When I was presented at the Annual Dinner with the engraved silver wine cooler to mark my impending retirement, I was also given a red envelope. Mistakenly assuming it to be an accompanying card, and not wishing to take up too much time, I chose not to open it whilst at the microphone. When I did so I found that instead of a card it was a voucher for a ‘5-Supercar driving experience’, which I eventually booked for August 30th, at Mallory Park.
On the way down it rained almost all the way, but when we arrived the rain had stopped, but the track was still damp, which promised to make the day even more ‘interesting’ – particularly as we are told in no uncertain terms that ‘one spin on the track and you are finished’!
After the safety briefing were taken in groups of 4 on a familiarisation lap (in a Skoda!!) before going to the first of the 5 cars we had each chosen – in my case the new BMW i8 hybrid– very stylish, with paddle gear-shifts and a head-up display instead of a dashboard, and with impressive acceleration from a standing start via the electric drive. Perhaps due to it being my first drive on the circuit I probably didn’t get the most out of the car on the 3 laps we were allowed, so it was more of a further familiarisation than a true all-out drive. Still a lot of fun, nonetheless. 7 out of 10
Then on to the Porsche 911, where I felt a bit more comfortable with the track layout and conditions and so gave it a bit more ‘welly’ – I definitely got more of the sense of the Porsche being a ‘driver’s car’ than the Beemer. 7.5/10.
Next? The Aerial Atom, described by my instructor as a ‘climbing frame on wheels’ – all tubular chassis, no bodywork to speak of, a manual gearbox (the only one of the 5) and a power-to-weight ratio and consequent acceleration to blow your eyebrows off. Not strictly a ‘supercar’, being conceived as a purely fun exhilarating track car, it was by far and away the best thus far – 9.5/10.
Then from the sublime to the ridiculous – an Aston Martin DB9. Also not really a supercar as it is more of a Grand Tourer – and at 2 tons, compared to the previous 3 it drove like a wardrobe on wheels. Everything was push-button, you were completely isolated from the road, and the walnut trim (none of that frippery in a proper supercar!) was in fact plastic, so not at all impressed – 5/10.
They say you should always save the best till last – although in my case it was sheer good fortune - but my final drive was a Lamborghini Gallardo; phenomenal!! Absolutely one for ace petrol-head Andy Cash to have a go in - superb handling, and the growl from the turbocharged engine just behind your head when you accelerated was spine-tingling. By now the track had dried out enough for there to be a racing line, and I felt pretty comfortable with the braking and turn-in points, so was able to really commit, and had 3 of the most fun high-speed laps of the day – it ranks equal with the Atom at 9.5/10.
But we were not finished yet – we were again put in groups of 4, this time for a ‘hot lap’, driven by one of the circuit’s instructors – in a Vauxhall/Holden VXR8 ‘muscle-car’ – compared to him I had been driving with the handbrake on!
In retrospect I should have dispensed with the i8 and DB9 and paid the premium to choose a Ferrari and Maclaren roadcar – but it was still a fantastic experience, and I thank the Society for making it possible.
I’m afraid that the photos Chris took on her iPad on the day were not the best as she was some distance from the cars most of the time, so here are a mix of shots of the actual cars (and me!) plus stock shots of those which didn’t work out, so that the non-petrol heads among you can see what I have been talking about – suffice to say that you are unlikely to be offered any of these as a company car – unless you are a Partner in a Magic Circle firm!.
Now it’s back to my post-retirement regime of gardening, decorating and travel – and my Vauxhall Astra..