Editor’s Note: Before the LFA’s recent race against a jet this fall, Lexus insider Paul Williamsen, national manager of Lexus international training, was tasked with the job of “breaking in” the vehicle to prep it for the competition. Williamsen’s drive ended up being the road trip of a lifetime—an LFA journey through the Colorado Rockies.
11/30/2012—Limited to a production run of 500 and each one uniquely configured by its owner, every Lexus LFA is special. However, during the second year of production there are a few that are even more exceptional—the fifty LFAs built with the Nürburgring performance package.
Designed with higher handling limits than the standard LFA, Nürburgring LFAs are upgraded with a lower, stiffer suspension, a massive fixed rear wing and deeper front air dam for greater aerodynamic downforce, and specially compounded Bridgestone Potenza tires on forged magnesium BBS wheels.
One such Nürburgring Edition is LFA #410, seen here, which was ordered by Lexus for the 2012–2013 auto show season, and would later be part of a high-speed driving event—last October’s race against a jet in Longmont, Colorado just two weeks after its arrival in North America.
This presented an interesting challenge prior to the race. Just like any new car, the LFA needed to be broken in properly to deliver peak performance, and completely preparing an LFA requires driving nearly one thousand miles. With the event in Colorado, it was decided that a weeklong drive through the eastern Rocky Mountains would be needed to accumulate the necessary mileage.
I graciously volunteered to be the test pilot.
Starting my trip in Denver, I headed south in the LFA. My very first task was to burn off the layer of manufacturing chemicals on the Bridgestone Potenza tires, completed after 100 miles. Shortly after, I arrived at the historic Cliff House Hotel in Manitou Springs.
The next day marked a world first for the LFA—ascending Pikes Peak, one of the highest roads in North America.
It takes some time for the LFA’s ceramic composite brake rotors to be “bedded” with the Brembo high-friction pads. This process can be accomplished by a trained driver on a racetrack in a few hours, but for regular LFA drivers, it means no sudden high-speed braking for the first 186 miles.
Engaging SPORT mode and paddle-shifting the six-speed sequentially shifted transmission on the numerous switchbacks of the 19-mile ascent added excitement to the necessarily sedate pace.
Even with the lower ride height and deeper front spoiler of the Nürburgring package, the LFA was able to skip over patches of ice and snow and around small ruts in the road. I reached the summit without incident, stopping to enjoy the views that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to compose “America the Beautiful” in 1893.
The LFA’s V10 engine needs about 310 miles for the piston rings and cylinders to become acquainted and establish wear patterns—until that mileage is attained the rev limit is restrained to just 7,400 RPM. This milestone was reached on the third day, and the LFA was finally able to sing to the 9,000 RPM redline during full-throttle upshifts around the gentle bends of State Highway 9 between Canon City and Fairplay.
On day four, I crossed the spine of the Rockies again, this time through the Eisenhower Tunnel. I planned to take this route past Granby to the west end of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, but the road had just been closed by snow for the season. This meant backtracking all the way to the Peak to Peak Highway, and visibility and temperatures were dropping faster than the sun as I approached the rustic Aspen Lodge in Tahosa Valley.
Day five dawned well below freezing. The Nürburgring LFA’s summer-only tires aren’t recommended for use at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and it wasn’t until my third cup of coffee that I started the engine for a thorough warm-up as the sun rose and the frost cleared.
Driving around Rocky Mountain National Park, I passed the grand old dame of Estes Park, the Stanley Hotel. Founded in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Steven King’s development of The Shining. Around this time, LFA #410 reached 620 miles and was now able to use its launch control system, a driver aid that assists acceleration from a standing start.
On the final day of driving, I travelled the narrow twisting road down and up the St. Vrain River Valley, which added more scenery to the trip and more miles on the odometer. The long and winding road east from Estes Park to Loveland provided the first dry pavement in days, letting the tires bite a little harder around the curves and the engine pull stronger in the hills.
The odometer edged past 900 miles as signs for Longmont indicated this drive was coming to an end. If the standard LFA is a capable and willing partner for spirited driving, the Nürburgring LFA is even more capable and willing.
After washing the car at Stevinson Lexus in Lakewood and a few more miles driving in town, the Nürburgring LFA #410 was handed over to race car driver Scott Pruett for its next assignment—beating a jet in an all-out speed race, which raised $20,000 for charity.
—PAUL WILLIAMSEN, NATIONAL MANAGER OF LEXUS INTERNATIONAL TRAINING