The need for speed

(Editor’s note: Charlie Renner and his wife, Dawn, recently attended The World Class Driving Event in New Platz, N.Y. He won the trip as part of a national contest.
His trip wouldn’t have been complete without taking Farm and Dairy along for the ride. The following is Renner’s account of the excursion. It sounds like he had the time of his life — we know we did!)

This is about the most fun you can have with someone else’s cars and not get arrested. The leader was an ex-Indy Car racer named Roland, who originally came from Belgium, but is now a U.S. citizen.

I was first

I was lucky to get the draw as the first passenger (you do this twice per event). They asked if Dawn and I wanted to be in the lead or chase car. Since Roland was driving lead, no-brainer, I figured I’d get some tips and a feel for how he wanted the cars treated.

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The rest of the group, with the exception of a couple guys from Brooklyn, shouldn’t have wasted their money. Roland and the chase guy were actually complaining that these guys were way too slow.

He then looked at me and said with a heavy accent “this is going to be no fun.”
I told Roland if he would let me be the No. 2 car, I would make it fun. 

Roland’s lead car was a rented Chrysler 300M which he thrashed through these windy roads. Dawn was so scared she almost threw up on the 30-minute trip while Roland was driving.

Roland told me to drive them like I owned them. At the first driver change, Dawn and I got the Calloway Supercharged Corvette, 580 hp, 0-60 3.5 seconds. Roland told his crew to let me go No. 1, after him.

Like a video game

Once we were on the road, Roland took off. I kept about four car lengths between us as he flew down the road. He had that Chrysler sideways on some corners. We were taking 20 mph corners at about 80. It was like a video game. 

My wife was screaming at me to slow down and that Roland was a professional. I said “yeah, but he’s in a four-door Chrysler and there is no way he and that thing are going to lose me.

I’m proud to say, he never got further ahead than I’d let him.

That Vette was the fastest car I’ve ever been in — by far. It handled well, too. On the straights, I was pretty psyched when Roland gave me the thumbs up. My wife was not too happy, but she manned up halfway through the trip.

Stayed with him

When we stopped after the first leg, it took the others five minutes to catch up. I couldn’t imagine how he would drive the super cars. I also know he had a 300 horsepower handicap, but I was still pretty happy to stay with him.

We got out and Dawn told me she’s riding in the chase car. I told her this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and to please keep riding with me. As scared as she was, she agreed.

Our next car was the Alpha Romeo 8C. The C stands for Competition. This car had 444 hp, 0-60 4.2 sec, and was the lightest of the group. It was a factory race car for the road. There was also virtually no exhaust, and the thing screamed.

Dawn settled down a little, and admitted she loved it. We caught a little traffic this leg, so she actually enjoyed the ride. It was also a little less curvy, and I found she didn’t mind the speed as much as the curves at 80 mph.

Dawn’s favorite

This car sounded and drove like a race car. Great car, but you wouldn’t want it if you couldn’t drive it really fast. The bumps gave you spinal compression. The looks and sound made this Dawn’s favorite.

I was a passenger again next. I went with Roland, Dawn went in the chase car. I think Roland scared her more than I did. Driving with Roland in that Chrysler was almost as fun as driving the supercars. He was fearless, but I never got scared because you never felt like he didn’t have control.

I got to talk to him for 1/2 hour and get to know him a little bit. The others were getting a little faster, but he was still swearing at them (not directly, just to me and the crew on the radio). We had to stop several times to let them catch up.

The next leg, I’m in the Ford GT, 500hp, rear engine, 0-60 3.8 sec. This is the only car that Dawn couldn’t go in because the WCDE mandated you have another professional driver with you.

My dream car

I guess early on when they first got this car, people spun it out. This car is my favorite (not just here, it’s my dream car) and a brutal machine. Needless to say, you are already intimidated by the mandate and the warnings, so I started off somewhat slow. That lasted about 20 seconds as I got the feel and we were on a pretty straight leg.

What an amazing car. The first two were impressive, but this was something else. I never got it out of third gear, it would get to 100 in seconds. The companion driver was pretty cool and I think was bored as well with the other drivers.

I figured he’d say something if I needed to slow down. He never said a word except don’t downshift in corners. We talked, but I can’t remember what about because I was in my own world.

It was like a 1/2 hour amusement ride. I don’t think you could have wiped the smile off my face.

The next car is the Lamborgihini Gallardo Superlegerra, 520 hp all-wheel drive 0-60 3.8 secs. Roland told me this was the best car out here and to really have fun.

Me again

I again asked if I could go No. 1 behind him, and he made it happen. None of the other drivers were complaining, so I figured I’d keep asking.

The cars were supposed to be in the same order each time (easier to keep track), but these guys were very cool and figured as long as Roland kept telling the crew to do it, all was well.

This car was a dream. All of these cars were so close in acceleration, it was tough to tell a big difference, especially on these roads. The difference with this car was it was much easier to drive fast.

All-wheel drive makes it that much more positive in corners, and the brakes were very well balanced. I was never a Lamborghini fan, but that has changed. The style is a little out there, but this car was more relaxing to drive because it was so well engineered.

You didn’t feel on the edge like the Ford GT or the Vette. It was also pretty comfortable. I was surprised that I fit well in all of these. The Vette and Audi had the most room and were pretty comfortable. My adrenaline was so hyped that I didn’t notice any of these cars being cramped or uncomfortable.

I’d buy one

If I had the ability, I’m not sure I’d buy this one, but have to admit, for the average guy, this one is the most forgiving and probably the one to keep you out of trouble (or the ground).

The final car is the Audi R8. 414 hp all wheel drive 0-60 4.0 secs. Not the fastest, but still brutally fast, and very comfortable. We caught some traffic on this leg and really couldn’t go too fast.

This car took corners very well and screamed when you got on it. This was the only car you could drive every day and in traffic. We were going pretty good at one point, and instead of upshifting, I accidentally downshifted with my foot in the pedal.

The paddles in the other cars were easy to get used to, but this car had tiptronic: push the shifter forward for the next gear, back for the previous, I must have thought I was shifting normally from third to fourth and I pulled back on the shifter.

Instead of going into fourth, it went into second, screamed to redline, and launched like a rocket. Dawn couldn’t yell because this caused her to throw up in her mouth.

When she could talk, she said “ they’re going to throw you out.” I told her it was an accident, but I don’t think anyone noticed or heard the engine screaming.

Made it out alive

Trip over, no wrecks, amen.

If you like cars and have the need for speed, words alone can’t describe these cars and this experience.
Since I won this trip, I’m not sure how much it costs, but I, as well as the crew, were baffled by the five out of the six other drivers who barely drove these things above your everyday car.

They were all from the city. I think they did it for their sons who they brought along and I guess didn’t want to hurt them. But otherwise, what a huge waste of money.

See for yourself

Their site is www.worldclassdriving.com. Check it out and go to the testimonials page to see pictures. My trip was the afternoon of May 24.

If you ever do it, the crew said pick morning, which starts at 7 a.m. There’s less traffic, fewer children, and more serious drivers.

I’m going back

If the economy ever improves, I’d love to do this with six friends who love cars and speed. I’m going to do this again before I die.

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