In the late 1970s and early 1980s, long before Route 66 Raceway popped up and well before Chicagoland Speedway and the Autobahn Country Club were even being thought of, there was already plenty of high-speed action taking place in Joliet. Midget racing was a regular fixture of the area, with events put on by UARA and World of Outlaw Midgets (WOOM) throwing down on weekends at Joliet Municipal Stadium. My Dad was a track announcer for those events, and it was there that I'd get my first exposure to a world of fast cars, loud engines, and develop an underlying need for speed. But my first "race" wasn't in a car at all - it was on an Original Big Wheel "Scorcher Cycle" as part of intermission Big Wheel races that became a popular feature on those Saturday night bills. Thing is, I was only two when I got started, and wasn't exactly speedy. In fact, I could barely reach the pedals, which were made larger with some wooden bricks attached using thick rubber bands.
Fast-forward to 2014, and there I was back in Joliet, this time as an invited guest of the Xtreme Xperience: Real Supercars. Real Racetracks. Real Instruction. At the Autobahn Country Club, a private motorsports club with a pair of world-class road courses, those with an appreciation of cars and a lust for a thrill can drop a few bucks (hundred or thousand) for the chance to drive many exotic rides from a fleet that includes the Lamborghini LP560-4, Ferrari F430, Ferrari 458 Italia, Audi R8, Mercedes SLS AMG, Nissan GT-R, and McLaren MP4-12C, among others (they've just added a new Porsche and Aston Martin, while an additional Lambo is forthcoming). With my wife and two daughters there to cheer me on (we even brought some Hot Wheels along to meet their real-life counterparts), the experience was about to begin.
One thing that prospective drivers need to know: This is not a racing school, nor is it a racing experience.
As Pines reminded the drivers, "you are not in competition, but in cooperation." With that, and given limited track time (usually in 3-lap packages), the goal is for the driver to truly experience the cars that they're paying for, while picking up some fundamentals of performance driving. With an in-car instructor (who guides without controls) riding in the passenger seat, drivers are encouraged to go as fast as they're comfortable, without worrying about what's behind them (the instructor watches the rearview, while staying in radio contact with the other cars to arrange passing) - only what is in front. Lap times and speeds are not tracked, and you're not even supposed to look at the speedometer (though I did peek).
While I was far from the fastest on the track, the experience was both exhilarating and daunting at first, with my skill and speed increasing on each of my five laps around the 1.46 mile road course. My personal challenge was cornering, handling a very powerful and very expensive ($218,000) vehicle for the very first time on unfamiliar ground. 9 turns in under a mile-and-a-half at high-speed is not to be taken lightly for a novice driver, but the experience is very safe and controlled. As a bonus, they have photo and video packages available to keep lasting memories of the day.
Watch: RAW VIDEO - The Rock Father's full five-laps in the Ferrari F430
For anyone looking for a fantastic driving experience and wondering what it might entail, I can to tell you that Xtreme Xperience is Rock Father-Approved, and highly-recommended.
Xtreme Xperience produces 28 events at 17 tracks annually, with eight events left to go for the rest of 2014 and plans in-motion for 2015.
Remaining Xtreme Xperience 2014 Tour Dates:
- Oct. 4-5 Grand Rapids, Mich. Gingerman Raceway, South Haven, Mich.
- Oct. 9-12 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Int'l Raceway, Wampum, Pa.
- Oct. 24-26 Chicago Autobahn Country Club, Joliet, Ill.
- Nov. 6-8 Atlanta Atlanta Motorsports Park, Dawsonville, Ga.
- Nov. 9-10 Birmingham, Ala. Talladega Grand Prix Raceway, Munford, Ala.
- Nov. 20-23 Tulsa, Okla. Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, Jennings, Okla.
- Dec. 4-6 Austin, Texas Driveway Austin Motorsports, Austin, Texas
- Dec. 7 Dallas/Fort Worth Cresson MotorSport Ranch, Cresson, Texas
Check out XXSpeed.com for more details.