I have had the good fortune of training via Skip Barber Racing School and Master Maserati School, and driven various things on various tracks in various countries. My personal car is a blown C6 Vette, about 650 HP, set up for road racing, and I take it to the track 2 or 3 times a year. I am not a professional race car driver, but I am not bad either. For those of you who actually know how to track a car, this review is for you.
"Drive a Ferrari" was on the bucket list. My future daughter-in-law was talking about planning the wedding down at Disney World. They wanted me to come along for the day. I graciously declined, it wasn't my money, wasn't my wedding, just tell me where and when to show up, which Dwarf to dress up like, and I'm there. After nagging a bit, she gets a twinkle in her eye and says, "They have a racetrack down there . . ." She knows me TOO well.
So I do my hunting online, discover WDW Speedway, it's a real racetrack, used for real races on occasion. A mite small at a one mile tri-oval, but not bad. The choices are NASCAR, Indy Cars, or Exotic. I've done Richard Petty before, a great program. I'd want to drive Indy cars on a bigger track, to get more speed. So exotics it was.
Me, I'm about going fast, not which is prettiest. The two Ferraris are clearly the big dogs. Neither have the horse or power/weight ratio of my Vette, but I'm sure they are still damn quick and wonderful handling cars. The two Ferraris, the 430 Scuderia and the 458 Italia, have virtually identical performance numbers, as the Scuderia is set up for racing, so less weight. So I take the Scuderia, save a couple hundred dollars. I sign up for ten laps, might as well get what I can.
I have done lots of these type of "schools" before, so I know what to expect. A very minimal chalk talk of the track. Find out how they are going to keep amateurs from killing themselves or others. Wait. It's good to be patient.
As I was a ten lapper, I was going last. Fine by me, let me watch some others run. What is readily apparently is who has had training and who has not. The drive around the first two thirds of a lap anyone can do easily enough. The infield portion does the separating. The driving line is very technical, and takes precision to do quickly. I watched one gent doing some good laps in the GTR, and when he was done asked to see his time sheet. His best was in the 57 second range, with a top speed of 120. So, a target to shoot for.
When I finally got my turn, got in the car, met the ride-along, and we quickly chatted about my experience level. He seemed to take it OK. You could tell he was thinking, well, if you say so. I think he wanted to see in action. We rolled out to the start line, waited, and the radio went buzzy. Sigh, so back to the pits, change out batteries, and back out. As others have said, they limit speed on the first straight section leading to a big turn, and you can see why, as most folks have no idea about driving lines, threshold braking, trail braking when coming in too hot, on and on. So I couldn't really fault them for that. The wall looked like it was probably hurt.
About two-thirds of the way around the turn, the ride-along says "Hit it", and we floor it and off we go. Blow it up to big speed, then hard on the brakes to prepare to enter the infield. They had markers numbers up to six to mark the braking zone. I was guessing that #6 was likely double the distance needed to stop. In fact, what I found out was that about halfway to #5 was about as far as I could wait, even with threshold braking, to get it shut down sufficiently to make the turn. Maybe the bigger skins on the Lambo could go deeper. And of course the ride-along was ADAMANT that I had to be on the brakes at the Six. Made for an awkward stopping-too-early position a couple times. Just off the brakes for a instant or two while coming in cleaned that up.
As I said earlier, very technical infield. They have cones set at turn-in and apex (some VERY late apexes). They have rumble strips, I suppose to keep folks from just running over the cones. I just tapped the rumbles the first time through, he said Nah, miss those. So a few inches off thereafter. At the end of the infield section, a very short straight patch then back out on the big track. The ride-along was VERY observant of keeping speed somewhere around 75 in the first section, every time.
After a couple laps learning the line, started pushing it. Shaved off a second a lap pretty easily, though the ride-along was NOT going to let me go find the edge of the envelope. But I was still doing 80-90% of the max, and on a Ferrari with its computerized suspension, that is a LOT of g loading. I loved that the car had a real racing seat, so no sliding around. But I never had the tires squalling. Never heard ANYONE out there getting them squalling.
On lap 8, floor it coming out of the big turn, and the engine revs then just drops to idle. It's not my fault!! We slowly roll it back to the pits, and the ride-along tells one of the helpers the Traction Control arfed again. We hop out, and as I'd paid for ten laps, he said come on, let's grab the Italia. He said not many folks get to drive both, see what you think, see the differences, etc. Where the 430 is all business in the cockpit, the 458 is all lux. VERY nice.
So we roll it out, get in a practice lap to get the feel, then two hard laps. Blasting out of the corner, like driving my Vette, gotta hold onto the wheel to keep from flying around the cockpit. Gotta be up around 1 g. Fuuuuun.
Afterwards, looked at the numbers. I pulled a 57 second run in both of the Ferraris. The 430 had a best speed of 125, the 458 hit 128. I'm sure with a bit more flogging there was another second or two out there, and of course driving the first straight with acceleration and braking into the corner would shave a bit of time (its pretty short, actually). But they were not going for that, and I can understand that. But it really was enjoyable. Still had to work to get to even that 90% mark. Ten laps is really quick to try to dial in a new car on a new track. I'd imagine for folks who aren't used to driving really powerful lightweight cars, it's gotta be pretty mind-blowing. 5.5lbs/HP is not common.
For comparison, I drove an Audi R8 (big engine, AWD) on the F1 track in Dubai, and they DID let me whack the edge of the envelope repeatedly. But that ain't America. For this country, I imagine this is the best you'll get for just renting a Ferrari. At $60/lap, I am pleased. Everyone was polite and helpful, they recognize its an "experience", very customer service oriented.
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