What a weekend. Lets face it – How often do you get to do what I spent Saturday doing unless your name’s Jeremy Clarkson.
I was not really liking the idea of waking up at 4.30 ish on Saturday morning, but now it’s happened, I’m glad I did, and to be honest, I didn’t find it that difficult to get up being that I felt like a little kid at Christmas going into mum and dad’s room jumping on the bed for presents.
We got in the car and drove, and we where on the road by 5.30am and reached our destination by 8.15am – A place up north called Seighford, at an old strip of dis-used runway.
Once we get there, Nicky gave me a letter which showed me exactly what I was going to be doing:
Drive in a Porche 996 Carerra
Drive in a Ferrari 360 Spider
Drive in a Subaru Impreza STI
Drive in a Mitsubishi Evo 8
Drive in a VW Polo Rally Car
Drive in a Mitsubishi Shogun 4WD Off-Road
The day started at 9am, with an induction session where they showed you how to drive basically, but pointed out things like braking points, although many hours or Gran Turismo gave me plenty of experience with that.
I was in Team 4, and our first drive was the Porche. To say I was a little scared to start with would have been correct, and if you look at the Video in the Videos section of the site, you will see that I was a little slow on my first lap round – The instructor was very good, and told me when to brake, and how hard, and when to accelerate and change gear etc. The first lap came and gone, and I was starting to get used to the fact I was driving a rear-wheel drive and rear engined car, which meant it was a little bit back heavy, so trying to go round the corner too quick was not a good idea. Was it quick – Hell yea….Pulling away from the corners was very fast indeed, and with the car having about 450bhp it certainly made light work of getting through the gears, but I felt I was quite slow in that car being my first run. Nonetheless, I had a nice smile as I stepped out of the car and walked back to the waiting area.
After finishing in the Proche, my team moved on to the 360 Spider. Looking much nicer than the Porche is it’s gleaming red, I was more than happy to take to the seat – The Ferari felt so much faster…The Porche reminded me of an old mans car like the big engine Merc’s – Lots of power, but it was very calm and sedate. The 360 however, was raw, and when changing gears, you could hear the air induction from behind my right ear as the engine behind me snorted in the air like the monster it is. The Ferarri was a mid-engine rear-wheel drive, so the power round the corners wa a little easier to manage I felt, but it felt so much more aggresive and powerful than the Porche, and I really enjoyed this drive lots. It’s hard to explain everything going on through my brain now after the event and what was going on at the time, but ask Nicky, and I’m sure she’ll tell you my reaction post-drive.
Next up was the Shogun Off-Road drive. Sounds a little less intersting than the sports cars perhaps, but was it – No!
The course looked like nothing I’ve ever seen before with a mass of pits and mud rivers and things like that. The Shogun was covered from the floor to the door handles in mud before I got in it too.
Got in the car and started the drive – First up was a dip into a giant puddle of mud – As the car dropped, I couldn’t actually see the bottom until the car leant forward a little more, and then the car began to sink into the mud, until the entire bonnet was submerged, then driving out of the puddle up a hill. The track continued like this until the best part right at the end, where the car was leant at a 45o angle with me, Nicky and the instructor all leaning to the right to help the weight balance of the car. A very interesting drive to say the least.
Next up was a passenger ride in a Lotus Elise. The car was lightly modified for track use, but nothing major. All I can say is that it’s the fastest go kart I’ve ever been it – The video of the ride is on the site, so you should check it out to see for yourselves.
We had a break for about three quarters of an hour for lunch, then I had another ride in the Lotus, but this time, the track was damp after the light rain during the day, and still the guy managed to go even faster. This run is also in the video’s section of the site for watching.
Until now, I enjoyed the drive in the Spider the mostâ€¦..Until now. This ride was the part I was most looking forward too – The Impreza. I’ve always loved these cars being that I’ve spent many years loving rally and the whole scene behind it (mainly just the cars though). They’d fitted the car with the full rally cars decals to make it look the part too which was cool.
I got in the car, and the instructor had a little chat with me before we went out, and this guy seemed the best instructor so far. He seemed really laid back and very keen to get me to get my money’s worth from the car. To help me feel even better about being in the car before we hit the track, the instructor told me that he sure hopes I was better than the last guy as he thinks he belonged as BSM not in an Impreza – I couldn’t help but laugh. so out we went onto the track for a couple of slow laps to get used to the car, although within about half a lap I was starting to feel really at home in the car. From this moment onwards, there’s nothing going to change my mind – This is a car, and I would give one of my kidneys to own one.
As each corner past, the guy was pushing me harder for more speed on the straight, later and heavier braking, and faster and harder acceleration through the cornersâ€¦..I loved the sound of the boxer grunt as we came through the corners, and maybe even more, the sound of the engine over-run as I changed down from 4th to 3rd, to 2nd before the corner to help the braking.
