Pushing the limits of the P1: Part two of my Trifecta Track Time Story
View part one of this story here: drivetribe.com/p/Uk4gRyTbQwmSChAJjaBs4Q/E5_KxKhzQuGWvgXAhpONtA
I ended part one with my impressions of the Porsche 918. I know I said that the 918 is slightly underpowered and overweight, which sounds like something a crazy person would say, but it is when compared to its two main rivals. That being said, I've heard amazing things about the 918 compared to the other two when used as a "daily driver". Right, you read that correctly. A $1,000,000 (give or take a few dollars) daily driver. In fact, the 918 I drove had more than 5,000 miles put on it during the most recent snowy winter. It's been clear with all of the people I've talked to that the P1 is the most track-oriented car and the worst when it comes to street use. I'm sure the term "worst" is used lightly but it is clear what its main purpose is. The 918 and the La Ferrari are much more refined for everyday use. So much so that one La Ferrari owner I know frequently takes her dog with her on longer trips and when I saw the car it had dog hair (and I can only assume, slobber) all over the interior. At least it's getting used!
If those cars are refined, a great example of a car that isn't is the Lamborghini Aventador. When the Aventador was launched I thought it went back to a little more of the classic Lamborghini look with an aggressive wedge shape and I loved it. I thought it was significantly better looking than the Gallardo and how it looks is really all that matters until you get a chance to get behind the wheel.
When Hercules (you remember Hercules, right? The driver that I was instructing) and I got out of the 918 we started searching for our next target and if memory serves me correctly we took the Aventador. I've driven Aventadors in the past and my immediate impression when sitting in the cockpit was that due to the extreme angle of the windshield, everything felt SO far away. If you pulled a move like Chris Farley did in Tommy Boy and leave a bag of M&M's on the dash while driving, I don't think you'd even be able to reach the ones that rolled to the very base of the windshield with one of those "I'm-too-lazy-and-my-back-hurts-so-I-use-this-to-pick-things-up" grabby sticks. You know what I mean, right?
For anyone that grew up dreaming of European supercars, the first time you get a chance to swing down a Lamborghini scissor door from the driver's seat is one of those moments that will stay with you for a long time. That feeling of being as cool Lloyd Christmas in his red Diablo is something that will never depart your soul. Pressing the ignition switch makes the V12 bark to life and that sound is the quintessential example of what a supercar should sound like. I walked away from my first experience with the Aventador impressed by its power (700hp will do that to you), in awe of the sound of it under acceleration and really surprised at how clunky the gear changes were. Aside from the roominess, the rest of the interior felt made for performance, not luxury - which in my mind is a great thing.
While we were getting ready to get into the Aventador, Hercules started chatting with an attendee from New Zealand who had been there all day but spent most of his time on the sidelines. We shall call him "Fluffy". Hercules kindly forced Fluffy to take a ride with me in the Lamborghini instead of going out with me himself. Fluffy and I had some casual conversation but once we pulled onto the track he was stone silent as he seemed to be pretty focused on taking video of the ride on his phone. Before we went out on track I engaged "Corsa" mode, which I'm fairly certain is Italian for "Don't Do It". Somehow, Lamborghini had made the transmission even more brutal with the press of a button. Honestly, I apologized to Fluffy for how hard it shifted but I don't think it really mattered to him as when I asked him how he liked it he responded between giggles in a Kiwi drawl "hheeehehheaaAAWESOME MATE!" Although I am pretty hard on the Aventador because of the transmission, aside from that I really like it. It's more suited to the track than its older brother, the Diablo, but that's to be expected as technology increases. I do have a funny story about the Diablo that some of you may appreciate. The Diablo was produced at a time that driver's side airbags were becoming standard equipment and in this phase the airbags required a large storage compartment in the middle of the steering wheel where the horn button was traditionally placed. Lamborghini, and many other manufacturers, therefore placed horn buttons on the upper left and upper right spoke of the steering wheel right by the driver's thumbs. This placement is great in most instances but unfortunate in some.
I had the opportunity to take a Diablo out on the track a few years ago and as it's an older machine it lacked a lot of the new technology of the Aventador and its counterparts. It was the first car I had driven with a dog-leg transmission and it felt a lot more "direct", which I attribute that to the lack of any real electronic aids. The memorable part of the drive unfortunately wasn't some spectacular masterpiece of driving genius by yours truly, it was what I consider to be a major design flaw, although I doubt many people will back me up on that. During my first hard lap in the Diablo I was charging into a left hand turn when out of nowhere a car that was in very close proximity to me honked it's horn. Immediately I went wide in the turn to give room to the car that was clearly coming up the inside of the corner. How on earth did I not see them? The last thing I would do while driving those types of cars is be inattentive to my surroundings, what the hell happened? Well, when the car I had turned in on never appeared I realized that I was in the mysterious honking car. As I turned the steering wheel to the maximum angle I was using in that left turn, the inside portion of my right hand, just below my thumb, had moved and made contact with the horn button on the steering wheel. Yes, that's right. I honked the horn in the middle of the corner in a Lamborghini Diablo and scared myself into thinking another car was about to hit me. I'm that smooth. Also, now is probably the most appropriate time to mention that my own reflection on a wet track has scared me in the middle of a motorcycle race in the past. Like I said - smooth like buttah. Moving right along...
