LAS VEGAS -- The Nellis Air Force Base is a stone's throw away from where I'm standing, which explains the steady stream of fighter jets soaring above. They come and go and are quite beautiful to watch.
Even if you can't directly see them, they can be heard, and they certainly add to the ambience of being at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It feels as though I'm suiting up for a race. And to get the show going, a few jets fly overhead to commence the festivities.
I'm eagerly waiting for my name to be called to the grid.
Like a real race day, there are spectators in the bleachers. They've come out to ogle the beautiful cars and cheer on their drivers.
And as desert weather would have it, the sun is beaming blissfully from its perch in the sky.
The heat isn't unbearable, but it's not temperate either -- but it's only early spring. Where's my fan boy when I need one? Thank goodness for the tent overhead, which is doing double duty, both blocking the sun and housing the lineup of automotive eye candy.
But unlike race day, the flurry of activity in pit lane is kept to a minimum.
Rudy finds me and walks me over to the Lamborghini LP570-4 Superleggera (in Italian, super light). He'll be my instructor for the time at the track. And the Italian Stallion will be our noble steed.
We're at a private 2.0-kilometre track with a selection of vehicles. Nothing short of a dream come true.
Want to drive a Ferrari 458 Italia? An Audi R8 V-10? A Nissan GT-R? A McLaren MP4-12C? Just point to which car you'd like and it can be arranged. There are more than 30 luxury and exotics to choose from. No, you don't need a racing licence, and all skill driving levels are welcome.
As part of the Exotics Racing experience, these super-fast supercars are available to take out for a spin.
While I didn't personally pick the 570 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, carbon-clad Italian machine (it was assigned to me), I'm exceptionally happy we were paired up. This fine specimen was also matched with a set of Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A ultra high performance tires.
Butterflies are vivaciously dancing in my stomach cavity. I always get a little performance anxiety before embarking on an unknown adventure. It's my first time on this track in a car I hadn't driven before.
Rudy assures me I'll be fine. I'm just trying to remember to breathe.
Oh yeah, and my time behind the wheel is being recorded, too. No pressure, right? An on-board camera captures the sessions and allows you to view your progress on the track afterwards, showing both miles per hour and lap times. And, of course, the funny/nervous/inane comments made in the driver's seat.
With my helmet on tightly, my shades shielding the sunlight, fans in the stands and a clear track, I pop the transmission in drive and I'm off. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I'd pinch myself to make sure this is really happening, but I don't dare take my hands off the steering wheel.
Prior to entering the car, there was a safety briefing and we were taken out on a few familiarization laps -- that way we weren't going onto the track without some prior knowledge.
With seven turns to execute and a 550-metre straight stretch, top speeds on this track can vary between 175 and 210 kilometres per hour, depending on the driver and car. I was aiming for 210. I topped out at 180 km/h, but believe if I had a few more laps, I could have hit the maximum! Maybe next time.
It's funny, because with everything going on around me -- input from my instructor, other vehicles on the track, familiarizing myself with the surroundings, people watching and judging in the stands -- the last thing I was thinking about were the tires! I guess they speak for themselves since they did everything I demanded of them. And did a great job. High five.
As for the Superleggera, I will be saving my pennies for one of these. It might take a few lifetimes, but it'll be worth the wait. The tires won't take as long to save up for and can be fitted to more affordable automobiles.
For more info on Exotics Racing, visit exoticsracing.com.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013