THE XTREME XPERIENCE IS TOTALLY WORTH IT
First things first, I have to thank my fiance for this opportunity. She booked, planned and allowed me the chance to race around a closed circuit the day before her own birthday. So a special thank you to her.
WHAT IS THE XTREME XPERIENCE?
Like most other track days with supercars, Xtreme Xperience gives ordinary people the chance to drive some of the best performing cars currently available. After going through the proper process, i.e. signing up online and paying the small fee of a couple hundred dollars, you show up to the track hosting the event and get ready to not race. Very important that part, this is not a racing event. That doesn't mean that you're forbidden from passing other drivers and giving your super car of choice the business.
At the front gate, the staff is friendly and enthusiastic. They are there so you can have a good time. Plus they get to work with Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Posrsches and Mclarens all day. That would put a smile on anyone's face. You're then given a pass for complete access to the pits where others are waiting to load themselves into their own supercars and are told when your class will begin. Waiting for the class, the sounds of various supercars rocketing by foreshadows the coming events. Everyone is excited and in it for a good time. That's the bottom line. Supercars, speed and people who enjoy the thrill of it all.
The class itself is short and sweet. Headed by a charismatic teacher, each aspect of regular track driving is explained. Where and when to accelerate, brake, how to turn in and where to hit the apexes are all highlighted. Various hand signals are also explained to help you navigate the track as quickly as possible. Closed fist means brakes, with a few punches downward meaning you should be braking a little more. Hand facing up at an angle means lift off the throttle and pointing to either the left or right signals you to head to each respective side of the track. A point straight forward means you have the all clear for liftoff. The fast kind of liftoff.
During the class, the drivers are given the option for a sighting lap in one of the Chevy SS lead cars. Its well worth it. Taking a few laps around the circuit helps exponentially with your understanding of the track and the behavior the supercar you'll soon be piloting. After two mildly slow laps going through the motions, the driver of the lead car then guns it and shows you what is possible if you really know what you're doing. Its completely insane and one of the best things I've experienced.
Now to the good part.
For my first ever experience in a supercar, my fiance wanted to start me in an Audi R8 V10. Unfortunately, the R8 wasn't available. Being the accommodating people they are, the people over at Xtreme Xperience placed me in a Porsche 911 GT3 instead. Nothig to complain about I think. So that was that, my own 500 horsepower Porsche was set for the day. Finished in silver with blue painted Porsche wheels and bright yellow brake calipers behind, the stock Porsche GT3 was a sight to behold. I've seen Turbos and Carreras, but this one was mine to drive. That simple fact made it all the more alluring. And it was one of the better ones.
Stepping into the Porsche, one thing struck me immediately. The steering wheel was absurdly small. Ludicrously tiny in my hands. I didn't realize they made steering wheels this small. I'd find out that the size was perfect for what the GT3 is meant for. Wrapped in Alcantara, it was one of the most exquisite things I've ever had the pleasure of touching. Looking around the cabin, seeing the chrome, soft-touch material in the dash and feeling the chrome plated pedals with my feet, I noticed something.
The sport suspension setting was on. This was something I didn't expect. In the class they advised us not to use the paddles to shift gears, as to avoid distraction from the track itself. That decision I can respect. With automatics being the norm, I wouldn't believe that most people are aware of their place in the rev range. But the sport suspension was activated. The people at Xtreme mean business I suppose. I would have predicted the stock GT3 with no extra modes attached. I'm glad they expect a little more from their participants.
I introduced myself to the teacher in the passenger seat, explained that I had no previous track experience and we set out. Following a white Lamborghini Huracan, we rolled out towards the first corner of the track. A small squeeze of the throttle and we were off.
Startling. That's the word I'd use for every experience and visceral feeling I had during my short three laps. The responsiveness from the 4.0 flat-six was enamoring. I've never felt anything like it before. Just a wave of forward motion. Next was the steering. Heavy and connected. I knew exactly where the wheels were pointed 100% of the time. There was no second guessing.
Weaving through the first set of corners onto a sweeping left handed bend and squeeze the throttle again. A little harder, push a little further. The noise that came from the exhaust was ungodly. V10s and V8s were all around me, but the flat-six again proved its point by yelling at me with all it had. I was no where near the redline and found myself partially deafened. The windows were also open so that allowed more noise in.
Slam on the brakes and into a sharp right turn uphill to a crest. At this point the instructor then spoke to the other instructor in the Ferrari 488 two cars ahead. "Yellow Ferrari pass for two". I have never been good at math but I was able to piece this together. There was the Ferrari, a white Huracan behind and then myself in tow. He wanted me to pass another car.
We get through the turn and work our way into the uphill bend. This is where the instructor points dead straight. Floor it. More noise and a slight tsunami of fear as we approached and crested the hill. Now facing a sharp carousel, by copilot put a fist down. Hard brake and feel the bank carry you through the bend back uphill. Working uphill, the Ferrari signals for us to pass on the inside of the next right-hander. We push past and work our way through the next corner. Looking like a very familiar downhill corner in California, I was told to apply a little bit of brake. Yeah right, a little bit of brake and a lot of shit in my pants.
Surviving the now second downhill section, there's two more corners to the main straight. Staying wide and wrestling the GT3 into each corner, I work my way to the main straight and further onto the throttle. Showtime.
My teacher points straight forward. This is the big moment. The straight running past the pits where everyone will not-so-silently judge the size of your fortitude. Foot hard down. Speed and utter deafening screaming from the flat-six. First lap done and two more to go and improve. Cornering faster, following better lines, staying on the throttle where I had lifted off previously. I was getting better. The smile of pure joyous stupidity had vanished, replaced with the stark face of concentration. I was getting into it.
And just like that, it was over. Three laps gone. All that speed. All that sound. This little Porsche had made a lasting impression on my psyche. The Porsche GT3 went from a car I respected to one I coveted.
The Xtreme Xperience crew have their priorities in line. They know what people want when they step into a supercar. It should be loud, fast and make them feel like a hero. They deliver that in spades. While short, the three laps in your own supercar makes a lasting impression. As we all may know, there's nothing like the screaming wail of a supercar. If you want something professionally and enthusiastically run, you'd be hard pressed to do worse.
Overall cost: Around $250
Cost for lead lap: Additional $50
On-board video: $50