Dream car driving lesson: Where James Bond goes in Las Vegas

Dominique Dawes
Weekend Edition

When I was growing up, watching James Bond movies, I had a dream car--an elegant white Lamborghini Countach that existed on a poster over my bed. That Lamborghini is still my dream car although I've never driven one. Why not? Over two hundred thousand reasons, actually. Instead, I've relied on James Bond movie clips playing in my head since I was a kid.

Recently, I finally heard about a place in Las Vegas where my inner car nut could finally get his day in the sun.

Exotics Racing--based out of Las Vegas Motor Speedway--has almost every dream car imaginable. It's only 10 miles north of the Las Vegas strip. Only 18 months old and born of a like-minded French company, Exotics Racing is only about 10 miles north of Las Vegas and has one of them most seductive activities in a town that is not shy on seduction.

For $199 and up, you can drive any one or combination of their 16 dream cars around a 1.1mile road course. It's a pretty incredible opportunity for someone not able to pony up the money to own one of these elite automobiles.

The dream car drive has a bonus: along the way you get the world's most thrilling driving lesson.

As Director of Operations and Lead Instructor Chris Benham explained to me, Exotics Racing wants to stay at the cutting edge of offering street-legal supercars for any licensed driver 18 years or older to try. Right now, that means the Ferrari 430 Scuderia and 458 Italia, the Lamborghini Gallardo and Superleggera and Murcielago, the Audi R8, and the Aston-Martin Vantage V8 (a make made famous in James Bond films and "The Transporter"). It also means a Porsche 997 Carrera "S"  and the handcrafted Nissan GTR. Next year, it will likely be the Lamborghini Aventador--and who knows what else? There are whispers of a McClaren among the black-shirted Exotics staff.

After a briefing to learn how to handle these street-legal race cars on a track, you get a discovery lap in a Porsche SUV, and your instructor explains how to handle the turns, aiming tactically at cones set up on the course.  Learning how to handle the course is part of the fun, and the skills are transferable to everyday driving. Staying attentive five or six seconds ahead of where you are, so nothing surprises you, is key. Otherwise, it seems incredible to hold a line at speed, hitting the apex--or center of the turn--and roaring out again. That's where the nerves--and excitement--first set in: You realize you can actually push yourself to your driving limit.

First, I drove a very forgiving Audi R8, which has incredible computerized engineering that helps you maneuver through the winding course. But the Ferrari 430 Scuderia really captured my attention--and my heart. Taking a few turns on the road course in a Ferrari and accelerating up towards the 100mph mark, and you can taste the adrenaline in the back of your throat.

The kicker for the day was jumping in a whale-tailed Porsche with Rudy Ibanez--a drift car genius who never found an accelerator pedal he didn't like. Try to hold onto your breakfast while Rudy powers along, sending the Porsche on a crazy sliding angle around the turns like he's on ice. It's simply something everybody has to try. I'm talking hard-core--hurtling--down--a--rollercoaster fun.

So, you may ask, what about that childhood Lamborghini Countach I fell asleep dreaming about?

Well, truthfully, that childhood fantasy turns out to still be a fantasy when you grow up to be 6'2".

Trying to wedge my elongated frame into a Lamborghini was almost like fitting a ship in a bottle. I ended up chewing on my knees.

Oh, to be a kid again!