Two things happened over the past 7 days... first, I came across Battery Tender Unnecessary's awesome series about owning a supercar (Part I and II... can't wait for III) and second, I rode in a couple of supercars at an event in which Mr. Tender Unnecesary mentioned I should get back to everyone about how it was.
His comment and blog titles clearly inspired me to write this one for any Jalops looking to have the time of their life for only a couple hundred bucks. Whoa sicko, not that kind of time of your life!
This particular advice is in reference to the "Xtreme Xperience" which is a band of supercars, staff, and instructors that travel to various tracks around the country and are dedicated to letting you experience the excitement of driving a supercar.
They came to Atlanta Motorsports Park from Oct.4 - Oct. 7 and, for the second time (we did this in March as well); I flew my dad down from NY to do this with me. There are similar supercar experiences like this around the country but I have no firsthand experience with them.
One I know of is World Class Driving in Vegas but they seem to take you on more of a tour rather than push these cars to the limits. I've also seen others that travel to local large parking lots and set up a course for you to drive through. I don't think any self-respecting Jalop would ever opt for that unless they let you hoon the hell out of them or it was completely free. But I digress...
Since this was my second time experiencing the "xperience", I figured why not dispel some tips and facts that might be helpful to anyone interested in doing it themselves so here goes:
1. THE "XTREMELY" GENERAL OVERVIEW- Get to the track, check-in, listen to a quick 30 minute class about driving and course tips, wait for the car you reserved, ride/drive your 3 laps and call it a day!
2. PRICING- First off, you actually have two main choices within this whole experience and that is to drive or ride in the supercar. Obviously 99% of the people on this site will be driving but just know you can bring your 80 yr old grandma and she can participate too (more on that later). Anyway the takeaway from this part is DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER pay full price for this experience.
The full price I am referring to is the price listed on the XX website (typically $399 to drive 3 laps). Personally speaking, I found about this whole shindig (for the first event we attended in March) through the deal site Scoutmob which was offering one session for $159. The same deal later popped up on similar deal sites. Once again, the deals reemerged for this October event as well. Furthermore, the XX's own Facebook site, posts a deal code that gets you the same price as the deal sites so I feel for the poor suckers that pay $400 but I rest easy at night knowing that won’t be you dear readers.
Note, the only "hidden fees" you won't see listed on these sites is the required insurance you have to buy if you choose the driving option. There are various price points but I've always chosen the cheapest one which is an additional $59 I believe.
In addition to the supercar pricing there are a few other options as well. The thing I know my dad would recommend over anything - ESPECIALLY FOR FIRST-TIMERS - is the option to ride in the pace car. For only $49 you can ride in the pace car for the same 3 laps as it leads the supercars around the course. Believe it or not, the pace car is a Mustang rental, speed limiter and all. This is highly recommended because it is a cheap way to get a feel for the track before you do it in the supercars when you want to make the most of the short time you have with them. And of course, it never hurts to be more familiar with a course than not.
Also, still related to supercar driving, they will tell you that you can purchase more sessions when you’re there. This is important because you can purchase these laps for less than the deal prices! So for you smart savvy folks… yes, only reserve one car session on their site and buy more laps at a cheaper price when you get there.
Some of the other options are photos with the cars (beware of big head + little helmet = fat face syndrome as seen above), video - which is a GoPro mounted inside the car (my videos from this event are at the bottom), and a “Pit Pass”. The photo and video are pretty self-explanatory and you can determine if you want them based on your own personal nostalgic desires (I got the video package for free by doing a feedback survey over the phone which was cool). The Pit Pass is a new offering since the last time I attended and it is basically for your family and friends that are only there to watch you while you drive a supercar. If the track you are at has a high observation deck, this will allow them access to that as well as get close to the cars and the line you wait in for them. I believe it was $15 but it might be one of the more ridiculous things they can charge people for in my opinion since there are likely many other places you can watch (and at AMP, even get close to the cars).
3. RESERVATIONS AND CAR AVAILABILITY- Typically the XX is at your local track for 4 days, 2 of which are a weekend day. If you can get off work to do this on a weekday, DO IT. For obvious reasons, weekends are the most crowded and unfortunately how long you wait to drive the car you reserved is directly affected by how fast or slow other people are driving.
This also affects other things like car availability and the ability to purchase more laps as I mentioned above. In March we went on a Friday and while it was crowded, the lines were constantly moving and the waits were minimal. Also there were no problems buying more laps in different cars if you wanted to.
This time around we went on a Monday which was even better! At one point there were only two supercars out on the track. As it got later in the day, more people showed up who clearly took off from work after lunch but it was still pretty wide open. So I would say go on a Monday or Thursday if possible and definitely avoid the weekends. Side note: as I referenced above- I actually did witness some much older members of society at this most recent event (maybe Monday was geriatric day?) There was one couple well into their 70s and they had a blast which was great to witness and the staff loved them as well.
Another thing to note… you may see that the car and time slot you wanted are not available as you make your reservation on the website. This isn’t the end of the world. Once you get to the event you will find it is not as regimented as the website makes it seem. You will see 4 or 5 lines for the various cars, if one line is more crowded than others, the staff will slide people around (only if you want to) to the lines with less people. This is a great opportunity to try a different car if you’d like. But, if you only bought one session and have your hopes set on one particular car then this point is moot.
