The Scalpel and the Hand Grenade
As I mentioned on Hooniverse recently, the Lamborghini Countach was one of the cars that really ignited my passion for cars. My wife, knowing my love for the bull, purchased a four-lap drive for me in the Gallardo, and four laps for her and four for her dad in the F430 for Christmas this year.
When we arrived, I was so impressed by the F430 and it’s exhaust note that I decided to drive both. Despite my finally warming up to the 458, the F430 is still my favorite of the newer Ferraris and I imagine they’ll only be available to drive for a little while longer.
Waiting in line to drive the Gallardo first, my nerves were getting to me and I was feeling a little queasy. I didn’t let it stop me though, so my co-driver, Dan, and I jumped in and started the first slow lap to get accustomed to the layout of the course. The first thing I noticed was the driving position. I was told to move the seat one or two notches closer to the steering wheel than what seemed like the normal distance. My legs were a little more offset to the left than usual and had less room than I’m used to. However, this turned out to be good advice, because the pedal travel of the accelerator was much longer than I’d expected, much longer than in my Rabbit, and considering there was more than three times the horsepower under my right foot, that’s probably not a bad thing if someone drives one of these in traffic.
If I really nit picked, I would complain about the mandatory use of the automatic transmission, but even so, it was still a hell of a good time. The Gallardo Spyder’s gearbox in particular had lived up to its reputation for slow shifting. But in some ways it kind of suited the character of the big bad bull. Compared to the F430’s scalpel-like precision, the Gallardo is like a hand grenade that laughingly launches you down the track and screams downshifting obscenities at you for hitting the brakes at the end of the straight. According to Dan, I was just not giving it enough throttle. So I gave it a bit more shove and it really felt like it was starting to get moving over the last lap and a half. It’s a shame you can’t transmit G-forces through video, because the grip was just unreal!
Next was the Ferrari F430, and since I’d already done the laps in the Lambo, Dan just let me go quickly from the get go. Thanks to rear wheel drive, lower weight, and a well-tuned suspension, that thing cut a race line like it was a scalpel guided by a surgeon’s hand. With a bit more legroom and what seemed like a tighter turning radius and shorter pedal travel, it all went very well. Dan asked if I wanted more advice on my lines or if he should just let me drive, but this was only my first go on an autocross course, so I asked for more advice. My inputs got smoother and smoother and all too soon it was over.
I pulled back up to the start position and pulled both flappy paddles to set the gearbox to neutral and pulled the parking break. Then I got the best news ever. The memory card that was supposed to be recording the in-car video of my laps had malfunctioned! Oh gosh darn, we had to do two more laps. Then, when we returned again, the card failed again! So I had to go out for two more laps! Oh drat! I think I got my smoothest and fastest two laps in those last two, because I was finally aggressive enough with the car that it stayed in 2nd gear all the way through the straight, and I felt a slight vibration of the ABS triggering when I braked to turn around! When I got out of the car, gold chains and extra hair seemed to spring forth from my chest. All the way home that night, I could not stop smiling!
Click here to view the full photo set on Flickr. Full disclosure: This driving experience was a gift from my wife. Gotham Dream Cars’ photographer shot most of the photos for this article except where indicated. All opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of Gotham Dream Cars.