I find myself quite often asked, by people buying presents for relatives, which supercar experience day I’d recommend.
Tough one, this. The short answer is “I don’t know”, but the longer answer is a slightly uncomfortable “I’m not sure I’d recommend any”.
It’s tough, because people want to drive supercars. Why wouldn’t they? Despite our talk of them being too fast, heavy, irrelevant and inaccessible to provide the same level of fun for most of us as a Toyota GT86, the truth is that we drove a 730bhp, 1700kg car last week and it was utterly brilliant. Why wouldn’t you want a piece of that?
But these cars being so powerful and expensive is both the appeal and a problem for event organisers. They’re costly to run and insure and, particularly, to fix or replace.
So for the sort of money that buys a good present, the cars have to be carefully managed. Laps are limited, as are engine revs in many cases, and there’ll be an instructor having a kitten in the passenger seat at any overly liberal application of throttle. (That’s no surprise; don’t know about you, but I’m not the world’s greatest passenger at the best of times. Being one alongside a complete stranger who is himself a total stranger to a mid-engined, rear-drive, 500bhp sports car can be no good for your system.)
I’ve spoken with friends and relatives after they’ve done these days and the verdict is usually the same: they’re pleased they’ve driven an Aston, Porsche, Lamborghini, whatever, but they come away slightly unfulfilled.
“It’s frustrating, but I was just starting to get into it,” said my neighbour, mistily eyed, after a go in an Aston recently. “It’s so different from everything else I’ve driven that it takes those few laps just to start getting used to it. Then it’s finished.”
It’s nobody’s fault. You can’t fly to the moon for £20, and you can’t make money letting people thrash supercars until their thirst is quenched for £100.
The alternative? There are places where you can get your fill, of course, with a bona fide racing driver egging you on in a track-prepped car, but at a gulpworthy cost. When it comes to getting pure driving pleasure, rather than an ‘experience’, the answer is to remove the expensive hardware.
In my experience, a rally day in an old Ford Escort, or a drift day, or even half an hour’s karting, provides more octane thrills than three laps under (sensibly) strict supervision in something worth £100k. What’s missing is the badge, the exclusivity, the ticking of a box to say “I’ve driven one of those”. One way, you find out a little about a supercar. The other way, you find out a whole lot about your driving.
Question is, I suppose, just how much either itch needs to be scratched.