Last year, Lexus invited LFA owners for a day at the New Orleans Motorsport Park — one of the LFAs participating is owned by Robert & Charity Lee, who are the subject of this new Lexus video feature:
When I emailed him to ask about New Orleans, he graciously offered to write about the trip in full.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
I think Lexus can read minds, because they seem to know exactly what’s on my bucket-list. Since my LFA purchase in 2010, I have been able to drive on the Nurburgring, Laguna Seca, Fuji Speedway, & Sonoma Raceway – all in an over-the-top kind of way.
Saying Lexus has gone above and beyond is the ultimate understatement, so when I received an email titled “LFA Owners’ Meet” last summer, I had to drop everything and open it immediately. To put things into perspective, all LFAs have been configured, made, and sold – Lexus has nothing to gain by putting on these events – nothing except EXTREME customer satisfaction!
The meet was held in New Orleans in October at NOLA Motorsport Park. In case you’re wondering – Lexus sent transports to pick up each vehicle. All we had to do was pack, get on a plane, and get ready for another unforgettable event.
A reception with the 20+ LFA owners was held the night before at Latrobe’s. There some familiar faces from previous events and some new ones. Lexus scheduled the LFA owners meet during the national Lexus dealership conference, so mixed in were various Lexus dealers from around the United States.
A few key Lexus executives said a couple words to the group, when suddenly out from behind the curtains comes Mr. Akio Toyoda! The man himself, in the flesh. Along with handshakes and photo-ops, he personally gave each and every owner a die-cast miniature LFA autographed race car and some of his coveted Morizo stickers.
Next day, everyone arrived at the racetrack amped and ready to go. After a brief safety talk, we were escorted out to the track where our LFAs were waiting — seeing a collection of 20+ LFAs together was amazing!
To maximize track time, we were split into 2 groups — one group on the track, the other on an autocross course with the new 2014 IS.
NOLA is a short track, and it’s deceptively simple — you can get up to around 140+ mph in the front straight. The lack of elevation change makes it quite hard to see the next turn. You would think it’s easier, but when the road is perfectly flat, it’s hard to see what’s coming next.
Performance driving is about always looking ahead – anticipating the next turn – not the current one. NOLA had some tricky spots, but overall it’s an excellent course. One great thing about a short, flat track is that you can see all the cars at the same time – and HEAR THEM! The sound of 10+ LFAs screaming around a track is something you never forget.
The autocross course was like any other, with traffic cones arranged in a small track with tight turns. Everyone was given the same cars to take around the course as quickly as possible.
It was only one practice lap and then GO TIME! Every LFA owner had an opportunity to “race” against each other. There was a unique spin — Toyoda-san had come the day before and laid down a time to beat, and the top three drivers with faster times would win a prize. Lexus personnel told us the prize will be revealed later during the day.
After lunch, we found our cars neatly arranged for a group photo – where else could you get a photo of so many LFAs together?
Each owner was asked to stand by his or her car, and as we waited for the photographer, there was this giant roar from behind us. Turning around, we saw an actual LFA VLN race car coming towards us around the track — Lexus shipped the race car overseas just for this event!
The LFA stopped right in front of our formation, everyone was clapping and cheering. And when we thought it could not be topped, a Toyota Tundra speeding towards us. It stopped right next to the VLN race car. Hiding in the bed of the truck was … Mr. Toyoda himself! He popped up, and climbed to the roof of the truck. It was great, we exploded with applause.
As it turned out, the top three drivers on the autocross course won a hot lap in the LFA VLN racecar driven by Toyota-san himself! The entire track transformed into a movie set — I’m talking about giant rigs and helicopters with mounted cameras.
My autocross time was third fastest, just barely making the cut. When it came time for my hot lap, I offered it to my lovely wife. She had the chance to ride in a 2000GT during our memorable Tokyo trip, and I wanted her to have the chance of a lifetime – to complete the circle so-to-speak.
As she sped away in the VLN race car, I knew life was good. We’re truly blessed to have these opportunities. To top it all off, Lexus organized a parade lap with Toyota-san leading all the owner LFAs around the track.
In retrospect, I’m just a business owner with a passion for cars. I don’t own a fleet of exotics. My wife and I came from humble beginnings. We don’t have buildings named after us. Yet, Lexus treated us like royalty. We never expected any of this. Lexus is a truly classy company.
I want to conclude with this thought: My wife is the center of my life — she is everything to me, and her safety is paramount. I trust Lexus to protect her every time she goes out. I cannot give a higher endorsement than that. Please consider a Lexus or a Toyota next time you need a vehicle for your loved ones.
(I have to confess, I hope someone in Lexus upper management reads this and makes this an annual event. These experiences have had an extremely positive impact on my wife and I, and we are truly devoted to the brand.)