A First-Timer’s Perspective: Driving the Audi R8 at SPEEDVEGAS
Not many people get the chance to drive an exotic car around a track for a few laps. I’ve purchased these experiences for others, but I didn’t really see myself doing it – mostly because I was too scared, if I’m being honest. That all changed when a group of friends went out west to celebrate a birthday and decided to have some fun at SPEEDVEGAS, which is Las Vegas’ version of Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP). Not wanting to be left out, I pushed my fears aside and decided to sign up for 4 laps in the Audi R8. No #FOMO here.
I’ve always been a fan of the Audi brand – something about the four rings just screams luxury to me. Or maybe it’s the fact that Tony Stark drives an Audi R8 and I’m a big fan of Iron Man. Either way, it’s no surprise that marathoning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe for the release of Avengers: Endgame led to us buying an Audi S5 convertible as our leisure car. Jokes aside, the R8 is actually my favorite car in the Audi family. It’s sleek, powerful, and sounds amazing when you turn over the engine.
On the day of the experience, we arrived at the track and checked in. We were put into a safety briefing on what to expect and I was internally freaking out the whole time. What if I mess up out there? What if everyone passes me? What if I forget how to drive in the moment? Everyone I had come with had some kind of track experience. This was my first time driving on a track AND my first time using paddle shifters.
Before I knew it, I was being called out onto the track by my driving coach and I had to shake off all the nerves and just go for it. We adjusted the seat and mirrors, tested the brakes, and then we were off!
Surrounded by mountains from the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, the SPEEDVEGAS track is truly one of the most scenic backdrops I’ve ever experienced. As a first timer, I also think this track was a great place for me to start.
As you can tell from the picture, there aren’t as many curves on the track, so it’s less technical than AMP – which was perfect for me. Don’t get me wrong, it still takes a lot of concentration and the curves on this track were still challenging, but I think I would’ve had a harder time if this were any other track. This track gave me the chance to enjoy the drive and not worry about how to make the next really sharp turn without dying.
Your driving coach sits in the passenger seat and helps you navigate the track the entire time. They have their own brake and all of the mirrors are placed in a position where they can see everything going on around the car. As the driver, this helps you focus on the road ahead while they handle everything else (i.e. passing/letting others pass you).
My coach’s name was Brianna, and she was the absolute best. She was bubbly, encouraging, gave great direction and made me feel more comfortable behind the wheel. When I made a mistake, she didn’t make me feel bad about it. Instead, she helped me correct it and then joked about how women take direction better than men, so the drive ends up being smoother.
The positive feedback she gave during the drive definitely helped ease my nerves. It also doesn’t hurt that she helped me pass a Lamborghini and a Ferrari.
By time the experience was over, I was wanting to do it all over again. Here are some of the things I took away from the experience:
- The experience goes by very fast – I think I spent a total of 10 minutes driving. In the moment it felt like I was on the track for a long time, but on the other hand I felt like I needed more time and was just getting into a groove when it was time to come off.
- Take a moment to appreciate the car you’re driving – I was so caught up in my nerves that I never really got the chance to appreciate being in such a beautiful, powerful car. It’s not every day you get to sit in an Audi R8, so I wish I had taken in the interior a little more.
- Confidence is key – After the first lap, I finally started to get a feel for the car and my speed picked up each lap. I was familiar with the turns and I felt confident in my driving, but the minute I made a mistake, it shook my confidence and my speed went down. Nothing wrong with making mistakes, but next time I’ll try to brush it off and make the correction without getting timid behind the wheel.
- Push hard on the straightaways – If I’m being honest, I drove the R8 like I would drive my Mazda 3. The straightaways are where you can test the limits of the car you’re driving. I didn’t push down on the pedal hard enough and topped at 119 MPH, but this was my first time and next time I know I’ll be faster.
- Any experience on a track helps – Having experienced many hot laps and a few races on Forza, I was already familiar with the turn in, apex, and acceleration points in a turn, which helped me a lot! So, don’t feel bad if you’ve never driven on a track before – video games can be forms of experience too! *Click here for our post on some of the best driving games*
- Woman driving coaches rock – I applaud any woman who is making a living in a male-dominated industry. Having Brianna as my coach not only made me feel comfortable, but also helped me not get in my head about worrying what my coach thought of my driving. After all, you’re there to have fun!
- Go with your friends – Experiencing this with my friends was definitely one of the main reasons it was so memorable. No matter what your experience level is, being with friends always makes things more fun. Plus, a little friendly competition never hurt!
All in all, my first experience driving around a track was everything I needed it to be. Hopefully my experience speaks to those of you who are also feeling a little nervous about doing something like this and helps some of you get behind the wheel. I know I’m itching to get back out there!
Have you driven at SPEEDVEGAS before? What was your experience like? Let us know on social media.