Arie Luyendyk Jr., showing off the capabilities of a Ferrari F430. For all the photos here, you can click them for a larger version.
Blasting into a set of s-curves, I’m watching raised curbs appear on each side of the Aston Martin. Sure enough…whump…we hit the one on the right, followed by a…whump on the left side. After that, we drift into a hard right, as the driver downshifts. I look over and watch him in action, totally relaxed. It’s Arie Luyendyk Jr., and he’s got things well under control as he explains the handling characteristics of the car. Eyeing the rear view mirror, he’s checking on the trail of cars behind us in a lead-and-follow. With a smile, he says, “On the next straight, we’ll hit about 130,” and he stands on the throttle. Then he ads, “After we’re done with the lead-and-follow, we’ll jump in the Ferrari and go for a few hot laps.
There's a full range of exotics in the Supercar Life lineup, including Italian-bred cars like this Lamborghini.
So where are we, and what are we up to? The venue was a road course on the fringes of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and we were hanging out with the guys from Supercar Life. They have a collection of cool cars like a Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Porsche Turbo 997, Aston Martin DB9, and Mercedes AMG CLK63 Black Series. One Industries had set up this day as a cool perk for some of their sponsored riders. Kevin Windham, Billy Laninovich, Nate Adams, Dan Reardon, Michael Sleeter, and Logan Darien were among the crew that hit the track.
While the drivers do get a morning orientation session, this is no program where you sit in a classroom all day.
If we we could listen in on Dan Reardon's helmet, it'd probably sound like, "I can't believe they're letting me do this, I can believe they're..."
Early in the morning, the guys were pretty much drooling at the prospect of hitting the track, and with good reason. With the Supercar Life program isn’t one of those deals where you merely get to drive the cars, they allow you to actually push their limits. The participants also get drive not just one of the cars, but all of them, for back-to-back-to-back comparisons. Other than a wall along the front straight, there wasn’t much opportunity to hit something really solid, and there’s plenty of coaching available from the Supercar Life staff to help prevent you from doing that.
There are plenty of makes and models to choose from, and everyone got a chance to drive everything on their wish list.
The lead-and-follow sessions are not exactly slow-paced. While driving the Aston, Arie mentioned that he had to keep a good lead over the Turbo Porsche, because it would pull him on the straights.
As for the cars themselves, there was a briefing session in the morning where the drivers were run through the personalities of each car, and specifics that make each one different. For example, the paddle shifters that most of the cars were equipped with, or how the performance characteristics of each car changed as the tires and brakes would heat up. Many of them also feature an array of driving assists for traction control, engine performance, shift points, and suspension tuning.
Billy Laninovich got his share of hot laps in.
True to his word, Arie and I jumped in one of the Ferrari F430s, and headed out onto the track. Living here in So. Cal., we often see high-end exotics…in valet parking areas, or cruising sedately on a city street...or stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That means you rarely get to hear the 4.3L V8 at full throttle, which makes for a very sweet tune indeed. But just as impressive was watching Arie at work, making the car sing and dance, sliding into and out of corners, putting the Pirellis to work at the limits of traction. That’s what the Supercar Life program’s all about, finding out what these cars can do, in a safe environment.
These aren't look-but-don't-touch cars. You could pop the hoods, check out the powerplants, and examine them as much as you wanted. All without an angry owner wondering what you were doing, or a salesman over your shoulder.
While a day behind the wheel is not inexpensive (nearly $6,000), we haven’t heard of many places where you can get to drive this many different cars, and push them as hard as you can here, all in one day. Judging by the smiles on the faces of the guys getting out of the cars, there was also no shortage of fun. You can check out the video below for more from Las Vegas, and for more info, check out www.supercarlife.com.