(An Experience Report from 2010, my age 32)
I thought I had been good in 2009. My missus must have agreed and lodged an appeal with Santa to give me a drive in one of my all-time favourite supercars. The man in the red suit obliged and to my extremely excitable surprise I had a Supercar driving day for Christmas!
The day was run by Vision Motorsport, a red-letter day company offering the ultimate driving experience in a choice of wonderful poster supercars. I chose the Lamborghini Gallardo, a dream car of mine.
I decided to wait until June before booking my slot – hedging my bets that the weather might work in my favour. I wasn’t disappointed and June 25th was a beautiful day. I arrived an hour early (eager, you see) and I didn’t want to risk being late as traffic around York can be bedlam. On display was a lovely selection of supercars. A couple of Aston Martins, an Audi R8, a Porsche GT3, Ferrari 360 and of course, a Lamborghini Gallardo. In bright yellow!
Off to the side was an Ariel Atom which, for a small fee, could be taken out as a passenger demonstration to show you just how quick and precise these crazy little cars can be.
Following a safety briefing and the option of additional insurance should you take a few too many liberties, we were ready to begin.
The driver took us out initially in a Subaru Impreza, describing the course and the angles to take each of the corners. The event was relatively quiet, so only a couple of supercars were out on the track at once – the Gallardo being one, the other a Ferrari 360 with its red bodywork positively radiating the sun’s reflection on this beautiful day.
As the two cars started up – the Ferrari starter motor turning with that rapid squeal exclusive only to supercars before barking to life with positive gusto, shortly followed a contrasted Gallardo – which rather wheezed and whirred to life like a sleeping lion with all the intention of staying in slumber for just as long as it pleases. After a few moments only, the lethargic engine gave a reluctant bark indicating it was now fired up and ready to go – and alluding to the age-old adage ‘It’s not just the buying, it’s the running that costs’.
There were four people in our group to play with the Lambo, I was third on the list (alphabet and all that) and watched as the other drivers went out in the Gallardo.
Once the guy before me came back, I took a few photos and jumped in. Tight squeeze for tall Paul, I tell you. But once in, other than my hair shaving the car roof it was a pretty comfortable place to be. Everything is just a minor reach away. The pedals were close together though, the giant plates at the end of my ankles requiring careful placement to avoid slamming both the accelerator and brake pedal all at once. The fit and finish of the Lamborghini indicates this new breed of Audi build quality is a solid, well-made car.
The instructors want you to be out of first and second gear almost immediately and the course is driven in third and fourth. This allows you to get up to around 120mph on the straights but you lose out on the immediacy of the speed generated through the key gears which would ordinarily allow for rapid pace out of the corners. Presumably this is to reduce the chance of powering into a hedge, tail first, as you get a little too excitable with the unexpected power surge allowed by the lower cogs. I also suspect that finance plays a strong part here, regular use of second gear would lead to much redline and a likely premature death of some expensive automotive parts.
Either way though, it was an exhilarating experience, throwing this £100k car around the bends and giving it the boot all the way up the long straights; it’s a day I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. The Gallardo, like its appearance, felt very stable, precise and sure footed. It was a clean drive where you point and squirt and the car takes you in your chosen direction without any question which just added more smiles to the massive grin on my face. The gear change was slick and the whole car felt very poised and sure footed. With its clean external lines, it is also a rather neat, albeit aggressive, looking beast to behold.
Contrast to the Ferrari which, after my six laps in the Gallardo and adrenaline in full swing I was itching to try. Deposit down, strap in and off we go. By comparison the appearance of the Ferrari is something more brutal and raw. Its design is fit for purpose and that purpose is to go as fast as it can in an undiluted quest for engineering perfection. You take it by the scruff of the neck and it rewards as your throw it around the bends, the 360 chomping at the bit and making a thoroughly good job of audio drama. Performance was brisk – not quite as fast as the Lambo, but this might have been the gear ratio setup on the straights. I only managed 105mph compared to 115mph in the Lambo. The gearbox took some getting used to, being the gated variety, which was more mechanical than the traditional shift that you’d find in a regular car. The clutch on the Gallardo was very modern and light for a supercar, unlike the Ferrari which felt nearly as heavy as a 348 that I sat in a few years ago. A well-oiled left knee and pumped leg muscles are still a pre requisite of Ferrari ownership it would seem.
This flip on my expectations on these two cars was somewhat surprising, as the Ferrari has always been the one which historically mated beauty with engineering perfection whilst Lamborghini preferred a slightly more unhinged, bonkers approach. Times have changed it seems.
The driving day was fantastic fun and allows for us mere mortals the chance to experience cars which, without these red-letter companies could well stay on a dream to-do list for many years to come. Both cars offer an exclusive driving feel but their distinction is also their affinity – both offer a wonderful, lasting memory for any car nut.
Time to get writing to Santa….