Ferrari only built 499 F430 Scuderia Spyder 16Ms and they cost just over a quarter of a million dollars these days. And one just passed me in my $1,500 VW Baja Bug.
I was a guest of the Signature Car Collection’s Track Experience held at Pocono Raceway a few weekends back. SCC is an exotic car rental agency (here is SCC’s website and info on their track experience is right here), and they’ve recently started having track events where you can run laps in Ferraris, Maseratis, or Lamborghinis.
It’s a surprisingly well-organized event with a competitive price and a great atmosphere. How great of an atmosphere? They let me take my slightly rusty, once-rolled, offroad-spec 1973 Volkswagen Baja Bug on the track.
(Full Disclosure: Signature Car Club wanted me to review their Track Experience so much, they let me take my crapcan of a Volkswagen to their $500 track experience at Pocono Raceway. Everyone there couldn’t have been nicer, from their photographer to their instructors to their event coordinators to the other drivers to the owners to the...you get the idea.)
My Baja Bug differs in several ways from a regular Beetle: the suspension is raised (not good for the track) and softened (also not good for the track), it has a less aerodynamic body that gets unstable at high speed (you’re starting to see a trend here), and it runs on truck tires (track-ready they are not). On the plus side, the engine is more powerful than standard. I would guess it has all of 60 horsepower.
This would be the first time that I’d ever driven on a racetrack, and I would be doing it in a car built for sand dunes, not late-apex sweepers. To say that I was nervous doesn’t begin to cut it. I was convinced the car wouldn’t pass tech inspection, I was sure I would forget which way the track went, and I was sure I would careen off course, dig a wheel into the dirt, and roll at speed. I hardly slept the night before and I was sweating bullets as I lined up behind an M5, an M3, a GT-R, and Integra Type R.
What was it like? Awful. Spectacularly, amazingly awful.
A good track car is all about maximizing traction. My car wouldn’t even keep all of its tires on the ground. I could feel the front left wheel hanging in the air on the fast left-handers and the guys behind me saw me bounce onto just two wheels in the bumpiest corner.
I managed to get one of SCC’s driving instructors (the surprisingly fearless Chris Keller) to give me some advice. We agreed he’d drive a few laps, then we’d switch seats and he’d give me pointers on my racing line. I figured I’d time his lap, and precisely 29 seconds after I hit the stopwatch he went for the brakes at the end of the back straight going into a hairpin to find that the pedal was resting on the floor. No brakes.
I still have no idea how we stayed on the road. I remember bounding over a bunch of curbs, a lot of tire squeal, a lot of sliding through the hairpin, and coasting back to the pits.
If that wasn’t enough to convince me that Chris was by far the greatest driver I’d ever seen (clearly beating some young German who drive me around New Jersey one time), Chris actually agreed to get back in the car after that no-brakes incident, this time with me driving.