There’s a reason watchmakers, Champagne houses and fashion designers all sponsor race car drivers — the danger, romance and money in motorsport are a recipe for luxury.
But you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the heart-pounding opulence of pushing a supercar to its limit. Just hop the pond.
Europe is where the best cars were designed to be driven, and it’s still where they can be driven as intended (very quickly).
Whether you want to hit the track in British racing green or conquer the Italian hillside in Ferrari red, new opportunities for ultra-luxury driving vacations are revving up for summer and beyond.
The Italian job
Sure, Detroit, Germany and Japan have valid claims to motorsport heritage, but Emilia-Romagna, Italy, is where cars go to heaven.
Within just a few dozen miles, you’ll find the headquarters of the crème de la crème of luxury motoring: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, Maserati and Pagani. With that kind of manufacturing pedigree, no wonder this slice of Italian countryside is known as Motor Valley.
Stop by anytime of year for visits to the museums at each major manufacturer. But vintage sports car lovers should come during the Motor Valley Festival (typically held mid-May). The entire region turns up to parade pristine vintage automobiles with some of their newer, younger sports car siblings in tow. There are displays of historic race cars as well as scenic drives to take part in.
Better still, schedule some laps at the Autodromo di Modena in a Ferrari 488, a Jeremy Clarkson-approved supercar with a 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 (starting at $943 for three laps).
The festival culminates with a parade to the town square in Modena, where the sleek 1950s Ferraris are parked next to race spec Lancia rally cars, Dallaras and so many others that provide red, yellow and green eye candy as far as said eyes can see.
Stay the night at Massimo Bottura’s effortlessly chic country inn, Casa Maria Luigia (from $550 per night), where you’ll enjoy time strolling the gardens, taking in his incredible art collection, savoring meals from rising-star Chef Jessica Rosval and, if you’re lucky, tasting vintage balsamic before pours of Château D’Yquem out of a magnum. It’s a food lover’s dream, but for the auto lover, Bottura’s collection of vintage Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Ducatis will make it paradise.
If you prefer to spend more time driving than looking at historic cars (no matter how pristine), consider Anthony Moss and Julie Hunter’s Ultimate Driving Tours. The duo has spent the last decade seeking out the best driving roads on Earth and leading highly curated luxury tours in supercars. On their high-touch excursions, you’ll have the chance to drive any number of cars from their private fleet: Ferraris, Aston Martins, Porsches, AMG Mercedes and more.
“The epitome of what we do is not just about cars,” said Moss. “It’s about everything around it, as well. Our guests are travelers who love to explore, but it’s important that we’ve explored it first to ensure every aspect is seamless.”
Trips can be personalized for a price, or you could join one of their more traditional tours. For the luxury-obsessed racing fan, there’s an 11-day tour from Monaco, where you will watch the Formula 1 race from a yacht before heading into the Alps (starting at $25,000 per person). Then there’s a more low-key, five-day adventure in southern France (what they call their most underrated trip, around $6,000 per person).
But for the same price, you can enjoy their favorite trip for driving pursuits: a tour of Switzerland. On the first day in the Swiss Alps, drivers conquer two of the most storied roads on the planet, the Susten and Grimsel passes, and the lesser-known but equally scenic and technical Nufenen Pass.
Ice road drifters
During the height of winter, Moss and Hunter take a group to the far north, where the bitter temperatures blanket the landscape of Sápmi (the cultural region inhabited by the Sámi people stretching across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) in white.
But it’s not all low temperatures and reindeer herding; there is a specialty operator, Lapland Ice Driving, who every winter turns the frozen Swedish lake Uddjaure into an icy playground for petrolheads (experiences starting at $4,682 per day).
Five full-sized Formula 1 circuits are carved into the frozen lake, including Silverstone (UK), Circuit Paul Ricard (France), Yas Marina (UAE), the Nürburgring (Germany) and Sepang (former site of Formula 1 racing from 1999 to 2017) that are all built with one goal in mind: high-speed drifting.
Drivers ply the ice, butting through the arctic air with icy water below and the northern lights above, learning the basics of the Scandinavian flick (a rally technique used to oversteer into icy corners) and the finer points of drifting under the guidance of former World Rally Championship and GT3 drivers.
Each day drivers have up to 160 miles of drifting with a top speed of 125 mph in a bevy of supercars. Lapland Ice Driving features many of the top supercars on the market: Ferraris, Porsches, BMWs, Lamborghinis and more that are all set up for extreme conditions.
If you tire of whipping supercars around famous track layouts, you can trade in your tires for the treads of a snowmobile or the blades of a helicopter to take a quick ride to the Arctic Circle. Need to clear your head from all the exhaust? Take a lap on a dogsled instead.
“We have a lot of novices coming, but we guarantee that they will be drifting by the end of the day,” said Alix Masson, director of sales, marketing and operations for Lapland Ice Driving.
F1: Survive the drive
Formula 1 fever has finally hit the US of A. But the sport (contrary to the to Netflix hype) isn’t just about the glitz, celebrity and dramatic story lines. It’s about engineering and a premier athlete’s ability to drive on a razor’s edge.
Now you, too, can test your limits by driving the real thing under the guidance of a former Formula 1 racing team AGS pro (a Formula constructor turned driving school). Packages begin at $4,616.
Over the course of a day, you’ll work your way up from a Formula 4 car to a vintage Prost or Arrows Formula 1 race car at the Circuit du Var (45 minutes from Saint-Tropez).
AGS prides itself on training young formula drivers and endurance racers brushing up on LMP3 cars before Le Mans and Daytona. Even for experienced drivers, these cars are difficult beasts to tame, so you’ll be learning from the best.
Once you’re comfortable pulling Gs, maybe it’s time to buy your very own formula car.
Former Formula 3 champion and Rookie of the Year in Indycar, Laurent Redon, offers highly customizable F1 experiences on FIA Grade 1 circuits — like Barcelona-Catalunya (Spain), Nevers Magny-Cours Grand Prix (France) and Paul Ricard Circuit in Le Castellet (France) — via his company LRS Formula. But he also has a special service for those wishing to purchase or restore a vintage race car previously driven by a hero of the sport. What could be better than driving your own car that has its own race pedigree on one of the most challenging tracks on the planet? Nothing.
The high road
For a more austere and moody drive, hit the North Coast 500, one of the world’s most famous motoring routes.
Beginning and ending in Inverness, Scotland, and traversing the northern edges of the Highlands, with every turn the scenery evokes the cinematic driving scenes of Bond carving the hills in his Aston DB5. For some, cruising the North Coast 500 in an old and finicky Aston is a lifelong dream, but others want style with a healthy heaping of luxury — that’s where Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions comes in.
They’ve organized everything from vintage car tours of the highlands to a custom James Bond experience featuring seaplanes from London; multiple helicopter infils and exfils; demolitions and firearms experience with ex-SAS operators; sniper rifle firing, military-grade special ops RIB boat transfers; and an Aston Martin drive through Glencoe and Glen Etive.
Every trip with Sandgrouse is tailored to the needs of the customer. Trips average between $7,000 and $20,000 per person, but can go far beyond — the Bond experience, e.g., starts at $91,000 per person.
“Our vision of luxury is not about the bells and whistles of hotels, although we have that, too,” said Jonny Stage, managing director of Sandgrouse. “It’s about connecting our clients with locals who have been doing what they do their entire lives. We pair them with people on the ground. It’s something that you could never find online … it’s personal.”