Yesterday I ticked off another item on my 30 before 30 list when I got behind the wheel of two high performance cars at the legendary Silverstone racing circuit. My ’30 before 30′ challenge was to drive an Aston Martin, and I ended up choosing an experience called ‘Head to Head’, where I got to drive both an Aston Martin and a Ferrari one after the other, so I could compare the two. It was a treat to myself for passing the advanced driving course, but having never driven anything faster than a Ford Mondeo, I must admit I felt a little apprehensive as we drove up the long track round the edge of the circuit up to the Silverstone Experience Centre.
We got there a little early, so we had time for a bite to eat at the Experience Centre cafe before I was called in to attend a pre-drive briefing. During the briefing, we were told what would be happening, and we learned a bit about racing lines and the technique required for driving high performance cars. I noted that I was the only woman in a room of eight blokes who were doing the same experience!
Then it was time to drive our own car over to another centre in the circuit itself where the supercars were parked, and where I was kitted out in an ultra-flattering crash helmet.
First up was the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. If you’re interested in boring numbers about cars, it’s 380 horsepower and does 0-60 in 4.9 seconds.
I have to admit, it was bloody scary being in control of something that powerful, and the style of driving was the complete opposite to what I’ve been taught on the advanced driving course. I had to keep my hands firmly in the same place on the wheel, as if you were holding a plate up and turning it. I didn’t have to worry about looking in the mirrors for other cars, as the instructor takes care of all that for you so that you can concentrate on driving, which is quite intense enough without worrying about what everyone else is doing (thankfully there weren’t that many others on the track though). The instructor kept saying “more power, more power”, so that we were almost always driving way faster than I’d ever feel comfortable with. It felt so counterintuitive to hurtle towards a bend at breakneck speed and then brake heavily at the last minute. What was awesome was the way it just keeps going faster and faster as you put your foot down – quite a contrast to my Ford KA!
It was very cool to hurtle full pelt down the straight stretch of the F1 circuit, but I was still quite relieved when my three laps were up!
Next it was time to try out the Ferrari 430. It’s more powerful than the Aston – 483 horsepower, and it does 0-60 in 4 seconds.
I think the Aston Martin is prettier, which you can see when they’re side by side like this:
However, though I think the Aston Martin is more aesthetically pleasing, I actually preferred driving the Ferrari. I liked the paddle gearbox and generally found it easier to drive than the Aston.
I was amazed at how well it handles corners at speed. If I went round a corner that quickly in my own car I’d definitely be feeling as though it’s about to roll, but this just stayed completely stable as it whizzed round tight bends.
I had a tiny glance at the speedometer on the straight stretch and we were doing 120mph. We may have got faster than that, but I was too scared to take my eyes off the track. After my three laps were up, I felt quite pleased to have survived the experience unscathed!
I really enjoyed driving these two sleek supercars, but I left Silverstone feeling that I’m still perfectly happy with my own little car. If I had lots of money, I wouldn’t spend it on fast cars. I know that people have them as a status symbol (and don’t get me wrong, I would certainly be proud to have that Aston Martin on my drive), but I don’t see the point in owning such a powerful car when there’s no way you can use it to its full potential except by going round and round a racing track, going nowhere. A plane is a much better thing to spend your money on, as you can actually use it to get to places quickly! But as thrills go, I don’t think I feel the need for speed – and no well-executed high-speed corner in one of these cars will ever compare with the pure satisfaction of doing a good landing in a plane…
With huge thanks to Lee for taking all the pics in this post!