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World Class Driving

9 March 2000
Novato, CA, USA
My fiancee surprised me and got me a day driving some exotics with World Class Driving while they were in Carmel, CA yesterday. (same weekend as the Concours... thanks for airbnb.com for finding us a last minute place to stay the night before.) What a blast getting to drive cars I've always dreamed about. The biggest surprise I took away from the event was how well my NSX feels in comparison.

The event is basically driving 5 cars for 120 miles. We got lucky and got to drive 6 cars, though the sixth was a duplicate. Since the driving was on street, not every stage was equal. But once we got in the twisty mountains there was ample opportunities to open up some of the cars. My comparisons of the cars won't be fair, since some I had to drive tamely while going through towns, and some I got to drive harder and appreciate more. Every car used flappy paddles and was set to sport mode (except the SLR, which was set to automatic so we wouldn't crash it.) I know everyone complains the new NSX is flappy paddles, but pretty much all supercars these day are as well.

My first car was a Jaguar XKR-S. A nice smooth car to drive. It felt like driving my Audi A6 but with more acceleration and great breaking. I never knew this car existed and how awesome it was (more later.) This stint was mostly slow through town, so I didn't get to fully appreciate it (yet!)

Second car was a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. This car scared the crap out of me at first and was my least liked. The biggest problem was the brakes weren't warmed up and it felt loose to me. I was very nervous in the twisty sections. By the end of the stint the brakes started to heat up and I felt better driving it, but it I did not enjoy the drive. I was always lagging pretty far behind the car in front of me (Jaguar XKR-S) and was scaring myself trying to catch up.

Third was the second Jaguar XKR-S. Almost identical to the first one, but it had a rear spoiler [edit: they both did.] We were in the fast and twisty mountain section and I had no problem driving this car flat out. Power band was really wide and I think I left it in 3rd gear for almost the entire session. This car would make a fantastic daily driver and a great track car for HPDEs.. I was able able to stay glued to the rear of the Lamborghini LP570 in front of me with minimal effort.

Fourth was the Ferrari F430 Coupe. I was really excited to drive this one, but it ended up being the shortest stint of the day and 3/4 of the time driving stop sign to stop sign through a town. I did have one chance to open it up on the straight and got over 100mph. The exhaust was always noisy and w/o much experience driving it, I struggled to know where the shift points were. The Redline section of the tach was covered by the steering wheel. Several drivers said this was their favorite car to drive, but I didn't get to experience it in the slow town driving.

Fifth was the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Spyder Performante. What a car! I absolutely fell in love with driving this car. It was very similar to the LP560, but I had so much confidence driving it. Halfway through the stint I realized it felt like I was driving my NSX, but with more power. The brakes were warm and felt great, though they still required a lot of pressure (unlike the the Jaguar where you just *think* slow-down and twitch your little toe and the car has come to stop instantly.) The handling was also great and reminded me of my NSX (with after-market upgrades.) I didn't want to get out of this car. Sadly I looked up the price for this puppy... ugh... don't think I can afford one (but that XKR-S and it's lesser sibling the XKR is priced quite nicely). After I finished this stint the guy following me ran up to me and said how much fun he had chasing me.

Last car was the Mercedes-McLaren SLR. The expensive car with 750 HP! You sit low and you can barely see over the dash, sort of what I figured a Viper feels like to sit in. The engine sound is also huge like an old muscle car. Unfortunately, this was a slow stint so I don't think I ever got over 50mph in it and no hard accelerations at all. It did behave great in the city driving. With 750hp I was scared I'd fish tail, but it was really easy to handle.

Favorite car by a mile was the LP570 and the the XKR-S was a solid second. I give the F430 third, but wonder if with more time it would have placed higher.

Over all I had blast and would recommend anyone to go do it. Afterwards I had a real appreciation for the NSX. I never got to drive any of these cars at their full potential, but the taste I got was great. They also have track sessions in Las Vegas where you can do 7 laps in any car you choose. I might go do that with some friends in the future. I want to try their 458 Italia, but then, I loved the LP570 and I might get the most fun from that.

I'd also like to say our instructor, and lead car driver, was Roland Linder and he was great. Since there were 8 drivers signed up, there were 2 stints where you drive passenger, so we rode with Roland in the lead car.

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I've done WCD three times with different cars each time. It's great to experience 5-6 different supercars back to back. Two of my drives they planned out in the middle of nowhere, without traffic, and we were able to get each car up to 130+, racing side by side and through twisties. Several times I was even racing the pace vehicle. I drove the NSX to one event and parked it by their trailer. All the driver's were excited thinking they got to drive an NSX. My Brother-in-Law and I ran out of gas in their Gallardo...you should have heard us explaining to a cop that pulled up that we didn't have the title or registration because it wasn't our car. :redface:

It's an awesome time and I highly recommend the experience.

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Nice pics, Tim! Are you thinking about replacing your NSX with any of those cars? Hope not.

BTW thanks for the airbnb.com mention, looks like a cool site and I might use it for my trip to/from NSXPO. :)
Just bought a new house, so it will be a few years before I do any car buying. My Audi payments should end when the new NSX is out, so I'll evaluate things then. But, even then, I'll keep my current NSX.
so what is the slr all about,alway wondered what driving something with that long a snout was like.