Supercar driving experience vouchers have been popular gifts for many years, and give anyone the chance to enjoy, if only for a short while, the thrill of driving a supercar around a track. The Car Expert recently visited the famous Brands Hatch race track in Kent to see what a supercar driving experience is all about.
My first surprise is pulling into the car park at Brands Hatch to see it completely full. Despite it being a Thursday, it seems that plenty of people have made time to spend the afternoon punting someone else’s supercar around a race track. Although it’s raining fairly steadily, I can see a variety of exotic cars thundering down the main straight, engines booming and echoing off the pit buildings and grandstands. It is now early afternoon, and these cars have been at it since 9am.
In the welcome and registration room, there is a feeling of nervous excitement from the prospective supercar drivers. For some it is clearly a long-awaited highlight, with an entourage of friends or family in tow, all armed with cameras to record the moment for posterity.
There are also plenty of armchair experts, watching the previous group out on track and offering their opinion on the cars and driving standards they are observing. Basically, it’s groups of blokes offering comments like “That guy’s rubbish. My gran could drive faster than that”. They’ll soon be changing their tune…
We are then shepherded into a room for our drivers’ briefing. The head instructor talks about racing lines, rules for overtaking and how the driving instructors in the cars will guide you around the circuit in the fastest possible way. For those who had been vaguely terrified before, it is a confidence boost to understand that there are professionals in the car to provide expert advice, and that there are clear processes and rules for managing upwards of a dozen cars on track at the same time.
Meanwhile, it quickly dawns on a few of the armchair experts that there might be more to this whole driving experience than simply being given the keys to a Ferrari and waved onto a track.
When we assemble into groups for each car, it is interesting to see the split of which car each participant had chosen. The queues for the Ferrari 360 Modena and Aston Martin Vantage are very long, the Audi R8 is popular, there are a few takers for the Porsche 911 and Nissan GT-R, while the Lamborghini Gallardo group has precisely two people in it – me and another guy who had already driven the Ferrari earlier in the day. This is puzzling, given that the Lamborghini is the most powerful and most expensive car on offer, but I am secretly quite pleased, as it means I am at the front of the queue…
As the rain continues to fall, I am quite pleased to be in the Lamborghini for one other reason. Although it has 500hp and makes a noise like thunder, the Gallardo is also four-wheel-drive (unlike the Ferrari and Aston), so is both faster and much more sure-footed in the wet.
If you’ve never been to Brands Hatch before, the first impression is of how hilly the place is. It’s like a bitumen rollercoaster, plunging steeply downhill after the first corner and then rising back up again for the hairpin, then right back down again for the next corner. We are only using the short ‘Indy’ circuit today, so there is one more left-hand kink and then the last corner is a long, rising right-hand loop to bring you back onto the pit straight. It is short but quite technical, and rewards precise and calm driving rather than aggressive movements.
First up, though, is a ride alongside a professional driver in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. This gives me a chance to see the circuit for the first time and watch how a really good driver handles the car. Everything is smooth and co-ordinated, making it seem like it is all happening in slow motion – until I look out the side window and see how quickly the scenery is rushing past. The car flows silkily from corner to corner with no drama or fuss. Looks easy enough for an experienced professional in a 170hp hatchback, but now it’s time for me to try it in a 500hp mid-engined supercar.
I don’t have to wait long for a bright orange Lamborghini to growl its way down the pit lane and stop in front of me. Dropping down into the low seat and looking out at the kneecaps of people around, I am reminded how very close to the ground you sit in this car. My instructor cheerily points out the basic controls I need to worry about (gearshift paddles, throttle, brake and windscreen wipers), and invites me to go.
If you’ve only ever driven a ‘normal’ family car or hatchback, then the feeling of driving a genuine thoroughbred sports car is very different. You can feel everything that’s going on around you, through the steering wheel, through the seat and through the pedals. All of the sensations that are carefully isolated and buried away in your average family car are loudly present here. The bellow of the Lamborghini’s V10 engine is accompanied by vibrations and tremors throughout the cabin and right through the steering wheel, like creating your very own earthquake. Give it a bootful of acceleration on a damp track and you can feel the car squirming around as it launches. Hit the brakes and still it moves around underneath you. As you turn the steering wheel, it responds instantly, as if it can read your thoughts. The car feels alive the whole time. Be warned – it’s addictive.
Out on the track, it all initially feels like it’s happening too quickly, but you quickly adjust to the pace. The calm and clear directions from the instructor are easy to follow, and it is surprisingly easy to find a comfortable rhythm. Initially there is a clear track ahead, and it gives you a real rush of adrenalin to floor the throttle in the Lamborghini and hurtle along the straight. The car responds instantly to even small movements of the steering wheel and pedals, so it is quite easy to thread it around the tight Brands Hatch complex. If you were imagining it being a very heavy physical experience to muscle the car around, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
There are several different cars all on track at the same time, and it feels amazing to be overtaking Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porsches. The instructors in each car give clear directions for both overtaking and being overtaken, so you as a driver can get on with enjoying yourself and don’t have to worry about other cars around you being faster or slower than you are.
After five fantastic laps of Brands Hatch I am directed back into the pits to hand ‘my’ Lamborghini over to its next driver. Walking back down the pit lane, helmet in hand like any good racing driver, I am already planning to arrange another supercar drive experience. Maybe I’ll go for the Ferrari next time. And should I go back to Brands Hatch, or maybe try Silverstone?
Win your own supercar driving experience!
Now that you’ve read all about the excitement of driving a supercar around a fantastic British race track, we’re going to give you the chance to experience it yourself!
Buyagift.com is offering one lucky reader a chance to win their own supercar driving experience, with your choice from one of a number of high-performance exotics, at one of six race tracks around the UK.
Simply click on the link below to enter, and tell us both which car and track you would choose for your supercar driving experience and why. Good luck!