Fast and furious
Simon Robb takes on the ultimate driving challenge at Goodwood in a few world-class performance cars.
“Take it slowly; the vehicle is going to go up on two wheels… seriously! It’s perfectly safe, it’s going to rock about and it’s going to suddenly flop down and at this point there’s normally lots of screams from the back.”
These are the words of a driving instructor as I take a £250,000 BMW X5 off-roading. What an unreal way to start the day.
I like to think I have an inner Evel Knievel that tells me to leap through the tube train doors before they close, hit the bars until the early hours, and take the biggest slope at a skiing resort, but nothing could prepare me for the adrenalin rush that is Goodwood.
Set across 12,000 acres of verdant Sussex Downs in Chichester, the Goodwood Estate is not only a great place to sit back and admire the glorious surroundings, but somewhere you can unlock your fast and furious counterpart and never look back.
Known for its Revival event, Festival of Speed and all encompassing driving experiences, Goodwood is now offering the ultimate driving adventure this year.
I sit patiently in the BMW X5 – a 4×4 that produces about 318 horse power and accelerates from 0-60 in just six seconds.
My instructor for the morning, Steve Morley, has been teaching people how to drive for 40 years, and is now offering his knowledge to take drivers to the next step.
“We take the traditional Chelsea tractor off road and we do things with it that it would never do,” he says.
I have two colleagues in the back who look like they are clinging on for dear life, but cannot stop smiling.
In the ancient woodland there are plenty of hills, trees, slopes and mud… lots of mud.
“Just one word of warning,” says Steve, “If you hear a really loud clunk then that’s when you need to worry because that will be the door closing behind me.”
The comedy value does relax me and I know I’m in safe hands.
It is like being in control, but not in control. It is hard to explain, but having to perform these daring tasks feels unnatural.
The car begins to slip backwards down a steep hill, it’s like Mad Max taking on a sand dune, and Steve, admirably calm, tells me to give it more throttle and the BMW climbs to safety.
I survived, and that is the most important thing to remember. Everything is completely safe and you are closely followed by a back up vehicle, just in case the mud is a bit unforgiving.
For the 4×4 experience, you can either give it a full 90 minutes and make yourself a dirt track pro, or go for something a little more luxurious.
Any fans of Thunderbirds out there should know what a butler looks and sounds like thanks to Parker, Lady Penelope’s loyal companion.
Well, now you can have a butler of your own. When it is time for a break from
the woodland forest, drivers can stop for respite at a big tipi with benches and a roaring fire at the centre.
It is here your personal butler will greet you and serve up elevenses or afternoon tea. This must be how Jeremy Clarkson now spends his lunch times.
After tackling a rocky road this morning, it is nice to hit a more level plane and give my behind a break. This time, it is the BMW M3 manual that I have the pleasure to take for a spin… a literal spin.
Out on the skid pan, Charlie Roberton tells me not to use too much gas, but just enough so as I turn on to the wet track the car will spin out.
However, I have to think fast, otherwise I will simply perform a 360 degree turn, which is not how you drift like Vin Diesel.
It takes me a few attempts, and the patience of Charlie, before I manage to turn into the skid and drift the car expertly… maybe not so expertly.
The special track is constantly sprayed with water and Charlie tells me there is a type of paint that makes it low grip.
This is by far my favourite part of the day, learning the stunts that I have admired in late night reruns of The French Connection and The Bourne Identity.
It is also the confidence boost I need behind the wheel before taking on my pièce de résistance – the iconic 2.4 mile track where racing heroes have made history.
Buckled into a BMW M5, my helmet secure and hands at ten and two, I’m given a quick briefing by David Brise before setting off on to the track, lights green, flag waving behind me.
I would not describe myself as a tense person, in fact I can be quite mellow, but that first lap is something of a blur and I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe.
David tells me to relax and follow the signs that indicate what part of the track you need to aim for and where you should slow down.
The M5 is an automatic, so the need to change gears is not a concern when touching on 100MPH, but it takes me at least one lap before I get my head around the signals and, most importantly, remembering to breathe.
The clipping point is where I must get as close to the corner as possible, then allow the car to move outwards across the track and into a straight line, which is where I’m encouraged to push my pedal to the metal.
I am told that wheel turning should be kept to a minimum, this feels strange, but I place my complete trust in David.
The speed, however, is like nothing I have experienced before.
What does one do when you are racing along one of the most famous racing tracks in the country, next to a man who has been honing his craft since 14 years old?
I tell you what you do: get comfortable, relax and enjoy it!
If you, like me, feel the need for speed, give the Ultimate Driving at Goodwood Powered by BMW experience a whirl and choose a package that suits you.
For more details and a break down of prices, visit grrc.goodwood.com/section/driving-at-goodwood
July 24, 2015 Motors and Gadgets