In my youth my motor racing heroes were mainly British drivers who seemed to be almost indestructible.
When racing became more technologically advanced and drivers were almost machine-like, I lost interest.
Racing had become a procession and with the likes of Schumie leading almost every race during his reign it seemed to be destined to become a rather boring sport.
Or so I thought!
Recently I got to try my skill at being a racing driver with Fantastic Racing situated at the home of South African motorsport, Kyalami.
I have been driving since 1971, but I was a little apprehensive about being in a single seater.
On my arrival I was kitted out in racing overalls and shoes. Gloves and helmets in hand I went out to look at my car before the safety briefing began.
I was going to be driving a Reynard 98.In full racing configuration, the V6 Dodge engine can pull 450 BHP.
For safety reasons these cars are limited to 20% of race capabilitiy, but even so they can reach speeds of up to 230kph! (The cars conform to FIA safety standards.)
More than enough for this entrepid racing driver.
Each car has the name and national flag of the driver on the cowling, which made me feel that this was the real deal.
Back in the lecture room it was time for a comprehensive safety briefing and detailed description of each corner.
We did two laps of the track in our own vehicles, just to see how each corner should be handled.
I say ‘should. There are 12 corners at Kyalami and it seemed as if I messed up gear changes in every one!
The gearbox is similar to a motorcycle, which makes changing much smoother and faster. Or so I was told. I was also told that it was a six-speed, but I am sure that was not the case, as I kept running out of gears.
With the safety briefing over, it was time to try out our newly found “skills”.
The Fantastic Racing staff is extremely competent and made certain that we were safely strapped in before being allowed out onto the track.
While waiting for my turn I felt as if I was lying in a bathtub with an engine. Once the marshall signalled me out of the pit lane the adrenaline kicked in and I was off.
Well, not actually as the first two laps of each of our three sessions were warm up laps and then we were able to “put foot” and to see what we were capable of.
All too soon the first 20 minute session was over and it was back to the pits to re-hydrate and for the instructors to tell us where we had gone wrong.
Then back to the cars for the next session. The corners now seemed a little more familiar, but still not easy. For me the chicane was the most difficult, but flying down the main straight in front of the (empty) grandstand was a real blast.
All too soon sessions two and three were over and it was back to the pits for the victory celebrations.
Suffice to say that I did not win any awards, but what an adrenaline rush!
I also came away with a new respect for the modern racing drivers.
I have now started to watch the 2008 F1 series with a little more understanding of what occurs in the cockpit of a F1 car.
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