There are lots of ways to spend money that make you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack, and a supercar track experience is high on that list. For fast fun, speed, and thrills at the wheel that are daunting, scary, entertaining, and memorable all at once – you can visit a racetrack and drive the dream car of your choice. Fast. Really, really fast.
In Canada, a variety of supercar track experiences are available, with even more on offer at various locations south of the border.
If you’d like very much to hear an exotic, big-power engine at full song for real-lifesies, or feel the euphoria of 600-plus horsepower slam-plowing you into your seat while your brains turn into ooze, a supercar track experience is a great way to do it – especially if you don’t happen to have $300,000 laying around for a new Lamborghini or McLaren.
Supercar track experiences are popular with folks on vacation, or as part of special occasions, or fun weekends away. They promise to put average folks behind the wheel of very-above-average cars for a joyous thrill-ride dosed out (and priced) on a per-lap basis.
Greg van Dalen is the Business Development Manager at the One More Lap supercar experience, based out of Calabogie Motorsports Park in Ontario.
“Our clients can be virtually anyone,” he says. “Anyone seeking an adrenaline rush, or a chance to experience a car they may never own, or checking off a bucket list item, or maybe testing something out they might want to buy one day. Our clients are all looking for an exciting experience, and they leave with a great big smile.”
If you’re planning to partake in a supercar track experience in the near future, read on for a look at what to expect, the questions to ask, and some tips and advice to help maximize the enjoyment of your time and money. We’ll also take a quick look at performance driving courses, which can help scratch the itch to build your performance driving skillset.
Choose your dream ride
Enjoy yourself. If you’re dead set on driving a certain model you’ve lusted after for years, or a car from your favourite Italian, German, American, or Japanese brand – pick it. Remember: you’re spending hundreds of dollars for a few laps and an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.
“When customers only have a few laps, they tend to gravitate towards the unattainable. It’s a ‘go big or go home’ mentality,” van Dalen says.
Most of van Dalen’s customers select the car they want to drive and reserve it ahead of time.
Many supercar track experiences offer a full menu of high-performance cars, for maximum choice. Any of the cars on the menu will treat drivers to a stirring experience full of intense sounds and sensations.
Or be open-minded, for more options
Not everyone is dead-set on a particular car to use at a supercar track experience – and if you’re open to suggestions, you may want to consider skipping the Aventador or Z06, and going with something a little tamer.
There’s an old adage that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow – meaning that, for some, the right car isn’t the one with the biggest power and torque figures, or the fastest 0–100km/h stat.
A 300 horsepower Porsche Cayman can be a more thrilling drive than a 600 horsepower Dodge Viper for many, depending on tastes and confidence levels. It’s not horsepower output that makes a car great – and some cars are better than others at thrilling first-timers, by inspiring the confidence needed to push the car harder.
Further, given the basics of supply and demand, you’ll likely be able to rent the less-powerful models for less money – leaving more room in your wallet for some additional laps and even more memories.
Rick Morelli is a professional performance driving instructor with Ontario-based Driveteq.ca. He comments, “Supercar experiences sometimes provide a sampling of vehicles with somewhat different attributes. Ask your host to comment on those special attributes so you can maximize your experience. For example, a less-powerful supercar with superior handling attributes may be just as much or more fun than a missile in a straight line.”
The gist? If you’re not dead-set on any model in particular, don’t dismiss lower-powered cars off the bat – they’re often cheaper to rent, easier to push, and may connect more readily with a novice driver.
Rear- or all-wheel drive
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Does rear- or all-wheel drive matter? In the context of squeezing maximum thrills out of a few laps, the answer is, sort of. Many factors are at play, and some AWD-equipped supercars are more demanding to drive than some rear-wheel-drive machines, and vice versa.
In simple terms, in the context of an average off-the-street driver, opting for an AWD model can be a great idea, for two reasons.
First, you’ll likely be able to apply more power earlier as you exit corners on the track, meaning you’ll spend more time working the car harder. Second, in many situations where AWD enhances traction, it effectively removes a layer of thinking and processing for the driver – meaning less mental capacity is required to manage vehicle acceleration against available grip, allowing the driver to focus more on the experience.
All said, a car with all-wheel drive may be easier to push, and easier to be thrilled by, but many factors are at play. Don’t think about this too hard, if you’re trying to decide on a vehicle.
Listen to your instructor
At your supercar track experience, an instructor will sit shotgun with you at all times, providing instructions that must be followed precisely. The instructor’s job is to help you have a great experience, but also, to keep you, them, and the vehicle safe.
“Our instructions are serious, with a focus on safety and being smooth, but not overwhelming drivers where they forget everything you just told them,” van Dalen says.
Come mentally prepared for high speed and a lot of noise, but moreover, come prepared to listen to – and obey – your instructor, precisely. Follow their instructions to a T, and you’ll make them more confident in your ability to listen and react, which makes for faster and more entertaining laps.
