"First we will warm the tyres up, then we will go..."

Belgian world rally ace Thierry Neuville could pass for a visiting foreign exchange student, but for the fact he's strapped behind the wheel of a Citroen DS3 World Rally Car and his mood has just switched from friendly chit-chat to total concentration.

The 24-year-old selects first gear and boots the throttle. With short gear ratios and about 320bhp from the 1.6-litre engine ("the exact power figure is a secret - even to me," explains Neuville) we soar off towards the turnaround at the bottom of the hillclimb course at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

I yank on the belts strapping me down low into the co-driver's seat just as he gives the handbrake a tug. The car pivots on the spot and as we swing round I gulp a deep breath, and brace myself.

Throttle nailed the car carries on going round... and round and round again. Neuville catches the final slide and fires the DS3 forward in a lurid drift. All this before we've even started the official run.

"I think the tyres are warm now," he chuckles down the microphone. "I hope you are ready, there is more of that to come!"

He may be in total entertainment mode rather than going for a time, but to watch Neuville's face, hands and feet is quite something. Launch control engaged, we fire off the line, bang up the gears and then then the show begins, his feet working the pedals much like a tap dancer might hit the floor, his arms twirling this way and that but his face never conveying any of the drama that's unfolding.

At every opportunity he donuts the car, yet at no point does it ever grind to a stop. With the car set up soft and on gravel tyres, it's happy to slide, and when Neuville wants to get going again he waits for the right moment and fires it up the road. My brain is struggling to keep up, or even know which way we're pointing, yet for all the smoke and dizzying pirouettes Neuville is never in anything other than total control.

As we flash across the finish line he turns to me. "It's okay, the run to the line is straight now," he grins.

I can just about manage a 'thank you' before I realise what's coming. The road may be straight - and narrow - but Neuville has no intention of driving in a straight line. He drifts the car across the track from side to side, unfazed by the proximity of the straw bales even when he gets so close he kisses one, knocking off the onboard camera.