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From The Track At Silverstone

Dear X,

Am writing this on my last fast lap around Silverstone [http://www.silverstone.co.uk/html/dr_lotus.php]. You think writing a letter on a train is difficult? Try it cornering at 120mph in the passenger seat of a Lotus Elise with a view to overtaking an F355 on the Hangar Straight. Not something I ever expected to do save in my sleep but made possible by the transition into my fourth decade and the resourcefulness of Janey in grabbing one of the last slots they had this year.

Common wisdom has it that mid-life crises begin with the purchase of a completely unnecessary sportsc ar much like this one and the quickly learned fact of life that no-one can avoid an ungainly entrance into such cars unless they are either supermodels or racing drivers - both of whom have spent years perfecting the art of getting  pouring  sliding  flowing into such vehicles with a minimum of fuss and maximum cool effect. I suspect Janey is trying to make me aware of this in advance and so avoid the whole fiasco. The advantages of trying this out on a race track are threefold.

  1. You are wearing a helmet to prevent you knocking yourself out when you first attempt to gain entry to the car and bash your head on the roof. 2. You are wearing a helmet which ensures minimum recognition and therefore minimum embarrassment to yourself and loved ones when the roof-head interface occurs 3. There are other low car novices like yourself standing around in the same gear making the same mistakes in a pseudo-group therapy session. “Hi, I’m Dan and I just bashed my head on the Lotus” - “Hi Dan”.

Entry into the vehicle aside, the all-too-brief nine laps on the track have been book-ended by a safety talk before we got near the cars describing the fundamentals of the racing line, over- and under-steer, and this fast lap where the instructor is presently demonstrating exactly how much of the fear of god put into you by the safety talk can safely be ignored. From current experience, most of it I’d say. The fear of wiping out in the way that the Porsche did here two weeks back (about £30k worth of damage to the owner’s car apparently) and the fact that the first four laps have been spent learning the circuit, listening intently to my passenger’s instructions and trying desperately how to drive a car with a manual gearbox have been a natural temperance to my best efforts to break 100mph down the straight and remembering to have fun along the way.

Actually, that last point is a bit harder than it might sound. Having fun implies relaxing and joking about. Driving an Exige at 95mph isn’t quite the place for that but I know I’ll look back on this with a great deal of fondness not just for the experience of having done this incredible thing - I am blessed with such a thoughtful wife aren’t I? - but for the (for me) great ‘smooth ride’ compliment I was given by my instructor during my last five laps, and the huge amount of adrenaline that starts pumping through you as you approach and search for a way around slower cars, like this Ferrari for instance. Must sign off now and concentrate on her driving. Should I ever get to repeat this, I’ll need to remember these speeds for the corners if I want to break the ton down the straight. Find enclosed a nice photo of me on lap three or four - a picture of concentration going round Stowe.

God / good speed,


Posted on August 2, 2006   #Attending Events  

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