Five For The Drive - World Class Driving US Tour
-by: Barry Green Photos: Dawn Green & Bill Reiss (WCD)
It’s not every day that you get to follow in a two-time Daytona 24 Hour race winner’s tyre tracks. Nor is it every day that you have a Lamborghini LP 560-4 in which to mirror his lines.
But this is not just every day. This is a day at World Class Driving, a real-deal, hands-on experience where you get to open the performance envelope of no less than five current model supercars back-to-back on some of the best driving roads in the US of A. But more on the fine print later, let’s cut to the chase …
The afore-mentioned (recently retired) race ace in the lead car is none other than Didier Theys, an amiable Belgian whose mantelpiece groans under the weight of silverware gathered in Europe and America.
The sun is out, this postcard northern Colorado road is empty, and Didier is setting a swift but savvy pace, extending an invitation to tap into the upper range of the Lambo’s rich vein of torque, if not its manic top end potential.
With 5500-6500 rpm dialled up, the LP560-4 fairly launches out of the canyon’s fast, inviting sweepers, putting its power down in the comprehensively sure-footed way that only an All Paw can.
The flow of info sensed through the steering wheel is detailed and it’s patently obvious that Lamborghini has crafted a chassis that can live with 560 stampeding horses. It’s all good, except for the carbon ceramic brakes. They lack progression, with plenty of bite at the top of the pedal, then deadness, then more bite. Regardless, after about half an hour, the Lambo has won me over with its all-round sheer competence, but by then, it’s time to pull over and swap cars.
We’re a third of the way into this drive of a lifetime, launched from the impressive Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, a salubrious Euro chateau style ski resort atop a privately owned mountain outside Edwards, high in the spine of the Rockies.
The occasion has brought together five driver pairings, mostly the male of the species and his spouse, all aquiver with anticipation of some serious wheel time in the Lambo, Alfa-Romeo 8C Competizione, Ferrari Scuderia, Callaway C16 and Maserati Granturismo. All but the C16 might be well familiar. At the risk of oversimplification, think C6 Corvette, supercharged to the max, decked out in lightweight, custom body and bristling with competition standard suspension, wheels and brakes.
Over coffee, Didier takes the floor to lay down some ground rules which, given the sheer monetary value of the cars at hand, is fair enough. Basically, his one liner to remember is, “Don’t drive them like you stole them, drive them like you own them.”
Then it’s outside for the mandatory happy snaps around the cars, before setting off in convoy. Destination - the quaintly named Steamboat Springs, via a hotbed of snaking, sometimes arrow straight, driving roads; then return to Cordillera.
I’ve laid claim to the 8C first up, a car long lusted over. Just seated behind the wheel, in a world of quality leather, glossy carbon fibre and generously milled aluminium, is rewarding enough. But fire up the 4.7-litre Ferrari-derived V8 and the 8C pays out an even greater dividend. Its wild call is among the most soul stirring to flow from an exhaust pipe, particularly on angry over-run, as I find to my delight in staying with the LP560-4 through some tight and twisty stuff.
The steering, which felt heavy at low speed, weightens oh-so nicely under power and the 8C’s gorgeous, sculpted front arches indicate an eagerness to sniff out every apex. Again, the brakes take some getting used to, revealing a propensity for long travel and soft initial feel. But, make no mistake - the Alfa is a truly engaging, rewarding drive.
With such hard acts to follow, what else but a Scuderia will suffice? Perhaps wisely, given this car’s brilliant race-bred attributes, WCD insists its man, Bill Reiss, should ride shotgun. But rather than hinder as a human handbrake, Bill adds to the driving experience by imparting his intimacies of the Scud and how to get the best out of it.
Take the manettino switch, the car’s G spot, for example. Already set to an adrenalin pumping Sport, Bill lets me dial up Race. This is a veritable ticket to the fun park, allowing full throttle gearshifts that take just a staggering 0.06 seconds. Say again – 0.06 sec. Here’s how it goes: power on, and flat shift at 6000 rpm. Bang, a jolt goes through the car and, before you have time to wince, the tacho needle has soared back to 6000, a red light blinks again on the wheel, and it’s time to go for the hair trigger e-gear paddle. All the while the cabin reverberates with Ferrari V8 on full promise.
Proving it has the whoa to match the go, the Scud possesses an utterly convincing middle pedal with linear bite and sustained stopping power. You can lean on the chassis’ reserves of prodigious grip, but really push hard and the steering hints at a front end edginess. But, hey, it’s more a feel of being alive in your hands, than lack of grip.
Switching to the C16, Didier dispenses some more advice: to fully appreciate this big mutha of a 6.2-litre supercharged motor, leave the shifter in auto and simply surf the copious swell of torque, some 800+ Nm of it. He’s so right.
Someone once wrote of the Callaway’s awesome grunt, “Bury your right foot, the supercharger's air-raid siren howls at full 7.5 psi pitch and the C16 rockets off into the middle of next week.” I wish I had said that, because it’s spot on.
But there’s more than just point-and-squirt to this rowdy American. Throw a curve or S-bend at it and the Callaway surprises with its litheness and ability to turn in keenly and remain balanced all the way through, shifting attitude subtly in response to your right foot, yet clinging on resolutely.
Four down and one to go - the Granturismo. There’s no question that this is one of the most lascivious bodies of modern motoring but, in this hyper company at least, the question is whether the well-heeled Armani might conceal a soul bristling with running spikes.
Err, not quite. Reality is, the magnificent Maser is more beauty than beast. Weighing in at some 1880 kg, this svelte 2+2 coupe trades ultimate performance dynamics for a more practical fusion of long distance capability, class and comfort. It is, after all, a Grand Tourer in the absolute sense of the title.
Back at the ranch we all bask in the camaraderie of the day and swap yarns over lunch. Given our Italian quartet on the drive, a bowl brimming with herbaceous pasta seems fitting fare to wind it all down.
Everyone goes home a winner at WCD. Among a bag of goodies we’re handed by Didier’s daughter, Morgan, is a solid chrome gear shift and traditional sports car gate - a paper weight or hat hook with attitude.
We say fond farewells, saddle up the trusty Dodge Charger hire car and make tracks. Then, with Cordillera fading away in the rear vision mirror, from the car radio – as if on cue - pulses that evocative Little Heroes ‘80’s anthem, One Perfect Day.
Indeed it was.
THE FINE PRINT …
World Class Driving’s US Tour is just that, a roll out of the most up-to-date, highest spec supercars across the country, stopping off at centres that are well worth a visit in themselves. Paramount to the selection of each as a base for pace is the requirement for a labyrinth of great driving roads to be close by, so that these to-die-for machines are able to be in their element.
As well as the five I drove, the WCD fast fleet also includes Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and F430, Ford GT, Audi R8, Lamborghini Superleggera and Mercedes SLR McLaren.
Our high speed run out to Steamboat Springs and back took a tad under three hours, but quality, not quantity, is what this drive is all about. To do the US Tour costs $US1695, not cheap, but where else and how else can you get to drive Full Monty cars like these, one after another, on such cracking good roads?
For the complete WCD US Tour schedule, together with other drive opportunities, prices, licence and insurance requirements and conditions, go to www.worldclassdriving.com
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