Ted Cahall Hits 202MPH – Legally!

I know it sounds unbelievable.  I truly doubt drivers illegally hit 200 mph that often.  So when it does happen at all – it is a rare and unusual event.

Ted Cahall with Ferrari 599 GTB

Why?  Well first off, there are very few cars that can actually hit 200 mph.  I don’t own one and I own a 505HP Z06 Corvette and a 604HP sedan.  Additionally, for the cars that can hit 200 mph, it is hard to find a stretch of road long enough and straight enough to attempt it.  Of course there are banked tracks such as the Daimler test track in Unterturkheim or Volkswagen Group’s Ehra-Lessien test track  – but those take far more skill than just driving in a straight line.

It takes over two miles for most of the modern stock exotic sports cars (Ferrari 599 GTB, Lamborghini LP560) to hit 200 mph.  Finding two miles of straight, smooth pavement not is use by the U.S. highway system is a difficult task.  That is where the pros at World Class Driving come into play.  They have two locations that make this possible.  One in Miami for folks in the eastern U.S. and one in the Mojave desert for the left coast.

I highly recommend this program put on by World Class Driving.  It is run by professional race drivers and the cars are meticulously maintained.  Drivers are given a choice of any of three vehicles that have all been proven to reach 200 mph: a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a Ferrari 599 GTB, and a Lamborghini LP560.

The day starts out with some driving skill drills to make sure each entrant is capable of handling the cars in corners and at speed.  For the early part of the day, we were also able to drive a Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, and a Maserati Granturismo.  Those exercises were really enjoyable as well with hard acceleration and hard braking in some of the world’s fastest and most exotic cars.  I must have done alright as they let me move onto the next segment of the training session.

In the next section, they test how well you will do out on the actual airstrip.  The main issue in the Miami course is that the airstrip is approximately 2 miles long.  Not quite long enough to hit 200 mph in a straight line and stop.  The driver is required to build speed on an auxiliary runway and then turn through two turns to head out onto the main runway at about 60 mph for the 200 mph attempt.  Even more interesting, after hitting maximum speed and entering the braking zone, the driver still does not have enough runway left to stop in a straight line – and must execute another turn back towards the auxiliary runway at about 50 mph!  It is a lot to master for any rookies out there that have not experienced high speed turns under acceleration or braking.  The Mojave runway is almost 3 miles long and does not have these issues.  So folks that want to just smash the gas and see what 200 mph feels like may want to try that.  Personally, I enjoyed the challenge that required some skill.

When we moved to the 200 mph attempts, we were told that we would be given four turns each.  Two test turns to get used to the start zones and braking zones and then two attempts to reach 200 mph.  It may sound simple, but most of the 16 participants did not hit 200 mph in any of the four attempts.  I took the Mercedes SLR and hit 197 mph on my first test run.  The SLR is an automatic (no paddle shifters that I saw) and was hard to keep in lower gears when coming out on to the airstrip.  After hitting 196 mph in the SLR on my second attempt and noticing that no one was doing well with the car, I decided to switch to the Lamborghini LP560.

I jumped into the LP560 and mentally prepared myself for the turn out onto the airstrip.  I knew this turn at 60 mph was critical to hitting 200 mph and made it the main focus of the launch.  I lined the turn up well, tapped my brakes to load up the front end to improve the steering and accelerated evenly out to the widest end of the airstrip.  It felt like an excellent launch.  Much better than the downshift that had happened in the SLR.  As I went up a few gears, I realized I was so focused on the turn onto the airstrip that I did not have my seatbelt buckled!  I did not let this distract me.  The car has airbags and I wasn’t planning on using them either…

As I raced through the braking zone and brought the car back to reasonable speeds, the instructor next to me exclaimed, “200 mph!”  I was the first participant to hit 200 mph and the only one to do it in the first three runs.

All of the sudden all of the drivers started using the Lamborghini LP560 as I had done and a few more hit 200 mph on their 4th and final try.  One of the drivers hit 201 mph!  While I was the first, I was no longer the fastest.  This was disappointing – but I did have my fourth and final attempt left.

This time as I prepared for the final run, I buckled my seatbelt.  I was ready and again had an excellent launch out of the turn onto the airstrip.  I took the LP560 through its gears and kept the gas pedal smashed to the floor as I roared through the braking zone.  The instructor yelled, “202 mph”, as I turned off of the main airstrip.

What an incredible day.  I was the first participant to hit 200 mph, I was the fastest participant at 202 mph and I was the only participant to hit 200 mph twice that day.

If speed fills your need.  Then World Class Driving is the way to do it.  The professionals there make sure you and all of the equipment are ready for the exercises – the rest is up to you.  If you just want to try driving the world’s greatest exotic cars without going 200 mph, World Class Driving also has some other touring programs that may even be more local to your hometown.  I took one of their tours in May of this year and really enjoyed it.

Ted Cahall

Click on one of the photos below to open the gallery.


