His elation was childlike, his analogy considerably more adult.
Onboard a complimentary shuttle taking us back to the Wynn from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 50-something man from Orlando confessed to his wife: “I liked that so much, it felt like I was cheating on you” — his seductress clad in that most fetching shade of red, rosso corsa, with about 500 horsepower under the hood.
That sentiment was common among the participants at Exotics Racing: all men on the day I visited, at least, with a couple of companions capturing the on-track action with their smartphones. Boys being boys, comparing track times and notes about tricky turns, revealing minor rebellions against their accompanying instructors (“You’re entering that turn too fast!” one 30-something from Colorado recalled being admonished, an impressive humblebrag among his need-for-speed bros).
Exotics Racing mostly encourages this, of course, with a mantra of: not your tires, not your gas, no speed limit, no liability. On the company’s 1.2-mile track, guests are encouraged to let ‘er rip from the driver’s seat of a Ferrari, Lamborghini or other high-performance vehicle, most of which would set you back six figures but, for $199 and up, can be yours for at least a few fleeting moments.
Indeed, Exotics Racing doesn’t shy away from the fantasy aspect. “Feel like Bond … James Bond,” reads a waiting-area poster for an Aston Martin Vantage GT. “The Iron Man Audi,” the company’s website says of the Audi R8 V10.
Exotics Racing instructor David Roberts conducts a pretrack briefing for a group of clients. Photo Credit: Eric Moya
Introductory videos in the briefing room were a little like traffic school or driver’s ed, but with a remix of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” blaring away and fast-paced editing that recalled video game cutscenes. Actress Michelle Rodriguez of “The Fast and the Furious” was but one celebrity name-checked as a past Exotics Racing client.
While the videos are designed to get you pumped for your track experience, they also lay out some rules, including: hands on the steering wheel at 9 and 3 (where the cars’ paddle shifters are located, as all vehicles are automatic transmission); look where you want to go; and the almost Zen-like “Smooth is fast” (no jerking the steering wheel, steady pressure on the brakes, don’t mash the throttle).
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After the briefing, an instructor loaded up a group of clients into a Porsche Cayenne SUV for a discovery lap around the track, which was a revelation on two fronts: One, whipping around curves in a family-friendly ride was exhilarating in its own right; in something faster and lower to the ground, this was going to be crazy fun. But also, at high speeds and particularly for a novice like myself, this was going to be a lot to remember once I was behind the wheel.
Then it was time. After being fitted for a helmet, I settled into the driver’s seat of a Corvette Z06 and talked with my instructor, Paul Licata. He asked about my racing experience (again, none) and basically tried to get a feel for my anxiety level (fairly high) and what I hoped to accomplish on the track (have fun, not crash).
Five laps went by quickly, even at my leisurely pace: I broke 100 mph in the straightaway, but judging by the number of times Licata flashed my hazards, indicating it was safe to pass me, at the turns I must have been the Exotics Racing equivalent of a Sunday driver.
I have a video of my track experience (an additional $85) that bears all this out, as I certainly wasn’t thinking about any of this when I was behind the wheel: My focus was on the color-coded cones (green for gas, red for brakes) and my instructor’s commands. No phone calls, no changing radio stations, no quietly humming “Highway Star” to myself (OK, maybe a little humming).
The video also reveals a big, dumb grin on my face during most of my five-minute flirtation with a hot little number in Velocity Yellow.
Throughout the day I’d been texting my elder brother, a car enthusiast, about what I was up to. Then I gave him the wrap-up:
“Ha ha, I got lapped so much.”
“Aw man … downshift that [expletive] and drive it like you stole it.”
He was right: not your tires, not your gas, no speed limit, no liability. Next time, bro.
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