Move over, Yianni – my supercar experience
As a young motorsport fan, I always knew I had the need for speed and began taking driving lessons as soon as I turned 17.
Four months later, I passed my test and bought my own car, only to realise my 1.2 Volkswagen Polo went from 0-60 in 14 v-e-r-y long seconds.
So I was going to have to get my speed fix elsewhere, and a birthday gift provided the perfect opportunity.
The Red Letter Days voucher for me and a friend to have a go at driving supercars was a dream come true.
The venue was at an old airfield turned racing circuit in Oxfordshire, and all the way there I imagined myself at the wheel of a Lamborghini Aventador, rather than my trusty but unglamorous VW.
Supercars tend to be owned by the super-rich, but legions of less wealthy drivers aspire to one day put their foot down in vehicles worth more than Wayne Rooney’s weekly wage.
I was one of those people who only saw supercars on the internet or TV. Shows such as ‘Top Gear’ give you an entertaining view of what it’s like to drive and test them in ways most manufacturers wouldn’t dream of.
“I was greeted by the sound of beautifully-tuned cars which were lined up in a row waiting for me”
I also follow the social media accounts of many supercar owners and I especially like their YouTube channels as it feels more personal, as if you are riding with them in the passenger seat.
One of the best-known is Yianni Charalambous, better known by the name of his celebrity car-customising company Yiannimize.
Yianni customises vehicles for the rich and famous and also runs a couple of supercars himself: a light blue Ferrari 488 Spider and a stunning super-charged six-litre rose gold Range Rover SVR with a custom body kit.
My personal favourite of his has to be one of his previous cars, a rose gold Aventador.
After arriving at the airfield after a sluggish drive up the M40, I was greeted by the sound of beautifully-tuned cars which were lined up in a row waiting for me to choose the two I wanted to drive.
“Going at 100mph without having to worry about police cameras was thrilling and not at all frightening on the track”
Before booking my driving experience, I had conducted some research about which of the cars on offer could go the fastest, and I found that the Lamborghini Gallardo and the Audi R8 were the ones for me.
Unfortunately, between them and me was a safety briefing which, at the time, went on for what felt like hours as I sat there full of adrenaline and ready to drive.
At all times in both cars, I had a member of the track team with me to ensure I kept things safe, but to me I was in a scene from The Fast & Furious and the person sitting alongside was Dwayne Johnson.
Driving the supercars was much harder than I initially imagined. It wasn’t all about sheer speed, but precision and timing. When it came to cornering, I had to be in total control of the vehicle in order to get the best out of it when exiting the curve.
Although taking part in lap time races wasn’t recommended for newcomers, my competitive nature and need for speed wouldn’t allow me not to.
In my head I kept repeating to myself, ‘slow and close’ (to the apex) when going into corners as I knew that would help my chances of getting a good time.
On the long straights, I was able to put my foot down and experience speeds in excess of 95mph, which for a supercar is not even a struggle whereas my own car would be likely to blow up before going that fast.
Going at 100mph without having to worry about police cameras was thrilling and not at all frightening on the track.
Short but sweet is the perfect phrase to describe the experience – it’s almost addictive as ever since my first visit I have been itching to go back.
“Not only had I won, but my victory meant he had to take the wheel and drive all the way back to London”
After taking off the overalls and helmet provided, I was ushered into a room where a small TV screen revealed my lap time.
At this point, I was sweating and leaning forward in anticipation of the result like a celebrity guest on Top Gear.
When my name appeared on the screen four places above my friend’s, a smile of sheer relief appeared on my face.
Not only had I won, but my victory meant he had to take the wheel and drive all the way back to London while I relaxed and thought back on my experience in the passenger’s seat.