It was recently my 40th Birthday, so my very generous brother very Kindly went completely over the top and bought me a driving experience at Blyton Park. Not just any driving experience… I got to drive 6 supercars and took a passenger ride an a Radical!
First up was the Aston Martin Vantage. I’ve had a test drive in one of these before when I was feeling like I wanted something a bit grown up but still with a bit. I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed when I drove it out of a dealership as it just wasn’t that quick. However, it turns out you’ve really got to rag the thing to get it going so doing that on track meant it finally came alive.
Next up was the Ferrari F430, followed by its rival, the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Now, I’ve always, always wanted a Ferrari since I first took a ride in a 360 spider. However, the F430 just didn’t really do it for me (whereas a previous drive in a 458 very much did!) – I don’t know if it was because the instructor was instructing me to short shift (unlike the other instructors who were happy for me to really give the cars “full beans” once we’d done an initial lap), but it just didn’t feel exciting. Sacrilege I know, but having never really been that much into Lambo’s I was completely taken away with how much better than the Ferrari it was.
And the noise! The noise was just something else as we smashed through each gear change – proper physical with a firm jolt as you hit the paddles to change up. This is why I like single clutch automatic gearboxes – you’re still very much part of the process of going fast. As you downshift I could hear the pops from the exhaust as we approached corners. It felt light with huge panels of carbon fibre everywhere inside the cockpit. It just felt exotic like a proper supercar should be. Shouty, silly colour, impractical, and a bit of a handful. I loved it – my favourite car of the day.
In contrast the V10 Audi R8 felt too good. It wasn’t compromised, it was just perfect at everything it did. It feels like a grown up Lotus Elise but with comfort and everything turned up to 11. Gear changes were instant, like instant, instant. No pause, no selection – just click the paddles and its already in the next gear and the speed increases and increases. The carbon ceramic brakes were perfect, good feel and did a solid job slowing us down quickly as we approached the chicanes. And just as soon as you arrive at the corners you’re barrelling out of them again with so much Quattro grip pushing and pulling you into the next bend.
It was amazing, and my best drive – but it was just all too easy. I didn’t feel like I was on the edge, or it was going to let go and send us backwards off the track. Whilst this is clearly a good thing, it just didn’t give me that urge to own one.
Looking back, pretty much all the cars I’ve owned and loved have had foibles but it took an amazing day out to make me realise why I like cars that I like. I want imperfect. Something that takes commitment to own as it’s compromised in some way or another. Character – that’s what I want, and the SuperLeggera had it in spades.