As a result of a present from Mrs J, whereby I could indulge my conviction that I am still a young testosterone-laden youth awash with derring-do, those nice people at the 6th Gear Experience in Surrey let me drive one of their cars. So it was that, controlling my excitement with practiced nonchalance, I strolled to join my instructor in this yellow beast, and settled myself comfortably in the oh-so-low driving seat …
Okay, the guy said, start the engine with the key. I looked for a key. To be exact, I looked for a key that looked like the cosy key that I used in my car in the days when my car had a key, ‘cos now it’s a button. I couldn’t see a key. The instructor said it was where all car keys are, to the right of the steering wheel. There was something in his tone which hinted at a lowering of expectations for this particular jaunt. I had managed to depress the instructor before the accelerator.
Eventually I found the key; it was a huge plastic thing that looked like a lever, for which I had mistaken it. And so off we went, me trying to get used to a powerful and unfamiliar supercar and an instructor lumbered with someone who apparently had trouble turning the engine on.
After that it was lots of fun; for me, anyway. I consider myself quite a smooth driver, not prone to sawing the wheel and veering all over the place, and a good judge of corner speed. For which reason I also consider that the directive on the brake boards – boards with BRAKE written on them – should be observed when you reach them, not when you spot them on the horizon. My instructor, with only his first impressions to go by, differed in this latter opinion, and kept saying “Brake!” – exclamation mark definitely included – at increasing volume until I actually did.
But I think the proof of the pudding was in the eating; we didn’t kill anyone, and the cones marking the boundaries of the circuit can all be put back in the right place if anyone can find them.
Best of all I loved the way the tyres squealed on some of the corners, though sometimes it was difficult to hear them over the squeals of the instructor. But no matter, and the marvellous odour of burning rubber was testament to the ragged-edge excitement of it all.
“Can you smell that?” I asked the instructor as we regained the tarmac after one particularly screeching, rubber-shedding corner.
“Smell it?” he replied, a bit shakily. “I’m sitting in it.”
And if you want proof of just how fast I was going, here is a picture taken as I shot down the main straight. I’m on the left …