Exotics Racing: Ultimate Gift for Dads and Grads
A wise man named Will Ferrell once said… “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” So, if the idea of thrashing a track in a world class production sports car while being coached by a professional driver to push your limits hits home, Exotics Racing is right up your alley. In fact, it’s a moral imperative.
I was fortunate enough to experience a maiden voyage at Auto Club Speedway located in Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. (Exotics Racing also has a location in Las Vegas.) Some race tracks are like endless mazes, but I was relieved to discover that the Exotics Racing setup is located immediately to the right of the Speedway entrance in a huge white tent. That said, this is an especially nice, high-end tent that almost seems like a permanent structure (which is in the works, btw).
After checking in, which was quick and easy, the first part of the day involved a short introduction to driving on the track, performing some mock throttle/brake transitions and paddle shifting in the air, a tutorial on steering technique, and a focused transition to the mindset of a racecar driver.
With some general instructions, we were divided into groups to hit the track in a Porsche Cayenne driven by an instructor for a couple of orientation laps. Our instructor demonstrated the best racing line, provided a breakdown of the braking cones and clipping points, and discussed optimal ways to get around the track. The second lap was so fast and smooth I wondered whether I would be able to match the half-speed of the bulky SUV even in a supercar.
The next step involved getting fitted for a helmet and paired up with a driving instructor. We then walked over to our weapon of the day, the legendary Nissan GT-R, where the instructor spent some time getting me set up in the proper seating position, queuing up the video system and putting the car in manual shift mode. At that point, there was nothing left to do but get busy.
The 1.2 mile track at Auto Club Speedway is stellar and provides a great mix of 8 tight and loose corners and a decent 1,600 foot straightaway which allows the driver to experience full-on acceleration (up to 130 mph), hard braking and technical transitions. It’s an easy course with which to become quickly familiar but challenging enough that mastery is still oh-so-elusive.
My designated instructor was persistent with pushing me to get the most out of the 530hp twin-turbo V6 engine and stellar brakes. In each of the 5 laps I got progressively faster as my familiarity with the track and the car grew. I would definitely recommend the Nissan GT-R for first timers as the perfect car to tackle the course; it serves up supercar performance with enough electronic wizardry to keep things in check, getting you in and out of trouble enough to drop you into the badass category.
At the end of the experience I was provided with a flash drive containing onboard video from the track. It’s actually really fun to watch as it shows your journey around the course, a closeup of your face in the upper right corner and the vehicle speed in KPH (which makes you look like you are going really really fast).
While the driving experience was definitely the highlight for me, the whole scene — the carefully choreographed and well-tuned operation — was actually fascinating. There is a staging area for the cars (which include the Ferrari 458, Ferrari 430 F1, Lambo Gallardo LP550, Lambo Superleggera LP570, Porsche Cayman S, Porsche 997 Turbo S, Audi R8 V10 and, of course, the Nissan GT-R) where you can hop in and out of any vehicle you fancy and take as many pictures as you want.
The action on the track is equally amusing to watch as driving skills span the gamut from old folks casually looping the course to younguns getting hella aggro squealing tires at every turn. I watched parents rooting for their teens and an 80+ year old woman cheering on her husband.
The track at Fontana is open every Saturday and occasionally on Sunday. As the clientele grows, Exotics Racing plans to expand its inventory of vehicles and available dates. Packages offering 5 laps start as low as $199 for the Porsche Cayman S and run as high at $399 for the Ferrari 458 Italia. Exotics Racing also offers various combo packs and you can always upgrade to 7, 10 or even 20 laps.
Driving schools have been around forever but, while they have their strong merits, they don’t necessarily resonate with the masses – either because of the time commitment, cost, or sheer intensity of the experience. Exotics Racing offers a fresh approach by providing the right combination of professional driving instructors with a wide selection of exotic vehicles at a price point which won’t break the bank and a driving program which allows wannabe’s like me the perfect dose of adrenaline. After leaving the track, the ridiculous grin plastered on my face for an unnaturally long time may have had folks I’d encountered later questioning my sanity.