I consider myself lucky that I can still drive a car with hand controls, and I’ve had the pleasure of being a passenger in some very nice vehicles, both before and after my MS diagnosis. However, I have never had the distinct experience of going 200 miles per hour in an Italian racing machine that costs as much as a small house. That is, until I visited Exotics Racing at the Las Vegas Speedway during a recent weekend trip to Sin City.
After I arrived at my hotel in Las Vegas, I took a wheelchair taxi to the Speedway for my riding session at 3pm. Exotics Racing offers several different options for both driving various kinds of exotic racing cars and riding along as a passenger. As this post (and blog) focuses on accessibility, I will cover only the ride-along options. You can choose a high-speed drifting experience in a Chevrolet Corvette, or high-speed (200+ mph) laps in a Ferrari 458, a Lamborghini Huracan, or a Porsche 991 GT3. I selected a package including 2 laps drifting in the Corvette and two high-speed laps in the Ferrari.
The Exotics Racing facility is about a 30-minute drive (accounting for traffic) from the main Las Vegas strip. It is extremely wheelchair friendly with a flat entry and wide open spaces. The staff was extremely friendly, and it was clear they wanted to ensure I was safe and had a great time. When I checked in, I just had to read and sign a waiver (I had already paid). Then I was given a lanyard with a metal USB device. I had paid to keep the dashboard camera video of my experience, and this is where it would be stored. I was guided to a waiting area where I was fitted for a hair net and helmet to use during my rides. After a very short wait, I was introduced to my driver and taken out to the Corvette for my drifting experience.
I rolled my scooter up to the passenger door and had to calculate a bit how to transfer into such a low car seat! Fortunately, I had plenty of hands/arms to hang onto, and help getting my legs and feet into the car. After getting buckled in, I gave the okay to my driver and we were off to a roaring start! Drifting is different than just going fast in a car. It involves going into a turn at high speed with the rear of the car sliding to the side with the wheels still spinning. I got tossed around quite a bit, and the smell of burning rubber affirmed we were indeed drifting! After I finished my two laps in the Corvette, I went back inside to wait for a few minutes for my next ride. When it was my turn, I went through the same process to get into the gorgeous black Ferrari. The two high-speed laps were a LOT smoother than the Corvette – almost like gliding on some parts of the track. However, taking the turns still made my body work! With the help of the staff, I had no problem getting out of both cars and back into my scooter. After both rides, it took several minutes for my hands to stop shaking and the dryness in my mouth to go away from the adrenaline rush!
As accessible as this experience is, I do need to advise you of a few things. Going 200+ mph and taking hard turns while drifting can be very hard on your body. If you’re going to do this, you must have full upper-body control. The cars just have standard seat belts and a door handle to grab onto. My neck muscles were working very hard during the brief rides, and your upper body has to work hard to deal with the lateral G-forces that come with high-speed racing and hard braking. Because only my legs are affected by my MS, I did not ask if they could modify the driving style/speed for individuals who have less upper body control. It can’t hurt to call and ask if all you want is just the experience of riding in a Ferrari or Lamborghini without the jolts and hard turns. Also, the cars are very low to the ground. If you can’t self-transfer into the passenger seat, the staff will work with you and your caregiver to help transfer you safely into the car.
After both of my rides were over, I was able to preview the dashboard camera videos from both of my rides. These are super fun to watch, and I would recommend getting them as part of your package since you can’t take your phone in the car with you. So if you think your body can handle it, consider trading in your wheelchair for a Ferrari or Lamborghini for a few laps the next time you’re in Vegas!