Indiana: Zero to Sixty
World Class Driving Experience at West Baden Springs Indiana Everyone once in a while a great opportunity comes my way. In this case it was the opportunity to participate in World Class Driving Experience (WCD) down at West Baden Springs in French Lick Indiana. I had met the PR person for West Baden Springs at a travel show and she was interested in what we do at the Alcohol Professor. It was a nice conversation and I then moved on to the next booth. Then a few weeks later I got an invite to her hotel and participate in the World Class Driving Experience that was being held at the hotel.
To be honest I immediately said yes and was booking the flight before I even thought about who was going to watch the dog. I have always wanted to have one of these driving experiences where a group of drivers go out for a half day and each get to drive a different amazing car. I was so excited.
Sometimes I admit I am geographically challenged about parts of the United States. It is not that I don’t travel but I forget how close Louisville is to Cincinnati or that Kentucky borders Indiana. So when I planning my trip to West Baden Springs I discovered that it is close to Louisville…Bourbon Country This gave me the opportunity to spend a good deal of quality time with Master Distiller Jim Rutledge of Four Roses. The previous time I was down visiting Four Roses the wonderful Al Young who recently published an excellent book on Four Roses gave me the grand tour and tasting. I am always surprised to see great bourbon being made in a Spanish Mission Style building.
Now most people today when they hear French Lick Indiana they think of its hometown hero Larry Bird. Though for a period of time French Lick was a casino and grand resort town where people traveled great distances to soak in their sulfur springs including Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After a rough period new money came back in and renovated the resort and casino.
Today the resort is a beautiful hotel and my pics do not do it justice. Its free standing dome with the rooms circling it is a great example of architecture that was once grand in our country. One of my favorite parts was the expansive porch with numerous rocking chairs to allow you envision how it once was when FDR announced his run for the Presidency from this place.
Though the reason for coming down was really to come down and drive these amazing cars. WCD is hands down a great fine tuned machine that delivers an amazing experience. You first start with a safety briefing and breakfast. Here the rules are declared where you never pass the lead car driven by a professional race car driver, you are on your own in case you are exceeding the speed limit and pulled over and don’t damage the car!
Our group consisted of a few members of the media along with friends and couples celebrating special events. There were five cars available to drive and six teams so there was one team riding with the lead car driven by a professional race car driver who has driven in the Indy 500. This alone was an experience just watching and feeling how fluid the car drove him at the wheel.
Each team got to drive each car so you would drive for 15-20 minutes until we all pull over and in a coordinated Chinese Fire Drill run to the next car to drive. The other exciting part was the course they choose for us on these winding back roads where we had the opportunity to really push each car’s abilities.
So what did I drive that day! The first car was the Audi R8 that was a great starting point for me as I am not used to that type of acceleration and it was a automatic shift. The second car was the Lamborghini Galardo and I have never driven a car that low to the ground before along with shift buttons on the wheel. The third car was the Ferrari 599GTB that came with a WCD chaperone due to the cost of the car to make sure you did not push the limit. The fourth car was the Mercedes SLR McLaren that cost 500K and it felt like I was driving a rocket ship with its long hood. The fifth car was the Corvette Callaway C16 that was just pure power.
I am always asked which was my favorite driving car?. Even though I enjoyed driving each car the Ferrari 599GTB was the best overall car for me. It had amazing power and yet I never felt I was out of my comfort zone with all the tight turns that I took. I can see it being a day to day driving car with those rare moments where you get to air it out.