Half of my October has been taken up by what many would class as a trip of a lifetime, that is, exploring California by V8 minibus with a weekend of Las Vegas thrown in for good measure.
To say it was a “an experience” would be an understatement; in fact, it was massively enjoyable to see such locations as San Diego, San Francisco and Big Sur. The last of that trio was a time where it was my time to drive our eight-cylinder Chevrolet Express 12-seater (there was only five us…), which was a massive test of my skills as a driver, and although I felt comfortable at the helm, my passengers didn’t exactly share my sentiments and felt a little worse for wear when we stopped for the night.
However, another test was in store for my talents at the wheel, but one that I much more willing to take a punt at, as when the two cars in question have over 1,000bhp between them, that’s usually no bad thing.
Based next to Las Vegas Speedway is Exotics Racing; basically a place for driving days like you’d find at Thruxton or Croft where the paddock is transformed into supercar heaven. Unlike our UK circuits, however, this establishment was hell bent on providing the latest and greatest in exotica, much to my personal excitement.
I had initially booked a two-car combo consisting of the current Porsche 911 GT3 and something I’d wanted to commandeer for a few years now, the Mercedes SLS AMG; the latter, I found out a few days before driving, had been given an unexpected reason to visit the garage and I wouldn’t be able to take the wheel of the gull-winged powerhouse. An alternative was therefore required, and after many minutes of deliberation, the magnificent Lamborghini Huracan was chosen in its place.
Obviously, this was going to cost me money (a fair bit of money, in fact) as I’m not fortunate enough to be testing these cars for a publication, but that was of no concern to me and I was massively looking forward to putting the dup to their full potential on the track.
Starting with the Porsche, I was curious to see how the GT3’s rear-axle steering would feel behind the wheel. The system adapts to the car’s current situation in terms of steering input and speed and allows each rear wheel to change its angle accordingly, creating advantages during both high and low velocity driving. On the track, the system was immediately evident as I gradually became more confident with the car and the track, with the rear end feeling like it was urging you round the corners, especially the couple of faster kinks in the track.
It is the handling you notice first with the GT3, its remarkable feel in the bends only made you want to risk a few more mph with every lap and I never felt as though the grip would succumb to hard physics at any point. The all-new engine for the GT3 produces 475bhp, and although the 991 model weighs about 100kg more than the 997.2, it felt incredibly easy to get near the 9,000rpm limit, and on a track with such short straights as this one it had me reaching for the brakes perhaps a little too early.
After eight laps at the helm of the GT3, it felt like a car made for the track, albeit a circuit with longer stretches between the corners, and I’d love for a chance to take one for a b-road blast and see how it copes with alternating road surfaces and not just the smooth tarmac of the Exotics Racing compound. I’d also be curious as to how it goes against the last hurrah from the 997 generation GT3, the 4.0, just to see if such a seminal model can be beaten by its successor.
Now to the Lambo and a car I wasn’t initially taken with upon first laying eyes on. The Huracan to me was more of a baby Aventador rather than a true revolution away from the Gallardo and I felt a little disappointed the entry-level bull wasn’t more radical. The only new element that really had me interested was the removal of the sluggish E-Gear system and the introduction of a smart-sounding dual-clutch affair; other than that, I felt the styling wasn’t extreme enough and nor was the engine in the middle of the car.
This opinion was turned around slightly after getting close to the Huracan at this year’s Geneva motor show, and put in the contrary even more so when getting full access to it in Vegas. Being able to walk around the car, sit inside it and absorb its details certainly made me appreciate the Huracan a great deal more than I ever had done before, but literally getting my hands on the bull’s horns allowed me witness first-hand how brutal such a car is.
The Lamborghini certainly felt more urgent than the Porsche when the right pedal was put to the metal out of the corners, thanks predominantly to having just over 600bhp on tap; handling was unsurprisingly heavier, however, and there was much more steering input required, as well as evidence of a touch of understeer here and there. A mistake in one corner, though, did see me stick the tail end out, proving its four-wheel-drive system is most certainly rear-biased.
Having not driven a comparable car such as the Ferrari 458 or McLaren 650S, it was always going to be hard to judge the Huracan against its rivals, but I can imagine the option from Maranello being a little sharper and more agile thanks to the faster steering rack and two-wheel-drive. However, the Huracan’s power is the dominant force in play and down the straights felt unstoppable; the Lambo also felt a little heavier than the GT3, even though the two are more or less the same weight.
Of the two, the Porsche is certainly the more capable car and is a pure track weapon (and probably just as good on the road, too); the Huracan, I feel, would be the car to have the most fun in, thanks to a lairier engine and just more drama overall. Despite the more focussed set-up, I would imagine the GT3 would be the more liveable car on a day-to-day basis due to its smoother gearbox and more open cabin, as well as an engine that wouldn’t make you ears bleed (too much) when the time comes to floor it.