Ms B, whose nickname amongst her girlfriends as a high school kid was Voucher-Chick, found an amazing offer on Buyagift.com: £109 to race three supercars around the famous Top Gear race track and be a passenger on a high-speed ride. I didn’t need to be told twice. The moment she told me about the insanely good-value offer, I was on my laptop, buying the voucher.
Truth be told. I spent significantly more than that (tripling the total) to buy upgrades in terms of cars, 6 miles instead of 3 miles per car, to buy insurance, zero excess, and an extra lap on the high-speed passenger ride, but I’m still thinking this was perhaps the most fun in relation to cars I’ll ever have had, until I die, unless my recent part-time venture into stand-up comedy starts to pay off big time (haha, joking, it won’t).
It seemed to take forever, to get from London to the race track near Guildford, Surrey, in our hired Audi A5. So many construction sites and outrageously congested streets, partially due to the Chelsea Flower Show and other events happening that day. It took us 2.5h to get from the car rental pick-up location near Marble Arch to the race track, despite the fact that I was always going at the speed limit whenever possible and we didn’t stop on the way except on the road, due to heavy traffic.
You arrive at a barrier and check in with security, then they lift the barrier and you drive to the parking lot outside the race course, two minutes away. Then you wait until a shuttle van picks you up and takes you to the race course, another five minutes away.
I immediately got sucked in by the atmosphere as soon as we left the van. All those supercars and other sportscars. The sound of engines rotating at maximum while doing 250km/h and more, that’s just like music, but much better (and we love music, have blogged about symphony concerts performed by some of the world’s best orchestras, check out our blog posts here and here; not proud of my preferences, but can’t help it, I’m only human).
Queuing and registering took another 25 minutes, but then we were given our race track cards, which list when to race which car from which starting point along the pit lane (each marked with a flag in a different colour).
My first car was a purple 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS (flat/boxer-6, 520hp, rear-engine, rear wheel drive, 4.0l, top speed 310km/h, max rpm 9,000, 0-100km/h 3.2 secs, most basic version £145,000), my second car an orange 2017 Lamborghini Aventador (V12, 730hp, mid-engine, all-wheel drive, 6.5l, top speed 350km/h, max rpm 8,500, 0-100km/h 2.9 secs, starting from £260,000), and #3 was a blue McLaren 720s (V8, 710hp, twin turbo, rear mid-engine, rear wheel drive, 4.0l, top speed 340km/h, max rpm 8,250, 0-100km/h 2.9secs, from £210,000). My high-speed passenger ride was in a bright red Vauxhall VXR8 GTS R, in actual fact an Australian-built re-labelled Holden Commodore (V8, 587hp, front engine, rear wheel drive, 6.2l, top speed 250km/h capped, max rpm 6,200, 0-100km/h 4.2 secs, from £55,000).
The first car, the Porsche, was by far the most comfortable for a big guy like me. It being the first ride, it was also a bit bumpy. At some stage I had the impression my instructor was going to give up on me.
They have their own pedals (which override yours) and they will grab the steering wheel if they feel they have to, which, in my case, was on various occasions. I think I might have gone into this thing a bit over-confident and just wouldn’t take the foot from the gas pedal early enough before the corners (not intentionally!). My steering was also not very smooth, because I was using both my brain cells simply to try to cope with the gas pedal and trying to keep the car on the track at these enormous speeds.
There seemed to be a slight disconnect between my ears, my brain, and my limbs. Both my instructor’s and my head banged against the respective handles next to our heads near the top end of the doors on more than one occasion, providing additional buzz, as if that were needed. My instructor will definitely look for a godfather to his son somewhere else is what I’m saying. I got the distinct impression he had never experienced a complete motor moron like me before. Good on him.
The next car was the reason why I had booked this experience. I had always wanted to put the foot down on a V12 Lambo and this was my chance. I nearly had to give up on the experience, because it took me the best of five minutes to place my fat butt into the seat and find a position where I was still able to handle the pedals. These cars were clearly built with the average Italian millionaire in mind, not some German brute.
As soon as I started the engine, I knew this was going to be so my thing. On the long straight stretch just out of the pit lane I just put the foot down and whenever the engine sounded like it was going to explode (which is when the instructor told me to), I tapped the flap on the right-hand side of my steering wheel to shift one gear up. It was beauty itself, a true revelation. I’m not religious, but I felt very close to whatever is up there at these moments.
I wish the instructor would have allowed me to brake a few seconds later. It always felt like I was walking around the corners, rather than testing the limits. But considering the price of these cars, I could understand where he was coming from. Probably would’ve missed out on his bonus if I would have crashed this mean set of wheels.
The acceleration is absolutely mind-blowing. Before you reach the middle of Gambon, you can start overtaking the slower cars and then just shoot towards the next chicane.
The car’s three mirrors are all adjusted for the instructor, who will keep an eye on the traffic behind you (usually very small dots on the horizon pretty soon after you overtook them).
I was still dreaming of the Lambo when I hopped into the McLaren 720s. Slightly more comfortable than the Italian car. The instructor immediately warned me about how difficult it would be to drive this car. More or less the same power as the Lamborghini, but rear wheel drive, rear mid-engine, twin-turbo, and some of the most awkward brakes I would ever have experienced in my life. Super-powerful, but they didn’t feel like they were particularly well-tuned. You always had to put down your foot nearly all the way when braking, then the brakes started to kick in nearly full-steam without much prior warning.
Similarly, when accelerating, you had to make sure that you were very careful to avoid any abrupt movements with the gas pedal or the steering, in order to keep the monster on the track. Nonetheless, the McLaren was a whole ton of fun, even though my track time was a lot slower than on the Lambo, despite the increased level of experience.
Finally, it was nearly 4:30pm (the race course closes at 5pm), I got my two high-speed rounds as passenger in the Vauxhall. What can I say. Our twenty-something driver just constantly stayed on the limit and beyond for the whole two rounds, not a second when the tyres were not screeching and our bodies were exposed to full G-forces. Not quite as fun as driving yourself, but still an enormous rush.
Just to mention it, I was not trying to boast here, earlier: all three of my instructors left me in no doubt that I’m a very bad driver (thanks, guys!), even though they did concede that I’m not easily scared when driving fast.
The reason for this is of course, because with Everyman Racing and their experienced instructors and team of mechanics and support staff, you feel very safe. I would also like to stress, that I did always follow all commands of the instructors to the best of my abilities, which is not a matter of politeness, but of safety, and potentially life and death. So please do not read this post and think you’ll have it your way on the race track. You’ll be kicked out before you can say sorry, and absolutely rightly so.
One reason why these two hours on the race course were so much fun is because everyone plays by the rules and doesn’t put anyone into any danger. Stay safe (and do try this experience yourself, if you like driving fast, you won’t regret it).
Looking for other adrenaline-fuelled fun? Check out our posts about skydiving, flying, jetskiing, jetlevving, and powerboating. Or perhaps you’re looking for inspiration for your next trip abroad? Feel welcome to have a look at our posts on Spitsbergen, Kalmykia (guest post), Porto, Lisbon, and Landshut. For restaurant reviews you might want to eyeball our articles about Ninth, Pachamama, and Galvin at the Athenaeum (all in London), about Lafleur, Frankfurt, Ekeberg, Oslo, and L’Ange 20, Paris.