Four-time Olympic sailing gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie had his first taste of motorsport as he stepped behind the wheel of a Prodrive-prepared Aston Martin Vantage GT4 at Silverstone.
Ainslie, who also helped take Oracle Team USA to victory in the 2013 America’s Cup, spent almost two hours in the Base Performance GT simulator alongside Aston Martin Racing works driver Darren Turner in preparation for his drive. While the simulator gave Ainslie the chance to work on his car control, it also allowed him to learn the Silverstone GP circuit’s corners and lines, tracing his lap to that of Turner. As a result, when he got to Silverstone he was able to concentrate on getting to grips with the car rather than having to learn the circuit.
“The simulator made huge difference, it would be have been very hard at Silverstone without doing that first,” said Ainslie. “I knew exactly where I was going so I could focus on listening to Darren and taking his advice about being sensitive with the brakes, steering and throttle.”
Turner, who has been an Aston Martin works driver for the past ten years and also tutors amateur and professional drivers through his own simulator business, was impressed with how quickly Ainslie got to grips with life on the circuit.
“Ben was very focussed and in the simulator he was able to pick up everything I told him really quickly and was soon setting some fast and, more importantly, consistent lap times,” he said. “When we got to the circuit, there was a fair amount of traffic, which can be very distracting, yet despite this he was still able to follow the right lines and slowly increase his pace. I’ve no doubt that with his ability to concentrate, take instruction and his undoubted competitive spirit, he could become an accomplished racing driver.”
However, Ainslie played down any chances of swapping boats for cars, despite receiving praise from a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.
“I am told that the Vantage GT4 is just an entry-level car, but with more than 450 bhp it felt very fast to me,” said the Olympic gold medallist. “I think I did nearly 20 laps and, even with breaks, the level of concentration required leaves you feeling exhausted. I can’t imagine how Darren can race the full works spec Vantage for up to two hours at a time, sometimes in the dark and rain. I think I’ll continue to concentrate on sailing.”