Even after years in the automotive industry, I still get excited when I see a Ferrari or Lamborghini pass me – and I still dream of the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an exotic car and really see what it’s all about. Well, dream no more…at least when it comes to the Ferrari F430 Scuderia, a vehicle I used to drool over and dream about while watching episodes of Top Gear. That’s right, I’ve finally had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this exhilarating supercar and take it out on a track to push it to its limits. And the best part? You can enjoy the fun as well!
Fittipaldi Exotic Driving is a relatively new company, offering driving experiences at MSR Houston, Texas Motor Speedway, and Driveway Austin, that will let you do just this. They have a variety of cars and a great group of instructors to help you understand the car and how to safely drive such a powerful vehicle on the track.
Fittipaldi Exotic Driving was founded by Bill Scott and backed by racing legend Christian Fittipaldi. Christian has competed in various forms of motorsport including Formula One, Champ Car and NASCAR. He’s a highly regarded driver who has participated in 43 Formula One races – for both Minardi and Footwork – between 1992 and 1994. The crew Fittipaldi had on site at TMS was comprised of older and younger racing drivers from all over. They really knew their stuff, but also knew how to be fun and keep the time you had with them interesting.
On the day of the drive my son Denilson and I got up early and headed out of Forney, Texas toward Texas Motor Speedway – a good 90-minute drive. Denilson does a lot of photography for TXGARAGE and, like many other 16-year old boys, loves exotic cars. Although he couldn’t drive a car (you must be 18), he was able to take a ride in a car with one of the professional racing drivers.
Once we made it to TMS we checked in at the desk sitting in the pit garage and commenced to drool over the cars being staged. At the time of this writing, you could choose from a selection of five cars. On the lower end, and less expensive when buying a package, is a Nissan GT-R and a Porsche 911 Carrera S. On the higher end is a Lamborghini Superleggera and a pretty rare Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni. Then you have the one I decided to drive – a lifelong favorite – the Ferrari F430 Scuderia. And there was one other car sitting out there; we’ll get to that in a bit.
First, let’s jump into this stunning Ferrari. The interior, being a Scuderia, was stripped out to make the car as light as possible. Sliding into the racing seat was actually easier than I thought it would be. Behind my head, a 4.3-liter V8 sits, pushing 503 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque with a screaming redline of 8500 rpm. All of the weight savings puts the Scuderia in at under 3,000 pounds, versus the 3,351-lbs of the production car. Putting that all into an experience on the road is hard to put into words, but just know it’s like nothing you’ve driven before. During other events, I’ve enjoyed cars like the SRT Viper, Nissan GT-R, Jaguar F-Type and many others on this same track, and I can definitely say the Ferrari stands above the crowd.
I was the first one out on the track, so as we eased in from pit road it was pedal down for the first straight away and before you knew it, time to slam on those brakes while watching your line setup for the first corner. The instructors are good about teaching you where you need to be (and where you need to be looking) to effectively hit the apex and keep as much speed as possible. Coming out of the first turn you’re able to gain a bit more speed before a slight tap of the brakes and easing into a nice S-turn. Flowing out of that turn and keeping tight on the left-hand side of the track you approach, and brake for, the sweeping back corner. If you hit your lines right here there’s a small kink in the track you can fly through and get some real speed heading back into the front straight. That was fun, so repeat the process five more times, trying to improve upon your line, speed, and smoothness each time.
After pulling back into the pits with your heart pumping and adrenaline clouding your head, it’s time to park the car and reflect on your experience as you’re presented with your best lap time, a memory card with an in-car driving video, and a photo of you and the car. Honestly, it was all over way too quickly; I wanted to get back out there and dive some more, which you can if you’re up for paying a small additional fee. But I had a great experience and it was well worth the price to have this chance of a lifetime.
Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said there was an extra car sitting outside of the pits, one not available to drive but looking amazing, nevertheless? This was a Porsche race car built from the ground up on the Cayman platform to be an all-out racer. This was likely the most expensive – and definitely the fastest – of the cars staged that day, and this was the car Denilson was able to ride shotgun in with a pro driver behind the wheel. He suited up in a full fire suit and racing helmet, climbed through the massive roll-cage and buckled into the harness. Off they went roaring down the track, making everyone else look just ridiculous. I thought my experience was over way too quickly, but this car was so fast, Denilson’s was over in the blink of an eye. Even though that was the case he came back in grinning from ear to ear, and I knew it was well worth it for him as well.
At the end of the day, we both had a blast and I finally have an experience I’ve dreamt about for years. For that, I would pay just about anything. Everyone at Fittipaldi was nice, professional and encouraging, and I’m proud to recommend this company to anyone looking for the same experience.
Check out more about Fittipaldi at drivefittipaldi.com