Wednesday, 25 July 2012


For Christmas (or was it my birthday?) My wonderful Wife bought me a supercar driving experience.

Today I took that experience. With me was my Stepson, Alex, who also had a voucher.

We had to be at the venue, near Stafford, for 8am, which meant leaving Wallasey at 6am just to be on the safe side. It's about 90 minutes away and at that time in the morning would probably be a straightforward journey, but I wanted to allow a bit extra. In the event, that extra wasn't needed. We got there, without any real mishap with plenty of time to spare. This meant though that the registration process was easy. We didn't have to wait in a queue as we were pretty much the first ones there.

We bought overpriced coffee from the inevitably named Pit Stop café and watched as the supercars were gradually brought on site.

The red one above is a Ferrari

 The yellow one above is a Lamborghini.

Alex was scheduled to do his drive in a Ferrari F430. I had the Lamborghini Gallardo. After more standing around, we, along with lots of other people were taken to portakabins, and given a safety video to watch.

Then back outside to wait our turn.

Those grey-white bits towards the right, above the red white and black cars are people waiting for their names to be called. The whole thing is a bit of a production line. I'd kind of expected that really, and was prepared to be cynical. Still I found a stirring of excitement and adreneline as I waited for my name to be called.

The Lamborghini Gallardo. A slightly old model. The latest ones have around 560 horsepower, but mine had a paltry 500. These things go through a gallon of petrol in about 18 miles, and chuck out over a third of a kilogramme of carbon dioxide for every mile they travel.

My name was called, and I got in and got seated and seatbelted, and then I was away to join the track. No time really to prepare or familiarise myself with the controls. Like I said, a bit of a production line...

The track itself is very simple, and not particularly long. Two straights, each of which ends with a shallow chicane, then a hairpin bend. that's it. The track has been formed by adapting a runway at an old RAF base.

I got to do six laps then it was all over. I was only driving for a few minutes, yet it actually seemed like a reasonably long time.

So how did it feel to be driving a Lamborghini? And how did I get on? I mean, ace driver driving instructor and all that. Spent far too much time playing Gran Turismo. How did I fare when put behind the wheel of a real sports car?

Well I couldn't go too far wrong. I had an instructor sat next to me, with dual controls at his feet, and he was giving me a constant stream of feedback about what to be doing with my feet, my gears, my steering wheel, etc. But I didn't do as well as I'd hoped.

To change gear on the Lamborghini, you have to make sure the clutch is pressed right down to the floor, and I mean right down. So I kept struggling to get the gear changes in without grinding them or not getting the gear in place. this took my attention away from other stuff, so my road position could have been better, and I couldn't brake as late as I would have liked, as I wasn't confident about getting a gear change in in time.

Still I got it right some of the time,

and when I did, the car pulled. And how.

exiting a corner at perhaps 20 miles an hour, I'd put my foot down in 3rd gear and suddenly, boom, I was doing 70 and the next corner was rapidly approaching. At one point I even managed to make the traction control engage itself.

And yet it didn't feel all that fast somehow. the Lambo is a big car, and its size and solidity made it feel less... well less chuckable I suppose.

Old habits too, die hard. I kept trying to check my mirrors. the centre mirror was turned away from me. It was for the instructors use, not mine, so I kept on trying to use my door mirrors instead. I kept letting the car just roll into stuff, without pressing any pedals, the way I'd do in an ordinary car. For balls out track driving, if you're not braking, you're accellerating.

So I could have been quicker, and other drivers were quicker than me. It was still good fun though, and it was an utterly fantastic present. It's something I've really been looking forward to.

Still, if I ever do anything like this again, I think I'd want to try something slightly different. Lighter, if less powerful. Lotus Elise, Caterham 7, Ariel Atom... That sort of thing.

After I'd got back, Alex got called, and he went out in a red Ferrari.

He came back thrilled with the experience. Something he too may choose to do again in the future.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

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