World Class Driving Tour

On Thursday I drove down to Richmond, VA and participated in the World Class Driving Tour. We had a chance to drive five different exotic sports cars through the country side of Virginia. Of course, no speed laws broken by any of the participants, especially me. Cough…  Below is the group shot from our outing (more photos of my group at bottom of this post). I am the second person from the left. 

Ted Cahall with World Class Driving Group
Ted Cahall with World Class Driving Group on May 21st, 2009.

We started the day at 7:00AM by signing our lives away.  It would have been unpleasant to have wrecked one of these as I think I promised the future lives of all my relatives for many centuries to come as collateral.

Then we were  out to the cars for the group photo and then the road.  Each driver took a turn in each of the five cars.  We had eight drivers and only five cars, so each driver had three legs as either an exotic car passenger or in one of the lead or chase vehicles.  This was the only let down of the whole morning.  I am not sure I would have registered had I known that.  OK – I probably would have – it was a total gas.

I was lucky enough to sit out the first segment – as that was driving through town in a very slow, deliberate manner.  No fun sitting in a high performance car in traffic!  My first segment was in the Audi R8.  It is a fantastic car that handles superbly.  It clearly can be a daily driver (and Ash Patel at Yahoo uses it as one).  My only complaint was that it was somewhat under powered for an exotic car.  I was also at the very end of the pack – so lagging back to rev the engine was somewhat more difficult.  Still great car and I was very impressed.

My next segment was in the Callaway C16 Corvette.  It is supercharged and was by far the very fastest car of the day.  It has an automatic transmission as well as paddle shifters.  The automatic was so well tuned there was no need for the paddles.  I did a hole-shot out of the parking lot and was shocked by the power.  It got a bit squirrely even with the traction control on.  Yeah – that’s what I’m talking about!  I was second in the conga line behind the Lambo and I lagged back quite a few times.  The car was like a rocket ship when I would nail it and downshift two gears.  The whine of the supercharger was outrageous and the power literally pinned you to your seat.  I have owned some fast supercharged cars – but this was the best.  Callaway got this one right.  I noticed that there was blue smoke pouring out of the back of the car when I would pound on it.  I figured I would point that out when we stopped next (I really did not need to since I was coating the 3 cars behind me).  It turned out that the blue smoke was a harmless leak from the supercharger cooler that only occurred under very high load (ie. me).  I must have done 5 or 6 power runs after lagging back and flooring it.  That ride alone would have been worth every penny – but it gets better.  We got to a straight, well paved, wide-open section of two lane highway following a slower car.  The lead car passed and and the Lambo followed, I lagged a bit so I could wail on the C16 and then hit it.  We blew past the car and began to climb into the back seat of the Lambo.  I am sure we went a tad over 55…

Eventually we pulled over and switched again.  I got the Lamborghini this time.  I figured there was no way I was going to enjoy that after the C16.  While the Lambo does have 10 cylinders, it is not supercharged, etc.  Well, I was wrong!  The thing was amazing.  I was behind the pace car (driven by Roland who is an experienced pro racer that could have made a tricycle go fast).  I let Roland get a good pace ahead of me and pounded out the Lamborghini.  It was almost as impressive as the C16 – but it is all wheel drive and really was incredible in the curves and corners.  I pulled a number of power downshifts in this car too and was really torn as to which car I now liked best.  Either way, there is no loser out of these two.

When my turn was next, I got to drive the Ford GT.  This is a true supercar and was the only car with a real stick-shift and clutch.  One of the instructors always road in the GT.  No problem. 🙂  This was a great car and extremely fast.  It is also supercharged – but for some reason the power was very linear and smooth.  It did not really let lose and snap my neck back as I had done in the C16 and Lambo.  It might have been due to the instructor sitting next to me – but he never made a peep each time I lagged back and then hit it as hard as I could.  No question a fantastic car – but it did not rank with the C16 or Lambo.  It might be due to the manual transmission.  The automatics they are making in these new exotics are really phenomenal.

When we were well on our way back to the hotel, it was time for my final drive.  I was in the Alfa-Romeo 8C.  It had the nicest sound to it – but unfortunately resembled more of the Audi R8’s power band than the other power beasts.  Unlike the Audi’s fine transmission, the 8C would bog under full power shifting.  It was also grumble backfiring on downshifts or when I let off the gas.  All of this – and it was the most expensive of all of the cars at about $300k!  They are only letting 75-80 of them into the US – so it is a rare collector’s car.  It is a good thing – because even at about $200k this would not see any sales volume when compared to a Lambo, Ferrari, or other car in that range.  It was definitely my least favorite of the five cars.  So I was glad it was the one that I had to waste part of my turn in city traffic as we parked back at the hotel.  I guess it has some appeal and some woman actually called out to us (another driver was my passenger) to let us know she liked our car…  So Italian sound appeal counts for something.

Ted Cahall

Click on one of the photos to start the gallery.