A few weeks ago I ‘inherited’ a driving experience day from my brother. His girlfriend had bought it for him for his birthday but being somewhat disorganised he had forgotten to use the voucher and realised that it would run out whilst he was out of the country for a month. His loss was my gain and I went to drive a Lamborghini Gallardo at Elvington Airfield today! This was my first time at an ‘experience day’ so I thought I’d do a bit of a summary for anyone else thinking of attending one or buying one as a gift.
The Build Up
My drive was booked for 4:30pm and I was asked to arrive an hour prior to this in order to get signed in. On arrival I was surprised at just how busy it was, there were dozens of people milling around and waiting for their drives and there were about 7 or 8 cars on track at the same time. In my case though it wasn’t necessary to arrive an hour early as it took all of 5 minutes to register including listening to the staff trying to sell me additional insurance, photo packages, video packages etc! After standing around on the windy airfield for a while the first trip out onto the track was as a passenger in an Octavia VRS where we were shown the layout and lines for the circuit, this was helpful but on a totally new circuit not really enough to fully appreciate all the turn-in and braking points. After the trip out in the Octy (which, slightly worryingly, was running on cheap non-branded tyres) it was back to waiting before being put into a group and shown which car we would be driving. I’d had my eye on the green Gallardo but instead we were ushered across to an orange convertible and given a quick run down of the spec and some of the features. As it turned out I was last on the list from our group so headed off to do a bit more standing around (I was getting very good at standing around by this stage). Finally my time arrived and I made my way across the ‘paddock’ to the car for my first ever drive in a Lamborghini.
Dropping down into the low seat the cabin of the Gallardo felt snug but had a nice seating position. My instructor recapped some of the basics and within a couple of minutes we were off so there wasn’t much time to appreciate any of the features or design of the Gallardo interior. Heading out onto the main straight the instructor was telling me to ‘change up’ and it became clear that I wasn’t going to be getting anywhere near the redline of the V10 engine. The instructor was a bit more generous with corner speed and allowed and even encouraged me to keep the speed up through the corners, here the Gallardo felt very planted and despite the short shifts it still pulled well out onto the straights. The gear change was a flappy paddle job which meant keeping the accelerator pinned to the floor while shifting and while it was nice not having to worry about a clutch I was surprised that the changes did feel a little on the slow side. After 3 laps (well, one out lap, one flying lap and one in lap) I was cruising back into the pits and it was all over!
After the drive there was a quick debrief from the instructor and it was off for a hot passenger lap in a Mitsubishi Evo. Despite being brought up in rural Wales, where there is huge love for the Evo and Imprezas I have never actually been in one. The Evo was awesomely quick and generated huge grip in the corners, I have always liked the looks but I now fully understand the appeal, and there can’t be many cars that go as quickly for the money. After the passenger lap there was the option to go and purchase photographs and videos of the afternoon but I decided I didn’t wan’t to be relieved of huge sums of cash so headed off home.
So, what to make of the day overall? We’ll, all in all I enjoyed the afternoon and I’m glad I’ve now had a go in a Lamborghini. I just wish that the drive had lasted a little longer, 3 laps really wasn’t enough to get a feel for the car and while it felt fairly quick, short shifting meant that you didn’t get to exploit anywhere near the full 520bhp. For anyone who has a keen interest in supercars it makes for a good day out and is a great opportunity to get behind the wheel of cars that you simply wouldn’t have the opportunity to drive otherwise. However, if you enjoy pushing cars to their limits and trying to extract the available performance it isn’t ideal, although I can understand the need to keep a tight control on proceedings in order to make sure everyone enjoys their day in a safe environment! Ultimately, if I was bought an experience day as a gift I certainly wouldn’t be ungrateful for it, but if it was my own money I think I’d prefer to put it towards the type of tuition which might help me to improve as a driver and extract the maximum performance safely and effectively from my own cars.