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5 exceptional driving experiences that floor it on fun

Our friends at Robb Report tell you how some high-end automakers have developed driving courses to help you get the most from your ride.

Owning a sports car is thrilling in itself, but mastering its power enhances the experience. Here are top-tier courses to help you get a handle on your ride.

Master Maserati driving courses

Those looking for more from their Maserati can now be mentored by the Trident team directly, during the new Master Maserati Driving Courses for 2016. The series of intensive car clinics -- which started in March -- run from one to four days and are led by former Formula One racer Andrea de Adamich and his cadre of top instructors at the Autodromo Varano de' Melegari racecourse just outside of Parma, Italy. Don't own a model from the marque? Not to worry. A selection of 15 vehicles that cover the entire line -- from GranTurismo to Ghibli -- will be provided, and each is equipped with audio/video recording systems to help review student performance.


Covering the basics for beginners, the Master Warm Up is a one-day primer that includes preliminary track-training and a morning tour of Maserati's factory in Modena. More-experienced motorists can hone their handling skills with the Master GT 1 Day, which offers telemetry analysis, oversteer-control exercises and emergency driving techniques. And multiple-day drill-downs include the Master High Performance and Master Premium packages (the latter is new for this year) that devote attention to high-speed circuit driving and introduce increasingly involved control exercises and various levels of traction.

Courses offer the added option of accommodations and range in price from about $1,364 to $6,493 per driver, and about $273 to $944 for a companion. Private-group or individual instruction can also be arranged with the Master Incentive program. Online registration for all classes can be done directly through Maserati.


Maserati's Master Driving Course will let you sample any of the Trident's current offerings.


Lamborghini's Esperienza and Accademia

On February 19, the green flag was waved on the 2016 season of Lamborghini's Esperienza and Accademia driving courses. The Raging Bull charged out of the gate with experiential events geared for both novice and advanced racing enthusiasts, allowing them to test their mettle on top-tier tracks in Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia.

For those just beginning with the marque, the Esperienza program provides an introductory day that kicks off with a gourmet breakfast, followed by lessons in performance and handling while behind the wheel of the Aventador and Huracan. After lunch and espresso, participants take to the track for a full circuit guided by professional instructors. Adding authenticity to the afternoon, a concluding awards ceremony will recognize the fastest learners. As a further reward, the classes offered in Imola, Italy, will include a tour of Lamborghini's factory and museum in Sant'Agata Bolognese.

Accademia, the more competitive course, revs up the action with two levels of difficulty (intensive and advanced). The daylong drill includes exercises in slalom, acceleration, braking, and oversteering. The track tutorials began in March and include circuits such as Phillip Island in Australia, Nürburgring in Germany, Valencia in Spain and Laguna Seca in the United States.


Lambo's Corso Pilota driving school is available in Las Vegas, among other locations.


McLaren P1 GTR driver program

The McLaren P1 GTR driver program got off to a roaring start last October as the brand's most powerful car was put through its paces at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. Seven McLaren P1 GTR owners participated in the elite three-day, racing-intensive driving experience, which was specifically designed to help them tame the 986 hp track-only torpedo.

Before laying rubber to the road, each driver received customized coaching -- based on experience and ability -- from a team of motorsport professionals from McLaren Special Operations. To help them gear up for actual laps on the circuit, the rookie racers logged time behind the wheel of McLaren's simulator, safely developing prowess with the P1 GTR's power and performance without the usual limitations of road or racing restrictions. Once given the green light, the seven set out on the same circuit that hosts the Spanish Grand Prix, chasing a lap-time goal set by the famed Formula 1 racer Bruno Senna.

After its winning start, the McLaren P1 GTR Driver Program will have eight more stops on its current calendar, including Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, the Circuit of the Americas in the United States, Silverstone in the United Kingdom, and the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Only owners of the 375 street-legal McLaren P1 coupes are eligible to purchase a P1 GTR and partake in the program, which together come at a combined cost of $3.1 million.


Before hitting the track, McLaren's P1 GTR driver program includes simulator time.


Castello di Casole Ferrari Red Passion

Castello di Casole, the world-renowned Italian hotel located in a former 10th-century castle, is offering its guests the opportunity to experience Tuscany from the driver's seat of a Ferrari. The Castello di Casole Ferrari Red Passion experience begins with an early morning test-drive through the countryside of Chianti to Siena. While behind the wheel of either a Ferrari California or a Ferrari 458 Spider (whichever the guest prefers), guests can drive independently or with a professional Ferrari instructor. The stop in Siena includes the opportunity to take some laps on an international racetrack.

In addition to logging time behind the wheel, guests who book the package will receive champagne at check-in and a bottle of estate wine, a 50-minute couple's massage at Essere Spa and Fitness Club, a shopping day at the Prada Factory Outlet, and three nights in the suite of their choice. Every suite at Castello di Casole boasts breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside.

The Ferrari Red Passion package will be available on a limited basis for stays through October 28, 2016; guests must book by October 15. With a four-night minimum, prices start at approximately $1,200 per night based on double occupancy -- because someone has to ride shotgun.


What's better than piloting a Ferrari in Tuscany? Getting pro instruction to make the most of it.


Waldorf Astoria driving experiences

La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California, has added a fast and furious facet to its already sporty list of amenities -- the 2016 Waldorf Astoria driving experience. Guests are welcome to take the wheel of three supercars, a Ferrari 458 Italia Spider, a McLaren MP4-12C and a Porsche 911 GT3, under the watchful eye of the professional racer Didier Theys.

Each car represents its respective marque's automotive masterwork -- unique studies in power, performance, and singular style. Ferrari's Pininfarina-designed pony packs a 4.5-liter V-8 engine and can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 3 seconds while the driver is ensconced in an interior crafted to specifications from Formula One's famed Michael Schumacher. The carbon-fiber McLaren manages to motor from 0 to 100 mph in 6 seconds and can reach 205 mph, propelled by a 592-horsepower, twin-turbo V-8. And the rear-engine rocket from Porsche features a flat-6 -- with 325 pound-feet of torque -- and a top speed of 195 mph.


Posh accommodations after a long day of hard driving are just what the doctor ordered.

Waldorf Astoria driving experience

After Theys (who has 61 podium finishes in races around the world) delivers an instructional briefing on the cars, participants will be able to punch it on a designated course that covers a variety of terrain -- including extended straightaways and steep switchbacks -- accentuated by the dramatic high desert. Drivers will have the opportunity to try each vehicle within the duration of the 2.5-hour session, which is offered three times per day.

When finished putting pedal to the metal, guests are invited to roll in to La Quinta's spa to experience its new 100-minute High Performance Facial and Timeless Massage treatment (for an additional $275) before parking for the night in a newly renovated casita that is included with the experience. Available on only four select weekends between October and December, the price starts at $999 in addition to the cost of accommodation.

-- Written by Viju Mathew and Lindsay Bjerregaard.