the track, any question regarding why he founded the company was answered.
“There are plenty of racing courses available,” said Otto, “but no one was offering the chance just to get out in the world’s best cars on the track for the fun of it. That’s why Supercar Life exists, to have fun.”
In addition to the regular program, Supercar Life offers a more expensive Luxury Package ($5,690), which includes chauffeured transportation from the nearest airport, a night’s stay at a nice hotel, a cocktail reception and dinner the night before the track day, and transportation back to the airport.
In the Classroom, Behind the Wheel
MSN Autos was invited to join a small group of drivers for the day’s frolic, which started with a short chalk-talk about apexes, oversteer and the like, followed by a quick overview of each car’s controls and unique qualities. Then, it was on to the asphalt.
One group headed off to a slalom and braking exercise, which helped everyone get acquainted with each car’s particular characteristics, while the other group was given tours of the track. For the first few laps, each instructor drove and gave tips on braking zones and the best line to a client riding shotgun, but for the remainder of the day each of us drove alone, trailing an instructor driving an identical model. The lead-and-follow sessions began at a moderate pace, the aim to increase speeds as each of us became more confident in our skills and learned more about the scintillating cars in Supercar Life’s stable.
The instructors are skilled at gauging a client’s aptitude for track driving and will go as fast, or slow, as required to keep it fun — and safe. An expert weekend racer is likely to be frustrated at the paces run at a Supercar Life program, but driver safety and the life of the car are important aspects of Otto’s business plan. For instance, each car’s traction control system must be left on throughout the day. The point isn’t to make smoky burn-outs or powerslide through the corners. Still, it’s pretty exhilarating to experience spectacularly fast cars at speeds far greater than those allowed on the street.
Pure Speed, No Tickets
There are, of course, other, more personal reasons why someone would spend five grand to flog a car around a track. David Lundin and Ali Mesiwalah, both neurosurgeons who have a medical partnership in nearby Pomona, figured a day on the track would be a good “team-building experience.” Not to mention Lundin owns an F430 and Mesiwalah a 911 Turbo, so it also was a chance for them to wring out cars they know without having to put wear and tear on their own rides. “And, you can’t get a ticket here,” laughed Lundin.
David Anderson flew in from Houston for his second session with Supercar Life. An avid motorcyclist, Anderson just wanted to treat himself to another fun day. “On the track I can drive fast safely,” said Anderson. A couple of friends from Newport Beach were given the Supercar Life Luxury Program as a gift from their wives, who spent the day in the pits chuckling over how their husbands were like little boys with their first tricycles.
Then there was the successful contractor, and member of a famous racing family, who wanted to give a few of his loyal customers something different in return for their business. “They’re never going to forget this,” he said, buckling into the Ferrari F430. “Don’t think I will, either.”
The founding editor of European Car, Greg N. Brown has written for more than 30 years about the automotive world from L.A., "the craziest car-crazy town in the world." Brown currently contributes to a host of magazines and Web sites.
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