Both times I’ve done this they have also brought an additional vehicle. I feel like this is built upon demand, but since this has happened both times, I feel like that “additional” car was probably coming all along.
4. THE CARS- Check what’s in their stable for yourself here. What they bring to each track differs so you’ll just have to hope one of these terrible old beaters will suffice. In March they brought the R8, Lambo, Ferrari Cali, and SLS. My dad drove in the Lambo (liked it but was not super impressed) and I rode in the SLS which I thought was incredible and also seemed to surprise everyone at the track that day in how it performed. It really impressed me how it seemed to just stick to the track no matter how hard it was pushed.
This time around they offered the Lambo, F430 Scuderia, GT-R, 911, and for an additional fee, the 458. My dad drove the GT-R, 911, and 458 with the latter being his favorite of the day. I rode in the 430 and GT-R. As you may have seen in the video, the 430 was the most beautiful sounding car of the day. It was also the most insanely and awesomely violent vehicle I’ve ever been in (likely helped by the fact that it was a Scuderia). After that I rode in the GT-R which, in contrast to the Ferrari, felt almost too comfortable at triple digit speeds and elevation changing turns. All amazing vehicles though and truly an exciting experience to say I’ve experienced them.
EDIT- One thing I want to mention after reading Automatch's review is that yes, all of the cars are auto for obvious reasons (like some don't even have manual anymore). BUT, if you are comfortable enough using the paddle shifters, you are welcome to use them and the instructors will not say you can't.
5. THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE- Alright here is the topic people question often and are the most skeptical about. I’ve heard on more than one occasion, “Yeah you get to drive a supercar, but the instructors hold you back right?” NO, absolutely not. Yes, it’s always you and an instructor in the car but the greatest thing about this experience is that you can drive as fast as you’re comfortable going. The only thing that holds you back is your own comfort with the car and driving skill level. In addition, the instructors (who are outstanding by the way) are coaching you the whole way and directing you along the best lines of the track (which they also cover in the instructional class at the beginning). See this video here for what it’s like to be a driver.
It’s at this point I should probably note, if you haven't picked up on it already, that no, I did not drive any of these cars. This is because I am a paraplegic and putting the hand controls I use to drive into these cars is just not an option. Would I love to be able to say I drove them? Hell yeah. But having a professional driver race me around the course faster than I ever could anyway isn’t a bad consolation prize. I will now sit idly, waiting to tear apart the first reader that comments, “Wait, did you even drive any of these cars?” because they never read past #4 on this list!
6. GENERAL TIPS-
- Plan your day around this event. Do not have other things to do or places to be later in the day. Especially now that you know you can purchase more sessions for a cheaper price! It goes fast enough, why feel even more rushed? Enjoy it and make a day out of intoxicating sounds of six figure supercars!
- Pack a cooler. As most tracks are quite a ways from civilization, your nearest source of food and beverage means getting back in your car and driving to it (vending machines not included). Bringing something of substance is important not only for the fact that you may get hungry but because you will be surprised at what the rush of adrenaline will do to your body after completing 3 high speed laps in a supercar. Even more so if the track you’re at has umpteen turns and multiple elevation changes. On top of that, add in that you're breathing in a hefty amount of supercar exhaust fumes and you'll understand how my dad got very light headed after completing his sessions. Of course, if you become queasy easily the opposite advice may be good to follow. Just know your body- but regardless, stay hydrated!
- If you do decide to be a passenger rather than a driver, tell the instructor to move to the front of the pack! If you really want to experience the limits of the car you are in, you don’t want to get stuck behind someone afraid to go over 90… in a supercar!
- Along those lines, if you are driving, the instructors have walkie-talkies and they will orchestrate passes if you are clearly faster than the person in front of you. If you think that is the case before you even start, feel free to request to be the first car behind the pace car. Don’t be a dick about this though. Which leads to…
- Always listen to the instructors! Remember, they are not trying to hold you back, they are trying to maintain a safe environment as you are likely not the only person on the track. You can and will get black flagged if you ignore them and/or jeopardize the vehicles or anyone around you. Be cool Mario.
- Did you say the pace car is a rental? WITH A GOVERNOR?! Yes I did. I know it’s hard to believe and I know your next question. The answer is to let the pace car get some space in front of you so you can open it up when it comes to the straights. You’re likely never going over 80 in the turns anyway which is why it’s so hard to believe the pace car is limited. Ask the instructors if you don’t believe me.
- And finally, the staff… The XX staff is an awesome group of car lovers and really do want to see you have an incredible day driving amazing cars. Ask them anything and they will have an answer. They will go out of their way to make sure you have an awesome experience. One of the guys saw me pull in with my e92. He came over and immediately remembered my dad and I. Then he chatted with me for a while about my car as he had just bought one himself. This is one of the many examples of how personable and friendly the staff is. And despite carting around over a million dollar’s worth of cars, I never once witnessed them make anyone feel like they didn't belong at the event.
So that’s my 2000 word essay on what it’s like to drive (but not own!) a supercar. Hopefully you made to the end without passing out. I highly recommend this opportunity to anyone if you get the chance, and I hope some of my tips can be useful to you! Feel free to ask any other questions in the comment section below!