Growing up, Paulo Nagamura caught the car bug attending Formula One’s Brazilian Grand Prix twice.
“Ayrton Senna was still alive at that time,” said Nagamura, who starts in the midfield for Sporting Kansas City. “He’s one of the best drivers ever, and I had the honor to watch him race. I really like Formula One, and I really like race cars.”
Friday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, Nagamura slipped behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia — retail price $295,000 — and rattled off six laps on the infield road course.
“It was great,” Nagamura said. “It’s not every day you get to drive a Ferrari and drive on a race course. The car is amazing. It’s so fast. I really enjoyed it.”
Chance Myers, Sporting KC’s starting right back, grew up in Thousand Oaks, Calif., but he developed the same passions for soccer and fast cars.
Myers and Nagamura were among four Sporting KC players, including defensive midfielder Oriol Rosell and striker Claudio Bieler, to test out the supercars as part of the Exotic Driving Experience.
“I love cars, whether it’s these exotic cars or the old muscle cars,” Myers said. “I have an appreciation for them, for sure.”
Of course, he’d never driven anything like the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera until Friday, when he reached a top speed of 107 down the front stretch and turned a 53.08 lap, the fastest among the Sporting KC quartet.
Rosell’s best lap was .03 seconds slower (53.11).
“It’s effortless,” Myers said. “The car does all the work. It’s crazy. You just kind of listen (to the driving instructor) and let it go. Honestly, you’re pinning it on the straightaway down here. It’s just crazy.”
Myers has never been a big racing enthusiast, but he’s willing to be swayed.
“I’ve never been to a NASCAR event,” Myers said. “I’d love to come. We’re always kind of out of town or there’s something else going on, but, for sure, I want to come out for a race sometime.”
On the other hand, Rosell did grow up a race fan. He also drove the Lamborghini.
“You have to drive it to understand, but the braking and acceleration are just so responsive,” said Rosell, who topped out at 106 mph. “You really have to respect these cars. The acceleration it had was so crazy. Maybe next time they’ll let us on the Speedway (oval).”
That was a consistent theme that emerged after each player finished a six-lap circuit: They are eager for the next time.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to buy one, but I’m ready to come back for another driving experience,” Bieler said.
He recorded the fastest top speed at 110 mph, but turned in only the third fastest lap.
“I was lucky to have a very good instructor, who let me push the gas all the way to the end,” Bieler said.
The Exotic Driving Experience will return to Kansas Speedway three more times this year — July 26-28, Sept. 13-15 and Oct. 25-27.
Racing fans and/or car enthusiasts can sign up for their chance to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche or high-end Audi by visiting ExoticDriving.com.
Prices for the six-lap program vary depending upon which model’s steering wheel a driver wants to slip behind.