This Wednesday I attended the MSVR media day at Brands Hatch. The start of the motorsport season is almost here and I can almost smell it! An interesting presentation from Jonathan Palmer took place with discussions from the race series co-ordinators about the upcoming season and what can be expected in each of the new championships under the rapidly expanding MSVR umbrella.
During the day there were track sessions from representatives of the various race series and for the media there were some passenger rides available. I was lucky enough to get a ride in one of the two Radical's there for the day and my chariot was an SR3 RS driven by James Abbott. Now the only race car I've been in before was one of the Top Cat Racing Marcos Mantis' but on that occasion it was stationary in their Garage as I sat behind the wheel, and the quickest thing I've been in is my friend’s Audi Quattro. Despite reporting and taking photos at circuits around the county, I've never been out on one either so it was going to be an experience I wasn't going to forget in a hurry.
After the challenge of getting in the Radical, avoiding the fire extinguisher and other bits of vital equipment and getting belted up I was getting excited and a little bit nervous of what was to come. Despite the relatively small engine size of 1340cc, this car weighs just half a tonne and produces over 200bhp. A top speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph time of 3 seconds is nothing to be sniffed at. As we headed up the pit lane and out onto the circuit, a couple of things become apparent, firstly the acceleration is phenomenal. Being pushed back into your seat as the driver floors it is something I will never experience in my Astra! Secondly the grip is quite unbelievable. It had been raining prior to heading out and had only recently stopped so the track was wet, however you wouldn't have thought it as we power through Druids hairpin. At the speeds we are going at, I was expecting the back to step out at any moment, but it doesn't, the Radical sticks to the tarmac like glue.
As we speed down the Start/Finish straight I glance at the digital speedometer as it hits 125 mph before breaking for Paddock Hill bend. Through Paddock hill and up to Druids and the speed heads past 100mph again as we brake for the hairpin before accelerating through and off down towards Graham Hill bend. The car rumbles as we clip the apex and roar down Cooper straight. Through Surtees, McLaren and Clark curve and the speed is still phenomenally quick. Another lap complete in little more than a blur and my two flying laps are over in a very short time much to my disappointment. But it was an amazing experience.
As I climb out of the car I actually feel breathless thanks to the forces experienced under braking, acceleration and around the bends. In fact, your body is almost continually experiencing some kind of force. I was in the car for the out lap, two flying laps and the in lap, nowhere near race distance and after that short time it had taken its toll. I've always had great respect for racing drivers but now that respect has hit new levels. Having to concentrate on what you are doing behind the wheel, changing gears at precisely the right moment, turning in at exactly the right place to clip the apex perfectly, jostling for position against other drivers whilst trying to catch others all while your body is experiencing forces in all directions is a real skill and fitness has to be at peak levels.
It was an experience I will never forget and I am extremely grateful for being able to have the chance of being out at such a great circuit in a fantastic car at race speeds. If I was ever given the chance to do it again, I'll bite your hand off!