Today was a little different for me. When I got over my depression I made myself some promises. One of which was to stop being scared of life and enjoy what opportunities come my way.
There are some things that have always interested me but I’ve always told myself I couldn’t do them because I didn’t have the guts. So I made a choice that I wanted to drive a sports car round Silverstone.
It’s a scary prospect. I looked at the options. I’ve always loved Ferrari’s but have never wanted to drive one, what if I damaged it?! So when I saw I could drive an Aston Martin instead I thought I would go for that.
I’d get to be James or should I say Jane Bond for 3 laps of Silverstone! So I asked Santa Clause to give me this wish for Xmas. Only Santa argued that 3 laps wouldn’t be enough and I should do more than one car because I would regret it otherwise.
So on Xmas morning I opened my present to find a gift voucher for 3 laps of Silverstone in a Ferrari and 3 laps in an Aston Martin. I was excited but nervous. On my day off from work I rang the booking line and set up my race day.
When I woke up this morning I have to say I was surprised. I couldn’t have picked a better day. The sun was shining and it was a little windy but all in all perfect driving conditions. I made sure to pack my glasses, camera and pick up all my paperwork and we headed off for a nice country drive through the villages to Silverstone.
I’ve been to Silverstone before for the F1 Grand Prix but saw very little of the track as we parked by Club and that was where we were sitting. Today on arrival we drove round the parameter of most of the track to get to the Silverstone Experience Complex which was interesting.
I was nervous, especially when we went into the drivers briefing. On arrival we were given a page of briefing notes about how to drive into a corner, where to brake, how to clip the corner and how to position for exit. It was all a bit overwhelming.
I sat in the briefing room watching the DVD and wondering how I was ever going to remember where I had to position myself for each of the corners. My heart was racing and I was starting to consider what I had let myself in for. In a room of around 40 people there were 2 women, it became a matter of pride, I had to do better than the men!
We got back into our own cars and drove down to the start point to pick up our cars for racing. My family all stood on top of the building to watch and after pulling on an unflattering helmet I was taken to the Ferrari to settle in.
The driving instructors were really nice and put you straight at ease. After some seat adjustments and a quick briefing on how to change gears with the paddle shifts it was into first gear and off onto the track, carefully avoiding the parking stand in front of us.
I’d been having awful dreams of this very moment, putting the car into first, badly stalling and giving the instructor whiplash off the line!
Luckily it was just a dream and we pulled away with no problems. I took the first lap quite gingerly with the instructor making a couple of steering adjustments with me.
Its hard work trying to keep all that car in check, it felt so heavy in the corners trying to clip the apex. I was so hot in the car, my mouth was dry with trying to focus on the track and remembering to look past where I was steering onto the next corner.
It is a lot to remember but by the time you hit your third lap it is all coming together and then the instructor tells you to pull over and park. Spoil sport!
We were told if we listened to the instructor and did as they said when they said it they would push us and we would have fun. It was time to find out what a racing driver through of my driving and I was worried. As I pulled into the car park past the tight Armco barrier someone had parked their Ferrari by the entrance and just as I drove past he decided to walk straight in front of me! Luckily I avoided him and parked with no problems.
The instructor said he had enjoyed the ride and if I’d had one more lap I’d have caught the car in front. He was pleased I pushed the speed and told me to keep up the good work in the Aston Martin!
In the Aston Martin I had a new instructor and a new car to learn. This time there was a gear stick and clutch to handle!
Pulling out onto the track I remembered the track positioning but I had to remember the clutch and gears but it was so easy, my feet just took control! The gears are quite close together with it being 6 speed but you stay in mostly 3 to 5. I found the down shift from 5 to 4 tricky and kept hitting 6 and loosing speed in the corner by the spectators but apart from that it was all good.
On my second lap I was told to hold right in the turn to let a car fly past, it was a Nissan being driven by a race driver giving the passengers a taste of Silverstone how it should be driven, I found out later. My pride restored that I wasn’t overtaken by another amateur I felt quite good. My brother was convinced I would be so slow I would be lapped by everyone out there!
Coming into the last lap in the Aston Martin I got to overtake a Ferrari into turn 1 and I really felt like a racing driver. I turned into the corner, aimed for the bollard on the exit and hammered my foot down as we climbed the hill to the next turn. Where I promptly turned in too tight, drifted the back out a touch and struggled to keep the car on the track! “Oops sorry, bit wide there” I mumbled as I crested the next corner onto the straight where the foot hits the floor. Luckily the instructor just said “You kept it on the black stuff so it’s all good!” Hey even the F1 drivers use the grass from time to time!
Then it was over, I was pulling into the tight turn off the track past the armco and coming to a stop. “Did you enjoy it” asked the instructor as he told me I’d done well. I enjoyed it a lot and apart from having a dry throat I was ready to do it all again.
I jumped out of the car and spotted my Dad as I began to pull the heavy helmet off my head, trying to take it what just happened. I’d driven round Silverstone in a Ferrari and an Aston Martin. Next time I watch the F1 I can say I drove that track, I took that line, I made that turn.
My Dad was beaming a smile and said I’d done really well. Back home we watched some footage they’d filmed on their phones and you can hear the roar of the engine as I flew past, you can’t see much but it’s still nice. Apparently I was faster in the Aston Martin than the Ferrari according to the stands but I have no idea the speeds I got to.
After all my years of admiring sports cars and staring at them from afar I was finally behind the wheel and it went by so fast I barely had time to register. I remember trying to look in the wing mirrors on the Ferrari and finding it strange that I couldn’t really see much. But then the instructor said he was in charge of mirrors so maybe that’s why, they are positioned for him to see.
As for the interiors of the car, I couldn’t really say. There were buttons and levers and pretty little lights but I have no idea what they did. I remember feeling the engine of the Ferrari close to my shoulder and the roar in my ear which is a pleasant experience.
I barely even had time to look at the speedometer to see how fast I was going. Disappointingly, as no matter how hard I pushed the accelerator I don’t think I came close to bottoming out! But I wasn’t slow either, I was outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself each lap.
I would still have the Ferrari over the Aston Martin any day, it was more fun but I think today was enough for me and I’m happy to go back to watching them from afar with a knowing glance back to today!
I was adamant I didn’t want photos beforehand but once I got out the cars I wanted to see it all again on video and see the photos to prove it actually happened. I wanted a telemetry debrief and to watch the corner entries and exits on the big screen slow mo’s but sadly there was none of that.
It wasn’t cheap but I brought the CD of my photos and I got one printed of me driving the Ferrari. I have no idea what I’ll do with the photo but maybe it will remind me every time those nagging voices tell me I can’t that I can do it when I try.
Just to prove it really happened, that’s me in the driver’s seat!