Get ready for the thrill of a lifetime while driving the Fiat Abarth. Feel the wind in your hair and hands tightened around the steering wheel as you hugging each turn of the track.
When it comes to driving I have had my license since I am 16 however only really drove after college. I follow the rules and can parallel park like no one’s business in NYC. I was recently invited to attend the Fiat Abarth Track Experience. This is not your typical driving on the road, as I headed to New Jersey Motorsports Park, excitement was in the air knowing that we would be learning from the best. Skip Barber Racing School trainers were ready to give us one on one hands-on training.
There was so much planned for the day: learning about each of the vehicles, being able to test drive each of them in different formats and of course taking them for several spins around the racetrack. Having never driven on a racetrack before I was nervous and excited at the same time. Hey, it’s just like driving on the highway at fast speeds, no way Jose, what a totally different and unique experience.
From learning to control the cars on the skidpad and following the course on the Autocross we had our morning set out for us.
We tend to drive our vehicles in all types of weather. The most common for me is rain and snow. Knowing how to take control of your car when slick roads come into play is very important. This experience is the one time you take all the lessons of drivers ed and throw it out the window. Well, just a little bit. While being on the skid pad that has been doused with water, you purposely want the car to spin out.
Driving around in a tight circle at what you think is a high speed to then switch gears and spin out. While this is happening just pay attention to what you learned from your instructor and all is ok. Just release your foot from the gas, place it on the brake, and you and the car will be ok. It is an eerie feeling knowing you want to cause this. However better to learn now than be stuck in this situation and not know what to do.
During my time on the track, I was with one of the best instructors, Mr. Terry Earwood. Earlier in class, he taught us how squeezing on the gas can change the dynamic of the vehicle. There is a relationship between Grip, radius, and speed 15gR =(mph)2 It teaches us how many g’s before sliding and what is affecting the center of gravity such as tires and shocks.
Both the Fiat Abarth 500 and the Fiat Abarth Spider 124, were great rides with sports performance. I can certainly see the Fiat 500 being popular for city drivers who need to fit into tight parking spaces. Don’t think that you are making sacrifices when it comes to size though. You are getting just as much power as larger vehicles. Did you know that the Fiat 500 is the most affordable car with a turbo engine in America? It is even more powerful and affordable than a Mini Cooper. Even more thrilling to know is that Fiat is the first brand to standardize Turbo performance cross their entire line.
The Fiat Abarth 500 was my vehicle of choice for hitting the race track and being part of the lead follow.
With helmets on we were ready to follow our group. The key is to keep looking to where you want to go. Looking beyond the next reference point helps you develop your sight markings for turns. Going TFTS, (Too Fast, Too Soon) compromises your learning curve and is not something you want to do.
I decided to do the next run with the lead follow. What a completely different experience, being up front in the pace car and everyone else following. This is where the driver is taking notice of how fast he can go and making sure every driver is following at a safe speed.
If you wanted to go faster and have a thrill for speed you could do a few hot laps with the rally driver in the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth Rally race car.
Here are just a few highlights of the Rally race car. The engine has 4 valves of direct injections with the performance of 300 HP @ 6500 RPM. The gearbox is longitudinal 6 speed plus reverse and the rear differential has a mechanical limited slip.
A big thank you to everyone on site for the experience of a lifetime. One more adventure has been checked off my bucket list!
Disclosure: I was Fiat’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided. All opinions are my own.