You don’t get many days off parenting and getting out on your own. This was one and was a track day at Silverstone that my parents bought me for my 40th. I booked a date in July via the website and drove up from Hertfordshire. It was great fun. I am not a petrol head but like a bit of speed and getting to drive round some iconic corners of Formula one is a chance you can’t really pass up.
I booked a early starter session which was reduced as a result. As a dad 9.40 doesn’t seem that early especially when you only live an hour away. It’s pretty well signposted. You need to get there about 40 minutes before your race start time and you can check the drive is still on via weather line. This gives you time for traffic delay but also to check in and get any optional extras. As you enter you drive round the edge of the circuit to the experience centre which is an old building in the centre of the course. They are building a new centre opening in 2019.
It’s pretty non-descript building with a few checkin desks and games set up to play. There is a cafe and lots of nervous people waiting for their briefing. One of these was me, you really don’t know what to expect, how easy are the cars to drive, how fast do you go, what happens if you crash? I took out the £20 extra insurance just in case but in hindsight there was no need.
There was about 20 other drivers in our briefing, doing a variety of different events. We were introduced to the international circuit by one of the senior racing instructors. Anyone with you can wait in the canteen or watch some of the earlier sessions in progress. They give you details on the circuit, what the different cars are and also take you on a video lap with information on where to break, turn, apex, accelerate from. There are some basic details on over and understeer to help make you more nervous about how the cars handle and you of them.
The briefing lasted about 30 minutes and you then drive down to where the cars are located and a viewing platform for guests. It’s a bit set back from the track but gives you a good view over the circuit. Here you get your helmet, paired with another driver and are introduced to your racing instructor. The format is straightforward, an outlap with the instructor driving, then 4 laps of the track and then a break while the other driver does 4. You then come back and do a final 4 laps. At the same time there are other cars out on the circuit doing the same experience.
As part of the extras I opted for a 360 degree video of my drive (£35). You can also get photos and prints (£20). The video is good as you can see from above. It also gives you an idea of the experience. You get very well coached round the circuit. I really liked being told exactly what gear and where on the track to be. They keep an eye on wing mirrors and let you know where to be to overtake or be overtaken. I can imagine if not a complete novice then they will say less and let you get on with it.
It’s such a short experience, 8 laps is over quickly and split in to two sets you don’t entirely get time to settle and learn the course and positioning. I’d of appreciated a full 8 laps or more time on the circuit. You really need a full day of driving to really get the hang of the corners, gears and speed. I never once looked at the speedometer and was more focused on the engine, road position and the gear changes. I was grateful to the instructor for barking orders at me.
However for each of those 4 laps you are largely in control of a car you will never own or drive again, a Italian supercar! The sound is immense and if you really push that accelerator then you can really hit some speed down the straights! You also get to drive some iconic corners and start to understand why Formula one drivers lover driving here. Get the lines right and it is a awesome drive. I’d have loved to do a few more laps and see if I could improve.
One thing I’d like to see is some lap timing so you get a sense of how good and bad decisions affect your time round the circuit. You get given a scorecard but this is very much a nice to have from the instructor. They didn’t mark me too harshly despite some of the comments on the circuit. You also get a bit of a debrief on how the drive went. The good thing is they do push you to go faster. They have dual controls for breaking so have some control over you.
At the end there are some photo opportunities with the cars and you can also review photos and the video to make sure it recorded properly. If there is one tip here, make sure the driver knows how it works. My second 4 laps were recorded but the first set were not. There are some instructions on the cameras to indicate if on and recording. Get your driver to check. You get refunded if it doesn’t record but can’t drive again.
And that is it. I’d like to do it again someday but do feel you need to be doing this over a day or a programme of days to really get the best from it. As an experience it is great fun. There is a lot of support from the Silverstone Experience team. Everyone is friendly and helpful. From the instructor to the guys at the gate guiding you in. Would I do it again. Yes I’d love to but for longer.
- Great experience
- Race on the real Silverstone circuit
- Great staff and instructors
- They do push you to go as fast as they think you can go
- You are driving a Ferrari, fast!
- They are happy for you to take lots of photos around the cars
- Video and photos are good to have
- Not enough track time to really learn the circuit and get the most out of the cars
- The day is expensive with expensive extras but you get this everywhere
- No lap times
- Food and drink not great
- Check the video is recording, there was at least one on the day who didn’t get a recording.