Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 | 3 a.m.
Exotics Racing School in Las Vegas and Los Angeles
One of Europe’s most successful auto racing schools has set up shop at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, giving customers the opportunity to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche or Aston Martin on the track.
Exotics Racing opened its doors in late November, drawing more than 60 people to an open house that allowed its French owners to show off their Ferrari F430 F1, Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, Porsche 997 S and Aston Martin Vantage.
The company already has bookings into March and nearly a dozen leads to host corporate events with a high-octane perk.
Beyond the Sun
“The turnout was better than we expected,” said David Perisset, CEO of Exotics Racing, of the pre-Thanksgiving opening at the speedway. “We are in the process of getting more cars, but because of the size of our fleet right now we are about at our (capacity) with the number we have.”
The response at the event was “We all had a blast,” Perisset said.
Perisset is a partner in the venture with French driver Romain Thievin, who in addition to racing and developing the Cascadevents driving school in Paris was a stunt double for Matt Damon in “The Bourne Identity.” Cascadevents is considered the leader among 40 race driving schools in France, in part because of the popularity of Thievin, who is a co-host of “Fast Club,” a TV show that airs in France and Belgium.
The third member of the Exotics Racing team is Sandrine Maniable, who oversees corporate marketing, which Perisset says will be the most challenging aspect.
But the company is off to a good start, developing a relationship with the on-property Ferrari dealership at Wynn Las Vegas.
Perisset said the partners, who have been friends for 20 years, got together five years ago to develop the business, and today the French operation attracts 15,000 customers a year.
“There’s such a high level of competition in France, so when the company was successful there, we decided we wanted to expand the concept abroad,” he said.
The three agreed to look at opportunities in Dubai, Macau and the United States, checking out Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Southern Nevada appealed because of the high number of visitors seeking entertainment and willing to spend money. Perisset noted that while entertainment options abound in Las Vegas, few big-thrill outdoor activities exist.
The partners spent last summer on surveys before settling on Las Vegas and Los Angeles. They negotiated the use of the inside and outside tracks at the speedway, and their cars were delivered in early November.
The price range is steep for the average Las Vegas tourist, but perfect for the demographic the company hopes to reach.
Many of its customers, Perisset said, are people who own a similar car, but don’t like to drive it on public roads or highways to preserve its value.
On the low end of the price list is driving the Porsche or Aston Martin, five laps for $249. Five-lap experiences in the Ferrari or Lamborghini are $299.
Other packages offer more laps or a combination of cars to drive. For example, 20 laps in the Ferrari or Lamborghini costs $999. Sixty laps in the four cars, 15 laps apiece, goes for $2,499.
The company also offers a ride-along package of two laps in a Corvette Z06 for $99 as well as gift certificates through its Web site, exoticsracing.com.
Exotics Racing will offer four sessions, lasting two to three hours, per day. Each session includes instruction and a safety briefing before taking the cars on the track.
Eventually, Thievin hopes to add a stunt-driving ride-along experience.
Although the company is starting operations during the worst U.S. recession, Perisset, a former Lehman’s investment banker, is optimistic.
“My read is that we’re at the bottom (of the recession) now and that will last for a couple of months more,” he said. “When it comes back, it won’t be a boom, but a slow recovery. We wanted to be here when that happens.”