If you want to learn more
At a priced-per-lap rental racetrack event, your primary take-away is a thrill ride, not a driving lesson – and you’ll leave the event with an experience, not a new driving skill. Want to learn more about driving fast, or build some performance driving skills? Most supercar track experiences can hook you up with some high-quality performance driving lessons.
“For high-performance driving education, we send customers to the Calabogie Mustang Experience,” van Dalen says. “Here, drivers get much more seat time, with a focus on becoming a smoother and faster driver. The cars are race-prepped and offer the race car experience, with a racing seat, harness, full roll cage and the like.”
Whereas a supercar track experience crams as much speed and fun as possible into a few laps, performance driving courses – like the Calabogie Mustang Experience, or those offered by manufacturers and groups like Driveteq.ca – team drivers up with an instructor in a learning environment, lowering the speeds and building skill levels with professional instruction, every step of the way.
If you’d like to learn more about performance driving, either before or after your supercar track experience, ask about professional driving instruction.
In his years with Driveteq.ca (which focuses less on supercar rental experiences and more on driver training), Rick Morelli has seen many former supercar track experience customers get in touch to build their skill levels as a driver.
“Pay attention to what you loved about your supercar experience, because on occasion, individuals find that it’s actually the driving that turned their crank just as much as the car. A performance driving experience may be calling you, and for that, you don’t need a supercar! After all, driving a car fast and well can be even more rewarding than just driving a fast car.”
Get a ride-along
Some supercar experiences offer a ride-along, where you sit shotgun, typically drooling, as an instructor pushes the rocket-propelled plaything of your choice to its limits. Ask the organizers of the experience you’re attending if this is a possibility: it’s one thing to drive the machine yourself, and another to see the machine being pushed in the hands of a skilled instructor. If you really, really want to see what the machine can do, be sure to seek out a ride-along with an instructor at the wheel.
WARNING: you may require a bib.
Practice on the street
No. Don’t go ripping skids in your cul-de-sac – or anywhere else for that matter. But do know that you can do a few things to get in the rhythm before you hit the track.
Practicing a few performance driving basics on the street in the weeks and months before your visit to a supercar track experience can help improve safety, confidence, and enjoyment of the event – not to mention making you a better driver on the daily.
Learn to drive in as upright a position as you can, since your seating position sets the stage for you to be more stable in your seat, and also allows for proper vision. The proper driving position for performance driving is typically as upright as comfortably possible, no slouching, and no leaning back, gangster-style. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to rest your wrists on the top of the steering wheel, while keeping your shoulder blades in contact with the seatback.
From the basis of an upright and alert driving position, practice keeping your eyes trained far up the road and letting your peripheral vision centre your vehicle within its lane. Be aware of where your eyes like to rest as you drive. Most drivers look only a few car lengths ahead, when they should be looking for the farthest point of the road ahead that they can see.
It’s a tough habit for many to break, but practice makes perfect. Think “steer with your chin”, or turning your head in the direction you’re steering, just as you dial in a steering input. The more of the road ahead you see, the smoother and more confident a driver you’ll become.
Finally, learn to be smooth on the controls (throttle, brakes, steering), and operate each of these in a gentle, linear fashion. Stabbing and thrashing at the controls might look pretty fantastic in a scene from Baby Driver, but in real life, this slows you down and can cause a dangerous loss of control. Whenever you tell the car to do something, via the steering, brakes, or throttle, you should do so with consistent smoothness.
Once you’ve decided on a track-day experience, be sure to get the details. Can you use your own camera equipment to record your experience from the cockpit? Does the organizer sell a video package?
Is lunch available? Beverages? After all, driving fast is exhausting work, and you’ll want to be properly nourished and hydrated.
Dress appropriately, especially when it comes to footwear. Bulky shoes or boots can be problematic, and if you happen to own a set of race-car driving shoes, remember that wearing them to drive a street-legal car is typically a bad idea. For most drivers, a good set of comfortable, properly fitting running shoes or sneakers are ideal.
Also, be sure to arrive well rested, so you can dedicate 100 percent of your mental capacity to the vehicle, your instructor, and taking in the experience.
Note that some supercar experiences offer on-road drives for shoppers who aren’t dead set on driving on a racetrack. If a more leisurely pace is your cup of tea, numerous options are available for short-term supercar rentals, and even group supercar cruises.
Be sure to understand what’s required from an insurance standpoint before you arrive, and confirm that insurance is included in your price – or find out the cost if it isn’t.
Finally, and ask about package discounts. There may be opportunities to get a better supercar track experience deal if you book a package with multiple people, or for customers who want to do many laps across a variety of different cars.
Some great cars
Not sure which car to choose? If you’re open to suggestions, we advise machines that make it easy to drive fast, inspire confidence, and are less likely to overwhelm first-time track drivers. Our top picks for great first-time track cars include models like the Audi R8, Porsche Cayman, Nissan GT-R, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Jaguar F-Type, Ford Mustang GT, Honda Civic Type R, and Chevrolet Corvette.