Had me a fun weekend, driving up to Kenilworth in Warwickshire to jump into an Aston Martin V8 and thrash it around a race track. And what fun it was…
The ‘Aston Martin Thrill’ was courtesy of my lovely wife Fiona; she bought it for me as a surprise birthday present last year, and I finally got around to booking a date for it. They had various venues on offer, most of them way up north. I didn’t really fancy driving 250 miles to then do some more driving, so I tried the Oxfordshire track. Couldn’t get the dates I wanted, so I plumped for the slightly-more-distant Warwickshire one. And early on Saturday morning we jumped in the car and headed north.
Arriving at the circuit, we found that it was a bit more basic than expected: the ‘hospitality suite’ was a portakabin, with portaloos outside. But the main point of the event was ranged outside on the pit lane: three Lamborghinis, a Ferrari, two Aston Martins, an Audi R8 and an Ariel Atom. While waiting for the drive itself, I got to have an introductory lap in a Subaru; the driver pointed out the apex cones at each corner, and advised on the lines to take. Then it was back to the centre to wait for the actual drive.
My turn came, and I got the Aston Martin V8 convertible – with the top down. It was a pretty grey and chilly day, so I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it, but it turned out fine. The instructor took me through a few basic points including using the paddle gearshifts, and off we went. The first lap was OK; more of an acclimatisation lap, really – then on the second lap I floored it and started really enjoying myself. I nudged over 100mph on the straight, then the corners took all my attention. Slightly dodgy on my apexes to begin with, I was getting smoother by the time I finished (3 laps and it was over!) – I could have done another 20 laps and been quicker on each one. All the while, that beautiful exhaust note was howling in my ears – but even at 100mph there was little air disturbance in the driver’s cabin to ruffle the experience.
And what an experience it was. Howling down the straights, tucking into the corners and feeling the tyres and suspension digging in and doing their work perfectly – I didn’t have very much time to appreciate the finer points of the interior. Fast, furious and fun – I would LOVE to own one of these cars, but I think parking it outside my terraced house in Dartford might be an invitation to all kinds of misery!
In the end, I got a certificate (as y’do); the instructor gave my driving a 90% score, which was quite gratifying. I eschewed the professional photograph, opting instead to go for Fi’s trackside shots – besides, at £25 it was a bit of a rip-off. To finish the day, I had a fast lap in a BMW M3 with a guy who could have given the Stig a run for his money – he hit 115mph on the straight, which put my efforts into perspective! 🙂
All in all, terrific fun at a price. Would I do it again? Yes, I think so – driving an Aston was too good a chance to pass up, and I’d love to give it another go. I’m saving up….