No Longer in Park:
Hot Lapping with Hagerty
It was just past 8:00 in the morning when I arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel Resort in Irving. A seasonal head cold was storming the beach on my immune system, making me feel hungover without any haze to fall back on. I had no idea what this motoring event was. A very vague description was my only lead: racetrack, classic, and Hagerty. I was on the phone within minutes to get my name on to the list, and here I was.
My mood shifted gears when I entered the Four Seasons lobby. The college-age valet triggered memories of the winter I spent working at a Marriott, parking Platinum Denali Power Wagons with a convincing smile and fishing for tips. That was my last regular job before I started knocking on doors to pursue a vague dream of becoming an auto writer. The last six years rushed by as the front door was held open.
The short walk from the lobby to the pavilion was spent admiring the resort’s various pools connected via a lazy river. Ice blue water in sunrise lighting had me savoring for a fruit-based cocktail and naps without worry. The sight of a white Rolls Royce Ghost at the entrance of the Four Seasons pavilion quickly pulled me out of my tropical daydream.
Industrial A/C sliced through me as I entered the pavilion. A donut bar stood center stage, boasting all the fixings needed to create a breakfast rivaling an IHOP menu. To the right was a coffee station with well-dressed men waiting to take your order, the most polite caffeine slingers I had ever met. One of them admires my watch and compliments it, his Colgate smile blurring the line between sincere and synthetic. Not that it mattered, because my watch is fool’s gold from Amazon. The Rolls Royce emblem was printed in foam on my coffee. I ask how they did that and gestured towards the coffee printer machine. A product of imagination engineered.
This was a Hagerty Lunch & Laps event, a chance for car enthusiasts to meet and drive their cars to a racetrack. It combines car meets, cruising, and creating “bomb” photo opportunities with your sports car. The meeting point was the Four Seasons Hotel, but then our convoy of exotic and vintage sports cars would get a police escort out of Irving to our destination – Eagle Canyon Raceway. Concern over the bill on the 2019 Mazda 6 AWD media car I self-parked at this high society clubhouse came to mind. A chance to ride in a vintage sports car, in a police escort, to a racetrack put my concern on layaway. Hagerty introduced me to Fred Howell; he was taller than me and noticed the vintage era Ferrari ball cap immediately.
Mr. Fred, as I referred to him, owns a 1988 BMW M5 E28, and had agreed to drive me to Eagle’s Canyon. It was going to be an hour-long ride in one of the most iconic driving enthusiast cars ever made. The sports sedan! Hell, Tom Cruise featured a green E28 M5 in the latest Mission Impossible Fallout movie, doing some very classic stunt driving. I was excited.
The M5 was the only BMW in our convoy. The sedan stood tall, showing off its 133,000 miles of gradual wear and tear with honor amongst late-model McLarens, a Batmobile Lamborghini, and pristine Porsches. No A/C in the M5, but that didn’t matter; the weather was cool as autumn dawned, and we still had a few hours before the full wrath of the sun.
Irving’s Finest showed green lights all the way as we were escorted out of town. Motorcycle cops passing the baton at intersections to allow our rolling parade of envy to pass, downshifting onto the on-ramp and merging into traffic. The convoy spreads out amongst concrete lanes, recreating a parody of Cannonball Run. Different routes split us, with the McLarens hitting the afterburners in the fast lane – doing what supercars do best. The M5 hangs behind a modern Porsche 911 Carrera, which becomes our Interstate guide. Two Jaguar E-type sisters supplied sugar-rush levels of eye candy. (Those cars are almost too pretty to drive… almost.)
Off the highway and into the maze of two-lane blacktop that covers most of Texas. Fred is in good spirits throughout the drive, saying things like, “I’ve haven’t driven this fast in years”, and “the BMW has a little vibration at 90 mph.” Fred knew how to drive. Stories of growing up racing go-karts, bikes, and boats support his smooth gear changes in a car with a malfunctioning rev counter. The M5 remembers its youth as the straight-six engine flexes its torque to stay in the Carrera’s rearview mirror. I wish modern cars still felt this exciting without needing ridiculous horsepower.
We arrive at Eagle Canyon Raceway and assemble on pit road. A photo session breaks out as the cars line up. The first part of Hagerty’s Lunch & Laps officially starts with Eagle Canyon Raceway providing our lunch. Park Place Motorsport would be managing the laps with their top racing drivers: Patrick Long, Trent Hindman, Nick Boulle, and Patrick Lindsey. And the food was excellent.
Outside, where four white Porsches ready for battle waited for each of the Park Place Motorsport drivers to take either a 911 GT3 or Cayman 718. The group lines up to take turns riding shotgun with a professional driver and spank the newly paved Eagle Canyon Raceway with Pilot Pro Michelin rubber. Better than any ride in Disney. This was also a good demonstration of the Park Place Experience Academy, a track-day program designed to improve high-speed driving. Learning car control is way more fun than dealing with medical bills, or unwanted fame from a YouTube fail video.
From the pit lane, I stood in admiration (and mild envy), seeing these Eagle Canyon Porsches grip sideways through the turns riding the perfect racing line.
Adrenaline-fueled smiles across every passenger who stepped out of the sports car. With GT3 vocals in the background, I turn away to focus on a major distraction. A red 1967 Alfa Romeo Montreal, a car I had always wanted to study up close. It is smaller than I imagined, but incredibly beautiful as I walk around taking mental and digital photographs. This Alfa is a Catch-22 car. Gazing at its bodywork inspires daydreams about downshifting through a sunset, but being behind the wheel means you won’t be able to see it drive by. (The Montreal is another car almost too pretty to drive… almost).
Hagerty provided a memorable way to spend a Saturday at Lunch & Laps with Park Place Experience Academy at Eagle Canyon Raceway. I’m glad organizations like Hagerty and Park Place Experience Academy exist, speaking as a young car enthusiast who doesn’t plan on giving up driving. A sincere thank you to Fred Howell for giving me a lift in his 1988 BMW M5 E28 – it was an experience that exceeded expectations.