*Considering California is one of Lamborghini's largest markets, when it starts snowing in Malibu-which it did last winter-it may not be a bad idea to sign up for a school that teaches winter driving techniques. Conversely, our trip to the Academy this past February, in northern New Hampshire at the foot of Mt. Washington, saw none of the harsh conditions the area is notorious for. There was, in fact, no snow to speak of.

Not to worry. Lamborghini also offers the dry pavement Mach 1, 2 and 3 versions of the school. All programs include theory instruction. Mach 1 is billed as a safety driving school with handling exercises and an introduction to high speeds during the day-long program.

The day-and-a-half-long Mach 2 adds telemetry support to aid working with the Gallardo's astounding performance potential, while the Mach 3 is a two-day program "designed to build race skills." At the moment, there is no pre-requisite for any of these new programs or Lamborghini's Winter Academy, i.e. ownership.

After commandeering the local airstrip, instructors set up several exercises from the Mach programs. Throttle-induced oversteer was first. Taming the impulse for imprudent application of 376 lb-ft of torque at the wrong moment is a skill worth practicing. The slalom is even more fun. First time through, gentle application of the throttle keeps the all-wheel-drive system's torque split at 40/60 front-to-rear and the car responds accordingly, smooth and deceivingly fast.

Next time through, the program changes radically-turn off the ESP and jump hard on the throttle (the torque split will lock at 20/80), let the rear break loose, get off the gas and countersteer. Then repeat. Do it right and the rewards are smoky pendulum swings through the course. Lose it-no worries, stab the brakes and your ESP automatically reengages. The factory drivers, who made the demo rides look so embarrassingly effortless, dictated the stability system's responses to the Bosch engineers. It works really well.

Unfortunately, we can't yet vouch for how well those giant Pirelli snow tires would have worked in the white stuff. But having put the Gallardo through its paces to the point of hysteria, we wager you will return home seriously weighing the balance between a year-round lake house, divorce, and an Italian exotic.

Always considered driving one of these thrilling machines to be an impossible dream? Then register for the Academy.www.lamborghiniacademy.com

By Tim McKinney
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