Breathlessly tackling Raceway Park’s curves
at not-so-breakneck speeds. BY KEN SCHLAGER
VEN IN THE PARKING lot, you can
hear the throaty roar. But this is
no zoo or animal theme park; this
is Raceway Park in Englishtown, where
the wail emanates from the high-octane
beasts of the Exotic Driving Experience,
billed as an opportunity to tame some of
the world’s dreamiest supercars.
To begin, I am briefed in a trackside
barn with the day’s other participants.
Each of the dozen or so drivers is male;
in fact, about 80 percent of Exotic’s customers are of the hairy-chested gender.
Our instructor, Christian Fittipaldi—
nephew of racing great Emerson Fitti-
runs $295,000 in the showroom but can
be driven in Englishtown for $419. The
other choices: a Porsche 997S (the least
expensive drive at $169); an Audi R8; and
two knife-edged Lamborghinis.
I’m given the white Lamborghini
Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, a low-slung slab of Italian machismo packing
570 horsepower. The Superleggera can
reach 100 mph in 6. 8 seconds; it rolls out
of the showroom at $243,000. My six
laps go for $389.
Fitted with a helmet, I squeeze into
the driver’s seat and meet my instructor, Jason, who will accompany me in
DO I KICK THE TIRES?: New Jersey Monthly editor Ken Schlager prepares to take the wheel of a 570-horsepower Lamborghini Superleggera at the Exotic Driving Experience in Raceway Park.
paldi—explains that the .85-mile track
has braking zones where signs numbered one through five cue you when
to slow your car. Colored cones indicate when to initiate turns and where
to aim the car. Link the cones and you’ll
drive the optimal line. Easy. Except that
at speeds that can approach 100 mph,
things happen very, very fast.
This morning, five cars are available. The marquee attraction is the Ferrari 458 Italia, a curvy little red job that
the passenger seat. The cars all have au-
tomatic transmissions, he explains, but
drivers have the option to shift manu-
ally using the paddles on the steering
wheel. “Of course,” I tell him, “I’ll drive
I touch the gas and the vehicle eases
toward the track, a kidney-shaped layout
of five tight turns and one straightaway.
Communicating through a headset in my
helmet, Jason cues me to go. The key to
success is what Jason calls “ocular driv-
ing technique.” The idea is to look well
down the track to spot the turning cones
in advance. “Turn your head through the
corners,” Jason instructs. “Look ahead.”
Jason calmly guides me through the
turns, which zip into view too fast to
process. In my headset, his voice drones,
“Throttle on, hard brake, hard brake, hard-
er brake, turn in…there you go.”
I speed toward a hairpin left. “Get all
the way to the edge,” Jason says. “Turn
your head, get in here, track all the way
to the edge, turn here. Good, good.”
On my third lap, I hit the straightaway
and mash the accelerator. Grrrowwwww-
wl. I can’t tell my speed (the speedometer
is covered to avoid distraction) but I’m
sure I’m approaching three digits. I’ve
given up shifting; it’s enough just trying
to execute Jason’s instructions.