Crashing the $550,000 Gumpert Apollo (It Wasn’t Me!)

Orange Crush: The $550,000 Gumpert Apollo

By Jason H. Harper – Jul 22, 2010 (Bloomberg News)

You don’t want to be the guy who crashes someone else’s $550,000 supercar.

That’s obvious, but never more so than when you watch a half-million-dollar car getting towed from the racetrack into a garage where the frowning owners stand.

I wasn’t that guy, thank heaven. It was the dude right after me who lost control of the bright-orange Gumpert Apollo, helicoptering off the track and into a tire wall, cratering the nose.

Then there was the fellow just before me. He spun it but didn’t hit anything.

Super sensation: Hey, it's only, like, half a mill...

I drove about six laps in the violently powerful, German- made supercar, treating it like a pit viper with irritable bowel syndrome. Very, very delicately. Continue reading…

Learn to Drive Like Hurley: Porsche’s Sport Driving School

By Jason H. Harper – Apr 15, 2010 (Bloomberg)

Porsche Sport Driving School: Fast!

On the side of a steep hairpin turn at Barber Motorsports Park racetrack, racing legend Hurley Haywood has his eye on me. That’s because I’ve come in waaay too hot and my Porsche 911, tires smoking, is hurtling sideways toward the spot where Haywood is standing.

Joggling the wheel to regain control, I give a sheepish wave to the iconic Porsche race driver and then roar away.

Having Haywood, who has won the 24 Hours of Daytona five times and Le Mans 24 Hours thrice, watch over novices is like having Celtics basketball star Larry Bird coach a junior-varsity team. Haywood, chief driving instructor, helped start the Porsche Sport Driving School and attends 20 classes a year.

The three-day Masters Plus program is Porsche’s most advanced course in the U.S., costing $5,295. Graduates get a race license to the Sports Car Club of America, allowing drivers to enter regional races.

Suiting up: Day 3 of the sport driving school

Continue reading…

An Exciting Jag! Hotness in a $115,000 XJ

By Jason H. Harper – Mar 18, 2010 (Bloomberg)

Parked on a pebbly shoulder, nose pointed down a skinny country lane, the new Jaguar XJ hums quietly in the sunshine.

I punch the dynamic sport button and the seatbelt gives a sharp tug across my chest, tightening automatically. A jolting, visceral signal between a promise and a threat. The car’s talking, and my pulse actually responded.

Did I just get excited about a Jag?

Jaguar in the countryside:Long-wheelbase 2011 XJ

While it once made gut-achingly cool cars like the XK120 and E-Type, Jaguar has long been merely a facsimile of fab. Apologies to those who still regard it as the standard-bearer of British cool, but average customers are Florida blue-hairs and Long Island podiatrists. Continue reading…

Wings On A Car: Mercedes-Benz SLS Gullwing

By Jason H. Harper – Jan 14, 2010

Swingin': The Mercedes SLS Gullwing

It’s got two wings and, boy, does it fly.

I’m soaring up a steep hill in Mercedes-Benz’s new $200,000 supercar, the SLS AMG. Nearing the top, I squeeze on the carbon- ceramic brakes, sweep right to left on the pebbly asphalt, then tuck the supersized beak down a coiling hill — the infamous blind corkscrew at California’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

I spiral down, stomach dropping, grin spreading. Birds on the wing indeed.

Flip: Gullwings at Laguna Seca, all ready and waiting

Continue reading…