When Sebastian Vettel posted his first and fastest lap of the 2014 season-opening Australian Grand Prix, it was clear all was not well. 17 seconds off the eventual fastest lap of the race, Vettel’s Red Bull was clearly failing. Given the four-time world champion’s pedigree in recent seasons, it was obviously not driver influenced, having demonstrated his unquestionable talent race after race. But where did it all start?
For most, it started behind the TV, or to be more precise, on a game console, as young enthusiasts learned every turn and kerb of the most famous circuits around the world, such as Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone. But we live in a much more advanced age these days, and for many it starts behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car. I kid you not.
The Lets Race F1 simulation centre offers fans the chance to get behind the wheel in a life-size F1 cockpit, take to the track and begin your career as the next Lewis Hamilton. Along with multi-championship winning outfit Carlin and the Henry Surtees Foundation, Lets Race is offering budding drivers the chance to take part in a full day’s testing behind the wheel of a 210bhp Formula 3.
Nearly every world champion imaginable at some point of their career hit the Formula 3 scene, with Ayrton Senna, Sir Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher all progressing through the Formula 3 ranks.
Sat in the only full motion F1 simulator in the United Kingdom, competitors will get the chance to experience 12 laps at the wheel of a GP2 on the Melbourne track, home of the Australian Grand Prix. Feeling every bump and vibration along the way – not to mention a firm whack if you run over your 87kg mechanic in the pit lane – the experience is the closest you will get
Rupert Swallow, MD of Lets Race explained how together with Carlin, the Lets Race to Reality programme was breaking down the wall between the TV screen and the track.
“We are given budding drivers, gamers and enthusiasts the opportunity to experience a real racing car as driven by some of the most famous race drivers of this era,” said Swallow. “Carlin has worked with F1 drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Max Chilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen and we are offering competitors in Lets Race to Reality the opportunity to follow in those drivers footsteps in a Carlin F3 car.”
1964 Formula 1 world champion John Surtees explained how the opportunity can be a once in a lifetime experience for any race fan, although the eventual winner could see that opportunity expand onto the grid.
Surtees remains the only man to be crowned world champion on two and four wheels, and despite the death of his son Henry when he was struck by a stray tyre during a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch, Surtees remains as keen as ever to help out the next generation with progressing through the ranks and towards the dream of reaching F1.
“I am very pleased to be part of Lets Race to Reality and offer competitors the chance to experience something that is normally out of reach for even the most ardent motorsport fan,” said Surtees. “Not only will they create a once in the life time experience for the lucky winner, it will also raise money for the Henry Surtees Foundation and the great causes we are sponsoring.”
“We are extremely proud to be offering this great opportunity with the Henry Surtees Foundation, which not only raises money from an exceptionally worthy cause but also helps young drivers through its own charity events,” added Swallow. “To have John on board with us on this exciting venture is an honour and a great addition to the final stage of the competition.”
Once the competition closes on April 30, the top 10% will be invited to a karting Grand Prix at Buckmore Park in Kent, with the top-five going through to a day of activities and training at Carlin.
From the final five, a winner will be selected to take part in a day’s testing with the Carlin F3 team, complete with mechanics and engineers.
After a quick briefing from former F1 driver-turned-commentator Martin Brundle, you’ll be led to your 210bhp-beast by a trained instructor, who will also guide you through the Melbourne track should your knowledge lack the crucial information of braking points and gear selection.
Once you’re ready to go, you’re on your own. But as soon as you leave the pit-lane, it’s very hard not to fall into the ‘zone’. It’ll take all your concentration not to be facing the wrong way by turn three – something I experienced more often than not – and your forearms will be screaming with fatigue as each lap passes, but it comes no way near the excitement and thrill you get to experience.
Interested competitors can find further details including entry dates and heats at http://www.letsrace.co.uk/lets-race-2-reality/
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