Sunday, September 11, 2011

Brrrrm - part 2

Some time ago, Tet decided he wanted to go for a driving day for his birthday but it turned out to be harder than we expected to arrange. We had to buy a voucher from one company, wait for it to arrive and then book with another company, who had no useful dates. Over a year later the only date we could get clashed with a race weekend but we decided we had to go for it anyway.

Of course the venue isn't that close to Santa Pod and we were having a very early start so to make things easier we drove down to the nearest services on Friday night and stayed there.

The experience is run on an airbase, mostly on a run way with the circuit laid out in cones. For me that wasn't great, I found spotting the yellow cones in the sea of orange tricky but after a few laps I knew where the corners were and it was less of an issue.

We were booked to drive three cars, an Aston Martin, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. I was put in the Aston first, which was a bit of a shame as really that was the one I was most looking forward to but I had long enough in the car to get to know the circuit. It may have been the heaviest most armchair like car there but I loved it. It does however have terrible visibility. Nice and solid, yes, but huge windscreen pillars.

From there I went on to the Ferrari. I don't think it really worked for the track they had set up. It is very tame at low revs and there just wasn't enough room to really get it up to speed. It is very solid in corners, again in this environment perhaps to much so. I can see why the instructor says it is the most rewarding car to really get to grips with but it takes more than a few laps on a short circuit, so really it did nothing for me. Perhaps if the cars hadn't all got extra silencers it might have at least sounded good.

By this point we had decided it was enough fun to be worth booking a few more laps. Tet went for a Porche and a Mitsubishi and I added the Lotus and Subaru.

The Lamborghini I really wanted to like, and for the most part I did. Both of us were shocked by how slow and jerky it's gear changes were. It has flappy paddles and man do they look cheap and tacky, but there is a very long delay between you asking for the change  and actually getting it. I really hope this is just a feature of how the centre have their car set up. Like the Aston visibility is poor, but not to the point of being a problem, more something to be aware of (the Capri can hide an articulated lorry so I can't really complain). It's real issue is that you are going faster than you think. The instructor did stress that if he said brake just do it the speed is deceptive. OK, first significant corner I brake, then more then he asks for a lot more brake. It felt like I could have got out and walked, so I asked if the car just didn't handle well in corners. No, he insisted I was gong faster than I thought. Hmmm, OK, but it didn't feel very quick. I checked the speed the next time we cam around, at the point I would have said we were doing 30 ish, it was 70 ish. Ouch. The car is lovely in corners, but man you need to watch the speedo. It won't even notice you losing your licence. I'd love to try another one just to see if the horrible gear change is just a feature of this specific car.

My next drive was the Lotus. Other than having the monopoly on door sills and the most painful seat, I loved it. It was just so much fun to drive, quite indecent given how much cheaper than the others it is. Were money no object I would love an Aston but bang per buck the Lotus really beats them all. I am quite certain the seat could be changed to one that didn't bash my hips about like this one did.

The Subaru was a car I wouldn't have gone out to drive but as it was there I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I'm none the wiser. I spent most of the drive home trying to come up with a positive about this one, and my best offer is you can probably carry more in it than any of the others, but if load capacity was the thing I was after I'd be looking at a Transit van. Apparently most people like the easier clutch, brakes and gearbox. I hadn't noticed the others were hard. There was a large notice in this car warning against rushed gear changes and it wasn't kidding. I found I had to be actively slow changing gear. Yes it's gates were easier to find than the Ferrari but the slow motion changes were just frustrating. I'm also very used to rear wheel drive cars and they drive very differently to a four wheel drive vehicle. To me it seemed to need a lot more babying than I would have expected to get it round corners. Maybe it should have been at the drag strip.

It was a very fun way to spend a day. I really enjoyed getting to play with all the different cars. I will be keeping an eye open for events where I can spend longer with some of them. They say this is designed as a taster day, and that's a really good description. The problem is, once you've had a taste you want more.


Amanda said...

Glad I'm not the only one who natters petrol head babble in the stitchy blog world lol! How did Tet like the Porsche and which one did he drive?

Susan Briscoe said...

LOL, I'll stick with the Toyota Carina E then! Or go for a tranny.

Fun day though, by the sounds of it.

Ferret said...

I'll ask Tet to post you a review of the Porche. :) Trannys are fantastic fun I'd love one but we really don't have room for it. I tried to persuade Tet to one before we got the motorhome.

Tet said...

I tried to post a comment before, but Blogger wouldn't let me. It's hard to make a direct comparison because the others were all road cars where the Porsche was a fully stripped out race car. It started out life as a 997 GT3. But it was fast and showed none of the handling problems that you'd expect from the engine being in the wrong place. Because of the cam, it needed lots of revs to do anything.

Amanda said...

Ha, funny you say about the engine in the wrong place. We had a 996 C2 and it was the sweetest little thing, sucked the road especially around corners. Then John decided to up it to a C4 Turbo (I wouldn't let him go GT lol). Whole new ball game and never trusted the thing. And the braking was the worst. With no weight in the the front the nose never dived and so it didn't feel like you were stopping, standing on the brakes bum out of the seat didn't make any difference either. They are all such different animals, even several of the exact same car can be chalk and cheese.

Glad you enjoyed your day, they are great things to do as you never look at the road the same way afterwards, even in a van!