When I was finished giving Fluffy a joyride in the Aventador, Hercules and I got our hands on the ultimate prize: the McLaren P1. Our body language as we walked toward it couldn't have been more different. Hercules was very intimidated, almost nervous, at the thought of getting behind the wheel of a 900+ horsepower, $1,000,000+ thoroughbred machine. Me, on the other hand... tail feathers spread with Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" playing in the background. Let's dance...
I gingerly got into the passenger seat and got strapped into the car of my dreams. Hercules pressed the starter button and the engine instantly bellowed out a cacophony of awesomeness. I turned on my GoPro, we rolled down pit lane and onto the track. Hercules was filled with trepidation and it showed in his driving. Not once did he come close to using full throttle and when we approached the slowest corner on the track for the first time I found myself loudly saying "hardonthebrakesHARDonthebrakesHARDONTHEBRAKES!" as we almost went straight into the grass instead of around the left turn. Once he had it slowed down enough to begin to turn I asked him if he was watching what was behind him, but I already knew the answer. He said yes and promptly let a Porsche 911 pass him. With the distraction of the car behind him now gone he was able to concentrate on his driving and he steadily got more comfortable with the car but was never close to confident with it. After three laps he pulled into pit lane and said "I want to make sure you get a shot at it." So do I, Hercules. So do I.
We rolled to a stop in pit lane and when I got out of the car I saw someone strolling up to the driver's side door with that "oooh, me next!" look. I briskly walked around the back of the car and as Hercules opened up the driver's side door I put my arm on it to create a barrier between the intruder and the driver's seat. I was so close to a once in a lifetime opportunity, I wasn't going to let it go that easily. The intruder asked how the P1 was, I responded by saying "I'll take it out now but it's different than the 918. Look! The 918 is just sitting there, you should go take that." He took my advice and I was rid of him for now.
I slithered behind the wheel and immediately began turning knobs and pressing buttons. I set the handling and powertrain settings to "Track" and engaged "Race" mode. With the P1, Race mode does a few pretty cool things to the car. Once engaged, the car lowers by 50mm and the massive rear wing extends upwards by 300mm making the car even more aggressive. It may or may not make things on the driver rise as well. Of course, I'm talking about blood pressure, pervert. But it may not be a coincidence that you don't see many P1 drivers taking Viagra. I digress...
With a push of the "Manual" button and a pull of the right shift paddle, I put it into first gear and made my way down pit lane with Hercules in the seat beside me, thinking to myself "I have now driven a P1, no one can ever take this moment away from me". As we drove past a group of people, the director of the driving school looked right at me and began pushing his palms toward the ground; the universal sign for "TAKE IT EASY". Riiiiigggghhhhttt. I pulled onto the track and it was go time. When I got to the first straight bit I unleashed everything it has; full throttle plus IPAS. The IPAS button unleashes 176hp on top of the 727hp that the gas engine makes, resulting in a whopping 903hp. The feeling was magical. While it didn't quite accelerate as quickly as some motorcycles I've been on, the fact that it was the P1 and I was in the driver's seat made the experience so much better.
So, how was it? Well, for starters, the sound was something else. The best way to describe it is to pretend you're in a dentist's office on a space ship. There was a surprising mix of random electronic sounds and one that was almost identical to a dentist's drill. The best sound that it made was when I let off of the throttle and the turbocharger made a sound very similar to a door on the Starship Enterprise closing. The handling was better than some of the full-on race cars I've driven, which is very impressive as the P1 was on street tires which makes a huge difference in the car's capabilities. Putting proper track or race rubber on it would take it to a completely new level. I was smart and didn't push the P1 harder than any other cars I drive while instructing. I'm always around 80% of my limit so that I don't come close to making any mistakes. Even driving it at 80% it handled better than anything I've been in and the faster I went, the better it handled. With more time, my confidence in the aerodynamics of the P1 would have grown and I would have been comfortable pushing even harder in the truly fast, 100mph+ corners. And how fast was it? Fast. I don't have a direct comparison to the 918 as I drove that car on a longer track configuration but I saw an indicated 180mph in the 918 (I have no idea how accurate that car's speedometer is) and I started to slow down with plenty of room to spare before the next corner. On the same track configuration with some more confidence in the P1's aero, combined with its Drag Reduction System that significantly flattens the rear wing at the press of a button, I would think I could get it close to the 200mph mark. Maybe some day...
As we pulled off the track I asked Hercules which he preferred; the 918 or the P1. His response was "I personally like driving the 918 better but being a passenger with you, in THIS, is a night and day difference to the 918. I mean, this felt like... it was fucking like nothing I've ever experienced before." I'd say that's a pretty good way to explain it.
Coming up in Part Three - The Ferrari La Ferrari and the most brutal car I've ever driven.