Silverstone's £99 Lamborghini Thrill
Friday 10 December 2010
Expert tips on track driving, a few laps of one of the most famous motor racing circuits in the world (or part of it at least) in a Lamborghini, lots of pictures to remind you of the experience and a nice certificate to hang on your wall – all for just £99 (for the Christmas period only).
That's the Supercar Thrill, one of a number of driving experiences offered by Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, that are designed to provide anyone who is interested (no prior circuit experience is required) with a taste of the exotic world of motor racing. I recently had the chance to try it – in my case it was the Lamborghini Thrill, in a Gallardo, to be precise – and can vouch for the fact that it is enormous fun.
The session starts with a briefing on the basics of track driving given by a professional racing instructor. On the day I was there, this was delivered by Silverstone's Mike Swinnerton. The presentation, while comparatively short, was very thorough. Mike started off by explaining how to identify the “racing line”, in other words, learning how to use the entire width of the track in order to find the straightest, and therefore quickest, route through a corner. He then broke down the cornering process into its main constituent parts.
The first of these involves the approach, starting with the braking point; during this phase, braking and changing down through the gears should, in the interests of stability, as far as possible be undertaken in a straight line. At the turn-in point, the car should be travelling slowly enough to allow the car to be turned safely towards the clipping point, or apex, on the inside of the corner on a balanced throttle. Mike also stressed the importance of accelerating smoothly and progressively as the car is straightened up when exiting from the corner.
He finished off by explaining the difference between understeer, the tendency, under certain circumstances, of a car to run wide at the front, and oversteer, or tail-out behaviour, and also advised how to avoid them or deal with them. It really was an excellent basic education in the essential elements of vehicle dynamics, and one from which all drivers could benefit, regardless of whether they intend to do any track work or not.
Anyway, understanding the theory is one thing – keeping it at the forefront of your mind and putting it all into practice when faced with the demands of the track is another, as I soon found out. Helmet on, I headed out onto the circuit with another Silverstone instructor, Chas, who, from the very beginning, encouraged me to drive quickly rather than hang back.
The Gallardo is ideal for this sort of thing. It's much quicker than the cars most of us drive on the road, and has exotic touches such as a metal gear-change gate and a V10 engine that sounds simply glorious, but it also has all-wheel drive and feels very well balanced. As super-cars go, it's not too fierce; in short, it's ideal for this sort of thing. Even if, like me, you're not really a natural track driver or didn't spend your entire childhood kart racing as most of today's leading Formula 1 drivers did, you will probably find yourself driving far more quickly and braking much, much later than you ever imagined you could – and enjoying yourself in the process. And as you slowly improve your technique, you will probably come away with a bit more respect for the top racing drivers who drive far more powerful cars much more quickly under far more exacting conditions for lap after lap without making any mistakes.
All too quickly it was over – I would gladly have lapped the Gallardo all day, given the chance – but at least I have a nice certificate hanging on my wall confirming that I have successfully completed Silverstone's Lamborghini Thrill in order to remind me of the experience. And if the Lamborghini Gallardo isn't quite to your taste, by the way, there's a choice of other vehicles in which to experience your Supercar Thrill, including an Aston, a Ferrari or a Lotus.
A visit to Silverstone will also give you a chance to take a glimpse at how the big programme of upgrades that is under way at the UK's premier racing circuit is coming along. Things looked bleak just a few years ago when Silverstone lost the right to host the British Grand Prix to rival circuit Donington but when Donington couldn't deliver, Silverstone secured a new seventeen-year contract to put on the race. This triggered heavy investment in new facilities, including a huge, visually imposing new pit and paddock complex that is already taking shape in advance of the planned completion date in May next year.
Find out more about the Lamborghini Thrill and other Silverstone driving experiences at www.silverstone.co.uk, or call 0844 3728 270
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