It does seem such a long time ago now, but if you recall on December 07th, 2011 I ran an article on Holiday Gift Wishlists (Holiday Gift Wishlist 01) and within this article I mentioned I had obtained a voucher from Supercar Lifestyle to spend some time driving some really cool supercars around a race track.
Well, that day finally came yesterday (July 16th, 2012) when I was given the opportunity to drive, for three laps each, the Ferrari 360, Nissan GTR and the Jaguar XKR. Not my original list of cars but very cool to drive nonetheless.
Below is my account of the day, along with some specifications of the cars I drove and some pictures I took.
July 16th, 2012
In traditional British fashion, it is raining at the track. I had hoped that I would get the chance to drive the Ferrari 430 as this is my all time favorite car, but unfortunately this was not available. The other thing I was not aware of when I booked this experience that I would be required to select a vehicle from three different classes (Class A, Class B and Class C).
The day started with the sign-on procedure, where you are required to complete and sign a declaration form waiving all blame of injury from the organizer (a standard piece of paper you might say). The girl on the desk was very helpful (and very kind – which you will realize as you read further). She took my declaration form, and asked to view my driving license, which she then proceeded to ask which vehicles I would like to drive, selecting from the following classes:
Class A: Ferrari 360 Challenge
Class B: Nissan GTR
The only information I am aware of for this vehicle is its Maximum Power Output of 620 bhp. The company Supercar Lifestyle doesn’t appear to have a profile picture of it. The only thing I will say about this car, is that you can tell it has 620 bhp and a whole lot of torque, because this was one fast car and if I could afford the estimated £75,000 price tag I would be buying one.
Class C: Jaguar XKR
I was then informed that I could purchase the media package, which would have provided me with a video and photographs of the experience. I had been told when I booked the day, the price would be £65.00 to have the media package, I had felt this was extremely expensive for what you get. Only to find out that many of the other participants had only paid £35.00 for the option.
We were then asked to attend a safety briefing to show us the track and what we should expect when we get trackside. However, most of the briefing was more of a sales pitch about what other options were available to purchase from Supercar Lifestyle.
Below is some information about he track that I was driving around:
Track Length: 1.6 Miles
In 2012 they made a slight change to the track, they have put a small chicane and straight in between Ushers and Jochen corners and controlling the Jochen corner with cones, one to the left around the track and one to the right which brings you down to Twickers which is now used as the Pit Lane.
At three drivers at a time, were taken around the entire track in a BMW 3-Series with an instructor on a sight lap to show us where the corners and braking points were. We had only gotten half-way round the track when only moments before, the Porsche GT2 had span off the track and into the surrounding field. The instructor pulled over to check on the driver and his colleague which both were completely fine, the car however, was well and truly stuck. Our driver, informed us that he would take us back to the Pit Lane to allow the Porsche to be recovered. We had gotten back to the Pits and it came across the radio that the TVR had span off the track also. The track was closed for approximately 30 minutes while they recovered the cars.
I was allowed to have a further sight lap because I had only seen half of the track.
No matter how many cars you had chosen to drive, each of them had an instructor that knew how the car handles and how to get the best out of your driving.
When we had returned to the Pits, the girl who was in charge of handing over the cars to the next person to drive, after looking at the slip of paper that is given to you to show which cars you’ve chosen, the Jaguar XKR was waiting on the track for someone to drive, and she told me to take it straight out. I have to say that the Jaguar is not a car I would normally choose to drive, but I was pleasantly surprised by its power and how easy it was to drive. One thing that became clear by the end of the day was that because of the dreadful weather conditions, I was using two out of my three laps in the cars to get a feel for how the car would handle on the wet track and gradually increase my speed around the circuit, by lap three I was confident in the cars ability to stick to the wet track and was happy to put my foot down.
My second car of choice to drive was the Ferrari 360 Challenge, and you will be surprised when you read that I was a little disappointed with the control of the gearbox on this particular car. It may well have been that this was an older model, but even in automatic mode, the changes in gears going up more than going down had a large delay which made it a little harder to drive. Don’t get me wrong, this is one seriously fast car, and again it was on lap three that I was confident to let myself put more power down on the back wheels and use that V8’s power.
My final car to drive was the Nissan GTR, which was the fastest of all the cars present, with just over 600 brake horsepower on tap, it was much more of a challenge to drive. The first two cars had been programmed to run in Automatic mode, but the Nissan was set to semi-automatic, so I was required to select the gears using the paddles on the side of the steering wheel. With four wheel drive, it had much more traction on the, by this time saturated track with standing water everywhere. Again by lap three, I was confident to see what 600 brake horsepower actually felt like, and boy was it fast. The brakes were excellent as well, thank goodness.
I have to say out of the three cars I had driven, and it was a surprise to me, that the Nissan GTR was my favorite. The only draw back of the day was the length of time you had to wait in each line and in the rainy conditions it was much more of a miserable time. I had a good time talking to different people, with different takes on driving, and what other experiences they have had in the past.
The only other thing I would say is that three laps is not enough, as I previously mentioned, I had used two laps getting used to how each of the cars handled on the wet track and only got the confidence to use more of the cars raw power on the final lap, if I had more laps, my speed and times would have improved more. Ever more so if the track would have been dry.
Once I had returned to the office to collect my belongings, I recalled reading something when I booked the experience that I would be given some kind of certificate to say I had completed the experience and a photograph of my choice. I asked the girl on the desk who did check it out, and was told no this was not the case for the package I had purchased, it was only available if I had purchased the media package. She did however, make it possible for me to get one photograph printed free of charge, and that I thank her for, at least I have something to remind me of the day.
I used some time afterwards to go and take some photographs of the cars I had driven myself, which I was sure I would be stopped from doing, because there had also been rumors floating around that because you were supposed to purchase the photographs from the official photographer that it would not be allowed. Below is some photographs I took of others driving around the track, they are not the best because of the high vantage point and the distance I was away from the actual track (for safety reasons). But I did manage to take the photographs in the Pit lane you saw earlier.
All in all, I had a great time driving the cars, and I cannot fault the conduct of the staff that were signing people in, and the instructors in the cars were very knowledgeable and very helpful in getting the best out of your driving.
The only disappointment, I would say from the whole experience of the whole day was the weather. I had driven down to the track the night before and was concerned after I had seen the weather reports that it might be cancelled, thankfully it was not, the cars I wanted to drive apart from the Nissan was not at the track nor was I able to select from the list because it was in the same class as another car I wanted to drive. For example, I could not drive the Aston DB9 because it was in the same class as the Ferrari 360 Challenge.
I think if it had been drier it would have been a much more enjoyable experience for all concerned, and it was disappointing that after spending hours waiting in long lines to drive the cars in the pouring rain, the organizers decided it would be best to move people into the hanger and drive from there, sure do that now I am completely soaked through.
Definitely something I would do again, but now I have learned from my experience that I will make sure I get much more detailed information about what to expect on the day, and hope that it is drier next time. I would definitely use Supercar Lifestyle as a company again, they cannot be held responsible for the weather conditions, and they cannot be held responsible for two drivers spinning off the track and having to close the track down for thirty minutes, which made everyone who was scheduled to drive, much later than planned. But I think the decision to move everyone into the hanger should have been taken earlier.