The Two Sides to a Unique and Exclusive Road Course Experience
The Road Course Virgin’s Side:
My growing excitement was tempered with a fair degree of anxiety with the recent approach of our Rocky Mountain Automotive Press Road Course Driving Event at High Plains Raceway in Byers, Colorado. Having driven only circle track/oval track courses previously (and those over 20 years ago), the road course had an immense appeal and interest for me. Of course, I had ridden as a passenger multiple times in various vehicles with my racecar-driving husband and co-author, Michael Cotsworth, but that driver’s seat is a completely different thrill ride. With changes in elevations and a true driver’s course set before me, I knew it would be a completely unprecedented life experience.
Kitted out in my new, bright red driving shoes, with butterflies slam-dancing in my stomach, I walked out to the hot pits. Eleven gleaming vehicles awaited us in an impressive assembly, like a smorgasbord of exceptional driving temptation. The manufacturers had provided a wide selection of makes and models for the 30 journalists from around the region to experience in their true performance state.
Included in this impressive lineup was a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, and a Fiat Spider 124 Abarth, one of my favorites. I truly lucked out, however: The first vehicle I had the opportunity to get into happened to be the 2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio RWD. Bright red, with a 2.9 liter, 505 horsepower Bi-Turbo V6 engine, and beefy Brembo 4-wheel disc high-performance brakes to try to keep all that smooth speed in check. And here it was: the Giulia’s as well as my own virgin run on the High Plains Raceway road racetrack. Wow. Another in the win column for Automotive Amy, for sure.
I set out onto the track with my driving instructor husband in the right seat, accelerating slowly to warm up the tires and the powerful engine. The 8-speed automatic transmission was seamless, allowing me to concentrate on all the other factors that go into driving on the track – acceleration, timing, braking, apex, and The Line.
The Line was instantly natural to me, and I caught it quickly, missing only one apex on turn 2. After the warm-up lap, it was game on. Reaching speeds approaching triple digits on the straights, I tested the power, the acceleration, and the silky and flawless handling of this precision machine. Four rather speedy laps later, I almost could have been happy never driving another vehicle again, firmly believing I had just had the best first experience on a racetrack ever. My first time driving on a road course – in an exceptional Italian Alfa performance machine. What more could a car girl want?
Some girls (including me) love Italian shoes. Still, I’d take one of these Italian driving machines instead any day of the week!
The Event Organizer’s Side:
What has 3,280 horsepower, 61 forward speeds, and a $473,850 price tag? The answer is the row of shiny new vehicles poised on the grid at High Plains Raceway, waiting for members of RMAP (Rocky Mountain Automotive Press) to jump into them and tear off at high speed around the challenging road course.
The lucky 30 journalists who attended the RMAP Media Track Day had their choice of primo high-performance machinery such as the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, Mercedes AMG C63 S Coupe, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 8, and Fiat 124 Spider Abarth. Slightly less exotic, but still perfectly suited to the twists and turns of High Plains Raceway, the VW Golf GTI, Kia Forte 5, Subaru BRZ, and Toyota 86 (formerly sold as Scion FRS) were on hand to delight the assembled drivers.
For those RMAP members who showed up at the racetrack in Byers, Colorado early on a Thursday morning, it was as easy and painless as listening to the drivers’ meeting while eating pastries, grabbing a helmet off the pit lane wall, selecting a beautiful car, and accelerating to enjoy a few hot laps. Bring that car back to the pit lane, hop into another, and head back onto the track. An exciting, possibly exhausting, yet fabulous experience. As the saying goes, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
What the guys and gals on the track don’t appreciate is what went into making the event happen. It is no mean task, convincing a dozen auto manufactures to send examples of their newest premium vehicles to Colorado for a bunch of journalists to run around a race track!
Like most adventures, it started out as an idea: “Let’s play with some cool cars on a racetrack.” To make that objective less self-serving and more palatable to corporate management, the concept morphed into “Let’s provide an opportunity for auto journalists to compare various vehicles in a controlled environment where their unique attributes can be safely experienced.” Auto makers love to show off their fancy products, and for good reason – we journalists rave about how wonderful they are.
With the manufacturers on board, spectacular vehicles scheduled to be transported to our region, and eager RMAP members committed to the event, the next steps were to rent the track (we are fortunate to have High Plains Raceway just an hour east of Denver), hire an ambulance for the day (to keep the insurance people happy), contract caterers to bring us food at the track, buy lots of water to keep everyone hydrated, and coerce folks to volunteer as grid workers, observers, and flag wavers.
The day dawned bright and clear (and hot!), cars showed up, with manufacturer representatives enlightened us of the features of each vehicle. (They also offered some journalists to ride right-seat to keep them from getting overly enthusiastic behind the wheel.) RMAP journalists showed up, people got registered, and I managed not to scare anyone too badly in the drivers’ meeting. We drove cars from 9:00 to 5:00 – no metal gets bent, nothing overheats, and no one passes out from heat stroke. As dedicated auto journalists, we all got lots of good driving experiences to supply fuel for our print, online, TV, and radio outlets. A totally successful day! Let’s do it again next year . . .