Since a very early age I have been into cars, whether driving, polishing, building or mending, its my favourite pass times, if it has a motor it has my attention! Hence the ideal present received from the then current girlfriend.
I am not sure how much it cost (being a gift) but I believe it was from Halfords at similar price to the Debenhams red letter day.
I received a gift pack through the post containing a letter with the details of venues where I could drive. The chap in the shop had done several of the events as training for his job (some perk!) and he said Silverstone was the best. One phone call later it was booked.
We arrived on a warm spring morning to a meet and greet where I had to sign on and provide drivers license, gift card etc. The drivers were then taken into a meeting room where the rules and regulations were read, a lecture on car control given, and important information on the spec of the car given, and drive times for the groups.
The car was a group N 106 GTI. It was the full stripped out, caged rally car with buckets, harnesses, a shorter gear box, LSD, rear biased brakes, and hydraulic handbrake, inside was fitted with intercom helmets to save shouting instructions. To keep the speeds down it was fitted with road tyres and the speedo was disconnected to stop people getting competitive.
The track was gravel/mud with the occasional concrete section and was similar to a stage with banks either side of you rather than cones on an empty airfield. It was a good mix of surface.
My session was in the afternoon but fortunately to kill time there were plenty of pay-as-you-go cars to have passenger laps in from Caterhams to Ferraris with pro drivers, depending on how much you want to pay, great for friends and family to join in and go round the circuit.
The drive was split into 3x 10 minute sessions, you had to wait approximately 15 mins between runs depending on how many were in your group, doesn’t sound that great but after each session I was exhausted!
Once it was my turn I was strapped in and adjusted the seat to how I drive – I sit bolt upright but it was then adjusted even closer so the steering wheel almost touched my elbow. Made sense when was out on the rough surface as the steering would fight you all the way.
I like to think that I have good knowledge of racing lines, how to take brake/accelerate etc, after half a lap it was obvious that rallying is poles apart to circuit driving and everything goes out the window and had to start again. The first session was spent re-learning to drive and basic rally techniques such as handbrake turns, power slides etc, and trying to forget tarmac driving (I remember one moment when the instructor yelled “don’t correct!” when I was completely out of shape out of a corner, hard not to when you spent your driving career learning how to do it instinctively). Then things start getting together and the next couple of sessions become faster and more fluid throughout the laps.
After the final run the instructor takes you out for a passenger run and shows you how to do it properly, I felt like tearing my license up afterwards, these guys can really drive!
All in all it was a good day out which I would recommend as an alternative to track driving. I have been round the Nurburgring in all sorts of mad machinery with semi-pro drivers and its easily as thrilling and I probably never went above 60-70 mph!
This was a Driving Experience review by Paul