Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cheltenham to Brands Hatch Part 2

So after our little trip across the channel to Calais and back, we were due to make our way back northwards. But we had a few hours to spare and so I thought it would be nice to show Buffy some of the stranger sights down near Dover. It turns out that there is a fake 'Afghan Village', just a few miles from Dover in an army camp where squaddies go to complete their training before heading to the desert. Its quite unusual as it was originally a training area for personnel to learn patrol techniques before heading to Northern Ireland during the troubles. It is a weird place as the village is life sized and based in the streets of Belfast and Londonderry, but now has the odd mosque a bit of sand to mimic the villages of Afghanistan. As it is a military base we didn't take any photos, but it was good to see it again - even though it was from outside the fence.

While we were down that way we also drove along the coast road to Dungeness - one of the weirdest parts of England. There is a Nuclear power station built here at edge of the ocean and miles from any real town. Dungeness itself though is a mix of shingles and with small fishing huts sitting lonely and sometimes derelict in the middle of nowhere. Strangely though, there is a pub and even a coach park for the many tourist coaches that pass down the small country lane to see the weirdness of the place.

Fishermans hut with a home made playground!

Not a lot to do here
We also spent a little time visiting the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial which sits atop the cliffs overlooking the ocean between England and the continent. Its a simple memorial with a figure f a pilot sitting and looking towards France, contemplating. There are also two replica planes from the battle - one a Hurricane and the second is the greatest airplane ever made - a Spitfire. These two types of plane are the main reason that the Battle of Britain was won.

The pilot


Two and a half kills for little willie
  After a good day out we headed north about and hour and spent the evening in Maidstone, where after a nice meal in a country pub we got a good night sleep before our final day of the trip - Brands Hatch

Now, Buffy had bought me a 'Supercar driving Experience' for Christmas and this was the original reason we took the time to come on our little trip. I could have done the experience at a local race track near Manchester, but decided instead to take the opportunity to race around my favourite track and one of the most Iconic tracks in the world - Brands Hatch.

We arrived at the track in a storm - the wind was blowing at around 50 mph and the rain was coming at us horizontally. I actually worried that the drive may be cancelled due to the weather, but as we arrived we saw Ferraris, Audi R8's, Lamborghini's and the car I wanted to drive  - The Mclaren MP4 12C racing around the sodden track.


Wet, but happy

Orange Lambo!

 We got lucky with the weather though as while we waited and watched the cars being driven around the track, the rain stopped and the sun came out to greet us. I even had time to have a little practice in something no to fast as the Mclaren....honest

This ain't a Mclaren

 The experience started with a briefing taken by an old Race driver who dropped names like Sterling Moss (Who taught him to drive) and James Hunt (Who he raced alongside) easily into his informative and fun safety brief. It was then a quick familiarisation of the track in a small hot hatch, before waiting fro my turn in the Mclaren. While we waited we took note of the lap times of the other drivers and the two fastest were 1min 20 secs and 1 min 18 secs. This would be my target later when I got my turn.

Eventually it was time to get into the car and so with my helmet on, I pulled down the gull wing doors and started my race career.


Me in the Mclaren

Off I go
 We had been told to take the first lap to get used to the track and the car -which does over 200mph and can get to 60 mph in just 3 seconds. So I listened to the instructor to get the correct racing lines and when to brake, accelerate and what to steer at. Then it was racing time - After my first lap I quickly caught up with a red Ferrari which had started ahead of me - I was too fast for it though as the  driver was told to move to the side and indicated that I could pass him.

Lap 1  - Behind the red Ferrari

Lap 2  - catching the Ferrari

Lap 3  - What Ferrari!!?
I got used to the accelerator and the flappy panel gear stick after a couple of miles and got my racing lines better over lap 4 and 5. Buffy did time me on my last but one lap and she recorded my time at 1 minute and 13 seconds - a couple of seconds faster than anyone else we had timed that day.

After my drive.

   I must admit that the 6 minutes or so that I was driving the car had seemed like ages longer. Drivibg around a track that I had only previously seen on TV and in computer games was brilliant - and doing beside a racing driver who constantly checked on where I was braking, turning and telling me when to floor it meant that I was concentrating a lot more than when I drive my own car to work. I even got told twice to slow down or brake harder as we 'would leave the track', if I didnt do so  - that was fun!

                                   Me being followed by the Ferrari down the main straight - about 110mph
I did get that chance to look down briefly at the speed I was driving  - this was at the start of the main straight and with my foot to the floor and another 3-4 seconds of accelerating before stamping on the brakes, I was doing 104-113 miles an hour - I then ad to look back up to check where I was and find my braking area.

                                The hairpin turn and back along the back straight

It was a great day out and we got really lucky with the weather - a lovely bit of sunshine between two really shitty rain storms.

Brands Hatch

So that was my Christmas present - it was brilliant and me and Buffy have decided that sometime we should both go to a local track and do a day here we both get to drive a sports car - maybe a single seater experience!

Its all over now though and we are back in Manchester. I'm back to diving my Asda van (Which although it hasn't got the flappy paddle gear box, still has a similar automatic thing, so its like driving a mclaren) and Buffy is back to her job on the internet. Its only a couple of weeks till we head off on another little adventure though - so keep checking out and see where we go next.....


  1. Rick, nice corners on that track. I never saw those speeds in Gimli when I had the Z4 on it

  2. That Christmas present is almost as good as snow!!

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