Though I drive a Ford Focus, I am a sucker for a fast car. I watch Top Gear, I read the motoring supplements and I can do an envious stare at the bloke driving the Aston Martin DB8. I expect to have a mid-life crisis in a few years and to buy a totally unsuitable car like a Jaguar XK150 or a BMW Z8. Until then, I get my kicks at Thruxton.
Thruxton, near Andover in Hampshire, is one of many motorsports centres that offers driving courses. I've been three times now and I usually go with a group of mates, including a couple of GPs from my practice. We stay at a nearby bed and breakfast the night before to get an early start.
Thruxton has been very helpful in providing a list of good places to stay.
The courses range from £110 to £450. The top price is for the Ultimate Supercar Experience, giving you three and a half hours with a Mazda RX8, Mercedes SLK, Porsche 911 turbo or the Ferrari 430, rising to a crescendo with the awesome gull-wing V12 600bhp Lamborghini Murcielago. Most of the mid-range courses include the RX8 and the SLK together with either Porsches or Ferraris. Also included in most courses is the single-seat Formula Renault car.
The course begins with a briefing on safety and racing theory. Here you are introduced to the constant radius turn, which is the accepted best and fastest way to get round a corner. This is the bit to concentrate on and not to think you know best.
The instructor first drives you round the track in the RX8. Then it's over to you, where you progress through the course, being marked on driving ability, control and driving line, but not on your lap time. The course ends with a debriefing and you are given your score. I challenge anyone to beat my score of 94 per cent in the Lamborghini.
For me, the best driving experience is in the Formula Renault racing car experience. This is a scaled down and very basic Formula 1 car with a non-synchromesh four-speed super-tight gear box that is so tight that a friend of mine drove one for six laps stuck in fourth gear.
You sit in a little cockpit with a helmet on, and at full blast down the back straight you get a real taste of motor racing. It is real seat-of-the-pants driving and each time I go back I buy extra laps in this car on the day.
There are other temptations on the day. Booked drivers can buy extra laps in any of the cars, ranging from £60 for six laps in the Formula Renault through to £100 for three laps in the Lamborghini. They take photos of you as you stand by the cars and they will even film you driving a Ferrari and send you the DVD.
It is worth budgeting for some extras on the day.
These courses give you a real taste of motor racing, and it is a joy to drive where there are no speed cameras.
- Dr Rushen is a GP in Fareham, Hampshire
Dr Dan Rushen went to Thruxton Motorsport Centre, Andover, Hampshire SP11 8PW (www.thruxtonracing.co.uk).
- Prices start from £110.
- For other motor racing venues visit the British Automobile Racing Club at www.barc.net
GP readers can claim 10 per cent discount on Thruxton Driving Experiences by quoting TXGP when booking. Call (01264) 882222.