"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.