The power from this car may be less than the Porche and the Ferarri, but I loved it so much more – The pedals and the gears had a smoother feel to them and although the controls and the car felt hard and aggressive, you could imagine driving it calm and sensible too, knowing full well that every time the devil within lights up you can give it a tap to help bite the bug.
By the 3rd lap, I was giving the car everything I could get it to give around the fairly small track, although due to over-concentration, I forgot to look at the speedo on the long straight to see my speed, not that it’d make sense it a Japanese car with the speedo in Kilometres. The straights just disappeared in a blur of the red shift light on the dash telling me when to change, and a roar of noise combined by the boxer engine and the instructor telling me not to brake at the chicane and to floor it and instead brake even harder at the corners and accelerate out harder.
I got stuck behind the Evo for about half a lap which slowed me down quite a bit – If you watch the video, you can see the Evo coming out onto the track, and I make roughly three quarters of a lap on him and then overtake him – The best feeling that was as the instructor of the Evo put his hand out of the window and the car moved to the right, as I floor the Impreza a little harder out of the corner to get past the slower driver – Overtaking that car gave me a great feeling as I’m sure you can all imagine.
However, it still didn’t rival what was yet to come – The final lap and the first of the two corners I managed to flick the rear out slightly and you could feel the whole thing as the back lost grip very slightly and I accelerated a little more out of the corner and backed off the steering slightly and felt the back end come back in line to allow me to continue the drive, followed by the instructors words of “nicely done” – The smile is still just continuing to grow, and I’m almost done I’m sad to say.
As I leave the circuit and park the car, I can’t believe how much my facial muscles hurt from the smile on my face. That was by far the best and most fun I had, had all day. The Impreza gave me such a great feeling, and knowing that I had managed to get everything out of the car during my time in it made the day feel all it’s worth, and the little flick of the rear on the final lap just reminded me how hard I was pushing the car.
The instructor wrote on my drivers card “Wow! Started Fast and Just Got Faster. Best Driver of the Day”. As I stepped out of the car, I had such an enormous beam on my face I just wished I had Â£40 with me to buy an extra 6 laps in the car, because I would’ve gladly paid more than that for time in that car.
Nicky could see in my face as I stepped out of the car what a drive it was and she was thrilled for me that I’d enjoyed it so much, but read her blog about that for the other side of the story.
The next part of the day was the drive in the VW Polo rally car. The track was a small figure of eight shape, and although I really enjoyed this part of the day the feeling was slightly suppressed by the overwhealming glow from driving the Impreza still, but I can say it was an experience not to forget driving on the left while the instructor decides to pull the handbrake without warning half way round the corners to give the rally slide look.
Finally but by no means least was the Lancer Evo 8. This being the rival to the Impreza on the track and the street I was expecting a similar drive, however mother nature decided otherwise, deeming that it was going to rain before my drive giving the track a wet surface which is obviously not too good for grip at speed, but nonetheless, I still give it the all, and I managed to spot a glance at the speedo in this car, and I managed to get 100mph on the longer straight, which considering during the briefing they said you should get to 90mph, I was pleased – I just wish I could have seen the speed in the Impreza, because I’m sure it was more – Almost 120mph perhaps.
However – No amount of rain is going to stop me of the instructor giving the car a good go, and I still felt very quick in the Evo although compared to the rival, I felt the Evo felt a little more family car than sports car. The Evo was smoother through the corners, and the brakes felt less bind and more bite, however, still a very fast and enjoyable drive. I just wish the rain had held out for me, so that I could have pushed this car as hard as the Impreza.
Overall? I wish I could do it again, now with knowing how to drive them, I think I could probably get more from them especially the Spider and the Porche being the first cars, but see for yourself in the pictures section and the videos section of the site for the shots of the day.
And after all this, this is only Saturday.
Sunday – My birthday
After the hype of the day before and the adrenaline has gone, I feel almost back to normal, although nothing is going to take the feeling of the drivers away, and as I sit in bed opening presents from Nicky in bed, I can’t help but think of that Impreza still.
Mick arrived close to 10am on Sunday, and he bought me a Ryobi drill and circular saw cordless set – Very expensive looking, and very, very nice, and I’m sure over the many years to come, there will be plenty of use for them.
We drove to Totton to spend the day with my family and Mick and Nicky. First stop – Mum’s to see them before their merry journey to Wales for other stuff. After Mum’s, we went to Dad’s, and enjoyed the beautiful sun to have a BBQ with family to them discover Steve, Andy and Fish arrive later in the afternoon, and a great afternoon was had by all – Fun, sun, family and friends.
The best birthday on record was had by me, and I’d like to thank everyone that had anything to do with the days for making them so great for me – The long and short of it: I’m not a teenager anymore!
Â Love you all!!