The Beginning of an Addiction

3 03 2009


What if I crash? What if I forget how to drive? What if I need the toilet halfway through? What if I am looked upon with scorn because of my age? What if I stall? What if I drive slowly?

These were the questions that were scurrying about in my brain on the morning of Saturday June 7, 2008 as we arrived at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire – 2.12 miles of asphalt with 12 corners, ranging from the high-speed Jim Clark Esses to one of the tightest hairpins in the country. I was there for the Racing Car Experience.

After a briefing and being shown round the circuit in a Mazda 3 MPS I found myself in the driver’s seat of a red Porsche Cayman, with an instructor on my left. Bloody ‘ell, I was nervous.

We left the pits (without stalling), tested the brakes, and then got going. After the first three, slower corners and being told: “back on the throttle, keep it going keep it going,” I had my first taste of the 2.7 litre straight-six which was sat just behind me. Although slightly muted, it was a sweet sound. The smile that started at that point lasted for the whole of the three laps, and continued sometime after.

Leaving the pits

Leaving the pits

But then my beaming facial expression started to turn once more into a nervous stare into middle-distance. Next up was the Formula Renault. No instructor this time. Just me on my own. This mid-engined, rear-wheel drive single-seater may only have a 1.7 litre engine, four (non-syncro) gears and 130bhp, but, it only weighs just over 500kg, and can launch you to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

Kitted out with a helmet and gloves, I stepped in and lowered myself down into the Renault. As the brochure says:

“the driving position is akin to sitting in a bath tub and about the same distance off the ground.”

After being told everything I needed to know, I was buckled in and then it was time to go. Oil pump on, I flicked the ignition switch down and pressed down the starter button…the starter motor turned over for a second before the engine cleared its throat and fired into life.

Returning to the pits in the Formula Renault

Returning to the pits in the Formula Renault

Clutch down, I shifted the gear leaver on my right, just below shoulder level, into first, making a satisfying, mechanical clunk. I edge out of the pits, into second, check the brakes, turn into Clervaux, through Hawthorn, easing on the accelerator, through the chicane, onto the straight, full throttle… The noise – a pure, unadulterated bark, carrying an instant punch whenever you sink the throttle.

Adrenalin in full flow, each lap I’d brake a little later, go a little faster through each corner. At the Jim Clark Esses, a quick left and right leading towards Barcroft, the Renault darts through without needing to touch the brakes, with lateral forces you’d expect from a modern roller-coaster.

After five laps in the Renault, next up was a high-speed passenger ride in a Caterham with a racing driver. This redefined my idea of ‘fast’ and how much grip there can be from a car. Proper driving.

At the beginning of the day, between the briefing and the ride in the Mazda, an instructor told me: “Honestly, you’ll love it, you’ll be addicted after this.” He was right.

Heading out for high-speed passenger lap.

Heading out for high-speed passenger lap.




4 responses

19 03 2009

Even though I have more or less no interest in cars, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Just as I enjoyed reading your entry piece for the competition. 🙂

It’s brilliant Petay Pan 😀

28 02 2010
Two years of driving « Petrol and Peter

[…] a present for when I reached the 18, I went to Croft (albeit a couple of months after my birthday). Yes, because I was 18, and had a licence, I was able […]

27 04 2010
Two years of driving « Peter Adams Journalism

[…] a present for when I reached the 18, I went to Croft (albeit a couple of months after my birthday). Yes, because I was 18, and had a licence, I was able […]

5 02 2013
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