Now, the next sentence here should read: and then I woke up.
But this was no dream. Rather, I tagged along on a one-day mad dash from Napa Valley to Santa Monica in seven supercars organized by Driving Xllence, one of a growing number of companies catering to folks who like their five-star vacations to include road time in some of the world’s finest automobiles.
Judging from the dozen clients on this abridged version of the company’s standard two-day California drive, which runs between $6,500 and $7,500 per couple with three nights lodging, customers range from those who have exotics in their garages but want to try other marques, to those who earn enough to sample the dream but not own it.
“The driving experience has to be in line with the product being driven” says Driving Xllence CEO Jean Paul Libert. “If you’re going to spend good money to drive supercars, that time should be as unforgettable as possible, organized by people who really appreciate motoring. Not just a few hours on a track, but real driving adventures with like-minded enthusiasts.”
Libert’s background is in both the commercial and driving sides of racing. He spent years negotiating corporate sponsorships in Formula One as well as racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which led to a friendship with endurance driving veteran Didier Theys, who serves as Driving Xllence’s director of driving.
The big day dawned rainy in Napa, causing the parade of absurdly competent automobiles - which also included the Lamborghini Aventador, Audi R8 Spyder, Ferrari 458 Italia and McLaren MP4-12C - to crawl across the Golden Gate Bridge. Somewhere around Monterey the clouds parted and the speeds picked up. On the snaking coastal route by Big Sur, gaps between tourist rental cars were exploited with neck-snapping glee. Only a few times did Theys’ voice squawk to life on the walkie-talkie he wielded inside his Chrysler 300 pace car, warning of highway patrolmen lying in wait.
Decades ago, hopping in a car with 500 or 600 horsepower would have demanded an FIA license and a lack of sanity. Today, with automatic transmissions and NASA-like safety features, the only way to really get in trouble is to forget you’re not Didier Theys and start taking turns way too fast. That’s a long drop to the ocean.
Owning even one Ferrari would be a thrill, but flogging seven state-of-the-art machines without worrying about whether you’ll need new tires or a five-figure tune-up is wildly liberating. Some impressions from behind the wheel, in the order I drove them: