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Pedal to the Metal at Exotics Racing
August, 2016 - Issue #142

To say the world moves fast at 90 miles per hour is redundant.

But as I pointed the Porsche Cayman GTS toward the first turn of the race course at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, two upright cones told me I had a lot to do, and not much time to do it.

Brake hard. Downshift. Turn the wheel. Find the exit cone. And listen to Riley.

Riley was my driving instructor from Exotics Racing. As their name implies, the company gives regular guys the chance to drive cars that usually belong to tech moguls and oil barons.

A professional driver himself, Riley's official duty was to coach me around the 1.2-mile track and help me wring as much performance out of the $75,000 sports car as possible. But I think we both knew job number one was to keep me from turning the Cayman into an insurance claim.

The track is wide and flat, and with eight turns, you can only go so fast. But it would be easy to lose control on a corner. Or not pay attention when someone is passing. Besides the Cayman, Exotics can get you behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R, Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrarri F430, McLaren 570s, Audi R8 or any one of a number of other super cars that may be on the track at the same time.

So before your foot hits the pedal at Exotics Racing, you've got some learning to do. Classroom first, then Cayman. The experience begins with a crash course in the art of cornering. It's a lesson in applied physics as you learn how to use the brakes, transmission and steering to shift the car's weight to maintain traction, and most important, speed, through the turns.
The diagram on the poster at the front of the room breaks it down step by step and explains what you should be doing when you see the different cones on the track. Next, the video pieces it together into one motion. And finally, you get to see it first hand on your two Discovery Laps.

That's when you climb in a Porsche Cayenne to watch a professional driver do it and feel the car respond at speed. I didn't know an SUV could take corners that fast. True, it's a Porsche. But still, it seemed the laws of physics were somehow suspended for the SUV carrying four adult men through the corners at ridiculous speeds.

And then it was my turn. Safety is Exotics' first priority, so we donned the necessary equipment. Hair net. Check. Helmet. Affirmative. The helmets are rentals, so yeah, I guess hair nets are a good idea.

I folded myself into the driver's seat and then stretched out. The Cayman was surprisingly roomy. I started the car and it pulsed to life. While it idled, Riley reviewed everything covered in class.

I slipped the Cayman into gear, headed for the track and seemingly left behind everything I had learned. But that's OK. Riley patiently reminded me of everything speed made me forget.

The first lap was a little jerky, but things improved incrementally on laps two through five when I followed his instructions. I was just starting to anticipate the cues and respond accordingly when it was time to bring the Cayman back to the pits.

We parked, and then watched the video of my performance. I didn't set any records, but I did manage to shave three seconds off my initial lap time.

With the fun over for the day, April and I headed for the parking lot. I was still trying to wrap my head around the instructions and how to smoothly process them behind the wheel. But now I had way more time to think about it.

Things don't move nearly as fast in a minivan.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, where he parks his daily driver, a four-cylinder fun machine.

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