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Seven Tips for Driving a Supercar

A racing legend coaches our test drivers on how to handle exotic machines.

Race-car legend Didier Theys has this to say to neophytes who drive high-performance cars: "Don't be dazzled by the myth."

Sorry, Didier. Too late.

At a World Class Driving session in Tarrytown, N.Y., I shift my purring Lamborghini Murcielago into second, leaving his sage advice in the dust.

For six thrilling hours, I recently road-tested a collection of six exotic cars that are collectively valued at $1.4 million.

Luckily, Theys' advice kept my fast-lane impulses from going into overdrive.

Here are his seven tips for testing the world's fastest supercars:

1. Performance or Pleasure?

"Choose your car according to your spirit," advises Theys.

The ultra-luxury car market produces two types of drivers: purists and pleasure seekers. When testing a luxury vehicle, make sure it caters to your dominant sensibility.

Purists gravitate toward the performance precision of Ferraris, with their rich racing history. Bentleys and Mercedes -- lovingly referred to as marshmallow cars -- pamper those who crave all the trappings of luxury.

2. It's Not Easy Being Superior

"You might stop quickly but the pickup truck behind you won't," says Theys, emphasizing the importance of driving with the inferior capabilities of vehicles around you in mind.

Jamming your foot on the brakes is not necessary in these cars, a discovery I made in the parking lot, not on the highway. Feel out the car in the beginning, Theys recommends, especially if you're not accustomed to ceramic brakes, which respond to the slightest foot tap.

Want more? Check out TV video.One Day, Six Exotic Cars

3. Eyes Off the Hood

Driving a Ferrari isn't like cruising in your


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SUV. For starters, you'll be seated closer to the road than you're used to.

"When drivers sit low they have a tendency to look too close in front of the hood," says Theys. He instructs young racecar drivers to look beyond the Lamborghini emblem emblazoned on the hood and keep their eyes on the road in front of them to better anticipate the movement of traffic.

4. Heed the Horsepower

Sure, I wanted to whip the Lamborghini Gallardo around those country road curves at 60 mph, but decided that $205,000 wouldn't look pretty around a tree. Those delicious stretches of highway on the Hudson were another story. The speed markers fly by so fast, it's hard to get a good reading.

"Drivers have the tendency not to respect 600 horsepower," says Theys. Achieving top speed in two seconds can catapult you into the fender in front of you faster than anticipated.

5. Are You Forgiving or Harsh?

Suspension is key to your comfort level, says Theys. Look for firm suspension with good grip on the road, but go too stiff and you feel every pothole.

My Bentley GTC treated a gravel road like it was smooth blacktop. But after an hour of pavement anesthesia, I yearned to feel the road again.

6. Keep Your Dealer Close

Even a half-million-dollar car will have to get serviced. If your nearest Ferrari dealer is three states away, you're in for a grueling day trip, warns Theys.

7. Get Your Bearings Before Your Check Book

For a dose of perspective before purchasing an exotic car, Jake Fisher, senior automotive engineer for

Consumer Reports

recommends driving something slightly more pedestrian beforehand and comparing the experiences.

"There are vehicles that stand out even in the luxury crowd," reminds Fisher. He recommends the Mercedes Benz E-Class, which has all the bells and whistles of an exotic car, but the security of a Volvo.

As a rule of thumb, if it takes longer than 20 seconds to figure out how to adjust the treble and bass on your stereo, rethink what you're paying extra money for, says Fisher.

While the Mercedes boomed out the Rolling Stones beautifully, I felt too comfy. The Corvette had class, but not enough grit.

I couldn't find the stereo in the Murcielago, but after starting the motor, my concern for pop music went out the window. Devilish good looks and high thrill factor weren't qualities emphasized by Theys or Fisher, but if it can make me scream with delight while doing 70 mph on a country road, I'm infatuated.

World Class Driving events are scheduled regularly around the U.S. throughout the year for $1,300 per person per day. The events are ideal for auto enthusiasts purchasing their first exotic car, or someone like me, just out for an expensive thrill.