Lamborghini's Intensive Driving School Is Worth $12,000
There are plenty of ways to blow your money in Vegas.
You could order a $10,000 Ono champagne cocktail at the XO club in the Wynn Encore. In the same club, you can pay Canadian DJ Deadmau5 $200,000 to play a Bon Jovi song. Or you can fly 50 of your friends in a private jet to Drai's in the Cromwell for $737,000 and treat them all to a 210-second firework display.
You can also spend $12,000 on a two-day Lamborghini intensive driving academy at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Is it worth it? That depends on what you want to do next—do you simply want to hone your Lamborghini driving skills or finance an amateur race team?
Lamborghini's customer-driving program can be described as a pyramid, which starts with a simple, one-day “Esperienza”'—basically a test drive of the brand's two main models on the track—and builds into a full-blown race weekend in the pinnacle “Super Trofeo” factory-GT race cars.
“Academia” is the middle of that pyramid, and that’s what I tried in late October.
Lamborghini uses the driving school to sell cars and build a tighter bond with its wealthiest clients, but it also wants to find the fastest drivers and beef up its new racing league.
“Super Trofeo” is a sort of gentlemen's racing club, the likes of which have made rivals Porsche and Ferrari into such legendary marques on the track, with successful sales figures to boot. Lambo produces a souped-up version of its Huracán sports car named after the league, just as it did with the predecessor Gallardo.
To Lamborghini—which sells far fewer than half as many cars as Ferrari, at 3,245 in 2015—a successful racing program can translate into stronger brand loyalty, better research and development, and bigger profits for parent company Volkswagen (which also owns Porsche, Audi, and Bentley). After all, "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" is a cliché for good reason.
For the driver, the two-day academy is quite a good deal, considering all that you get and relative to everything else in Las Vegas beyond the buffet.
Here’s what they offer: full access to a stable of street cars, including the $493,000 Aventador Super Veloce—a fire-breathing, naturally-aspirated, 750-horsepower 12-cylinder supercar. You can play with it as much as you want, but one 2.4-mile lap will be enough in the big beast in comparison with the far more responsive and flickable Huracán.
You will spend most of your time on the track in this newer and more technologically advanced car, which shares a 5.2 liter, 10-cylinder powertrain with the Audi R8 and starts at less than half the price of the Aventador.
Pro tip: If you're going to buy a Huracán, the 610-4 has more power, all-wheel drive and starts at a heftier $237,000. You want the $200,000 rear-wheel drive 580-2, which has a little less power but is also a little lighter and a lot more fun to drive. AWD may pull you out of the corners more quickly, but RWD allows you to slide the back of the car all over the track—plus it's the version you'll have to drive in a real race.
When you're there, you'll spend a lot of time with a full stable of Lamborghini's most successful racing drivers, professionals who have won Super Trofeo league events, as well as legit Le Mans-Series endurance races such as the 24 hours of Daytona.
In classroom sessions you'll get driving tips and learn the best lines around the 12-turn track. But you'll spend most of your time on the asphalt. Each racing pro takes two drivers for the two-day course.
Most of the participants in “Academia” already own at least one Lamborghini—when I went I shared the road with a brain surgeon, a Canadian industrial heir, a real estate mogul, and a software developer, as well as a former British special-forces soldier and a very wealthy man from Mexico.
The main event for most of these millionaires is some hot laps in one of the Super Trofeo Huracáns, a $350,000 investment that isn't even road legal. That car’s purpose is to howl on the track, and it provides the stickiest grip I have ever experienced in my life.
The Super Trofeo is addictive; once you've driven a lap in this custom race machine, everything else seems so mass market. And Lamborghini is hot to sell the car, and promote race-team sponsorship, to the fastest and wealthiest drivers.
To that end, the two-day course is finished off with some serious time-trial tests, to gauge the skill of each participant—and that can be pretty competitive in this group of overachievers.
Lamborghini closes off half the track, whittling the asphalt down to a 1.2-mile Indy Car Series-sanctioned race track that is then marked off and timed. Each driver gets three attempts to nail his fastest time, a bit like qualifying for a race.
And you are. At the end of the session, the fastest drivers are invited to take place in an ultra-exclusive, two-day Super-Trofeo competition, complete with helicopters to and from the track, your own pit crew, qualifying sessions, and a night race. All for only $25,000 dollars more.
A deal at twice the price, compared with anything else in this town. And only a 10th of the cost of the car you'll drive—and hopefully buy.