Live the fantasy: Supercar hero for the day
summit daily auto writer
So I’ve figured out what present I would have given to myself for my 19th birthday, or maybe even my 40th. If you’re a closet gearhead who spends most of his time in your man-cave, flipping through well-thumbed copies of “Motor Trend,” pining for the opportunity to actually drive those fantastically expensive and unbelievably fast automobiles, there is a solution.
The US Supercar Tour, one of several different programs put on by the East Coast-based World Class Driving corporation, offers mere mortals the rather amazing opportunity to spend a half day (or more) behind the wheel of five of the world’s most impressive cars.
Suddenly, the prospect of tooling along at a reasonably high rate of speed in a fantasy-worthy machine like a Ferrari 599 GTB or a Lamborghini Superleggera is not such a fantasy; in exchange for a not-so-insubstantial entry fee ($1,695 per driver), even the most pedestrian of driver can get some very real-world experience in the hottest cars ever produced.
The Tour, which recently visited Denver and is making its way around Eagle County today (and heads to Taos next weekend), is the offshoot of a successful program which debuted in Europe 15 years ago. Since 2006, drivers have been able to take part in trips in the U.S. as well, although the sheer mechanical magnitude of the autos involved makes a more rural setting like Colorado a preferable venue for letting loose in a Lambo or a 621-HP Bentley Supersports.
As an added bonus, the Tour’s driving director is none other than decorated racer Didier Theys, a three-time Indy 500 participant and recurring winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona. Theys and his wife and daughter help with the logistics and hosting; the Belgian-born champion is retired from racing but says he enjoys working with the Supercar event as a chance for non-pros to get a bit of a feeling of the power and prestige of the auto industry’s finest creations.
To that end, I got to join Theys, his staff and seven other civilian drivers on a half-day loop along the Peak to Peak Highway and the wonderfully winding Golden Gate Canyon, just west of Golden, and I am consequently re-planning my remaining years on the planet so that I can afford to purchase and sustain a healthy relationship with a Ferrari F430. Consider me a convert.
And that’s because the F430, a rear-engined, 503-horsepower beauty that retails for about $270,000 and up, struck me as the most practically stunning of the day’s runners. The engine and exhaust sound is absolutely magnificent (what did you expect, right?), the handling crisp but still grounded and fulsome, and while not as powerful as the 599, I liked the F430’s earthier feel and all-analog instrumentation. And it’s the reddest red you’ll ever experience.
The 599, by comparison, heads into true Batman territory, with over 600 horsepower, a full carbon-fiber dash and a level of engineering precision that’s positively superhuman. I also got to drive it on the stretch near Lyons where we followed a logging truck for 20 minutes and … I can only imagine the sheer fury that lurked under the hood.
Conversely, the most ominous of the group was a metallic-orange Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, the weight-streamlined, 530-horsepower, V10 monster with a look that’s just as brutal as its sound and prowess on the road. One of only 172 ever built, the Superleggera is also kind of like a velvety lunchbox on the inside – lots and lots and lots of carbon fiber mixed with Alcantara suede trim – with giant paddles cracking off insanely loud grunts of high-revving throttle.
Theys and company also carry a 626-HP Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren in their trailer but said the car doesn’t impart quite the same joy on winding mountain roads as it does flat out at 206 miles per hour, so they subbed in the V10 version of the new Audi R8. And the R8, it turns out, is the most intuitive ride of the bunch – you Audi owners will both feel completely at home, and scared to death by the power – with liquid handling, fearsome acceleration and 525 horses of sheer fury.
It’s the only car that I really got going and I was also the only driver of the group to get it sideways; Tour participants are vociferously reminded that the day’s expedition is not a showcase for stunt driving, high-speed theatrics or recklessness, as the combined tab of the day’s wheels is about $1.5 million.
Should the need for pure speed be your whole raison d’etre, WCD also hosts the 200MPH Xtreme event at airstrips in California and Florida, where drivers can, almost universally, reach the Really Big Number in a safe environment.
For more information, http://www.worldclassdriving.com; (877) 597-6403.
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