Accademia Intensivo gets owners comfortable with Italian power
Lamborghini isn’t in the business of selling supercars that are instantly crashed, despite the infamy that comes from leading headlines at WreckedExotics.com. It wants owners to not only enjoy their cars, but to use them to their full capability.
That’s why it created Lamborghini Accademia Intensivo, a driving school that gives owners a chance to practice high-speed driving in someone else’s car. And that’s really the dream of all enthusiasts.
We took a trip to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, to get a taste of what’s in store for the already admittedly lucky. This was a one-day event, and for customers it costs about $6,000. For that you get one day of driving, plus insurance, welcome drinks and dinner, trackside hospitality, pictures, a welcome gift and two nights at the hotel. Don’t drink too much that first night, Lamborghini reminded us, because you’ll be in the car early and stomach full of brown liquor and hot laps with pros just don’t mix.
The morning started with a quick safety briefing before hitting the track for a selection of different driving exercises. We started on the autocross with a spankin’ new Huracan coupe.
The 600-hp V10 kept a tight trajectory on the curving, double hairpin cone course. We kept it in automatic mode, not wanting to shift while navigating the esses. Anywhere else, we’d be paddling through the gears, but because we needed to learn the course, and were going for time, we didn’t touch them.
The Huracan felt surprisingly loose on the short, 20-second-or-so pop-up track. Though it’s all-wheel drive, the sport mode setting cheats power to the rear for more traditional sports car handling. A little too much gas sent the rear end out and we had to lift just a smidge to get it back in line. In street mode, or the track-oriented corsa mode, the car and its driven front wheels would do that for you. It shot down the small back straight through about a gear and a half before we had to stomp on the clampers to slow for the next turn. The best practice seemed to be keeping the tires squeaking around the hairpin, and then getting back on the gas to work the esses.
This was the first event, and many of the drivers were surprisingly timid, having never really driven a car in anger before. It didn’t take long for them to get in the swing of things.
Next up were lead-follow laps — us in the Huracan and one of our instructors in an Aventador. Lamborghini thoughtfully had us wear helmets with radios, so we were in constant contact with the lead driver.
After watching a few F1 races we were a little nervous about COTA. It was our first time at the track and it has several difficult sections including the esses, three near hairpins and a back straight that lets Formula One drivers hit 300 kph without breaking a sweat.
Turn one is the most intimidating. The front straight rises more than 100 feet and approaches one of the slowest turns on the track. After hitting somewhere in the mid-100-mph range you have to get on the brakes late and hard. It’s more difficult than it sounds: you see the lead driver brake, you start closing, but you don’t want to hit your brakes until you reach the braking point yourself.
After that is the downhill section leading to the S-curves, and if you don’t get that right, forget your time because the lap is blown. Just get yourself back on the racing line and try again next time. (We learned that helpful hint after watching videos of ourselves during another teaching portion of the school, which showed just how off the line we actually were.)
After the esses is another hairpin leading to the back straight. That corner is a matter of shifting down to second and pulling it around, but technically, it’s the most important curve on the track since it leads into the longest straight. We cracked about 165 mph on the back half of the track with constant, non-boosted power and quick shifts from the dual-clutch transmission. The Huracan danced a little when braking hard to make the hairpin, but only got out of whack far enough to scare us once.
The brake discs and pads hung tough all day, and these cars were getting beat on lap after lap by inexperienced drivers. We were surprised, but in retrospect, we shouldn’t have been — that’s what you should get when you drop $241,945 on a thoroughly modern all-wheel drive Italian supercar.
We jumped in the Aventador for the next — the company would like to sell you another — and were instantly transported back to our SV drive earlier this year in Spain. Lambo’s halo car is fast and scary, just as we remembered. Gear changes from the independent shift rod (ISR) transmission are too slow in street mode, and a little too hard in track mode. You’d think the middling sport mode would be best, but its not. We kept it in track. We hit about the same speeds in the Aventador, but its transmission setup makes it harder to bang off shifts in corners. We’d much prefer one of the many ultra-smooth dual-clutch units. And overall, if it were our money, we’d opt for the more stable Huracan.
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