6th Gear Supercar Driving at Longcross track, ChertseyBy Philip Shoulder
November 20, 2012
Track days and supercar experiences have increased in popularity over recent years, yet for many of us the closest we get to driving a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Aston Martin, is when watching the Stig blasting around the Top Gear track.
Of course we would love to try our hand at driving such exotic machinery, but may be put off by the perceived highcost or skill level required to participate at such events.
Enter 6thGear Experience. The Birmingham based company manages to address these obstacles to accessible
supercar fun by offering a complete one-stop-shop experience nationwide, for both adults and teenagers.
Formed in 2006 by former racing driver Andy Cummings and Motoring Journalist Simon George, 6 thGear Experience boasts a fleet of over 30 supercars.
The ethos of the company is of enthusiasm and professionalism, offering customers the chance to enjoy fast cars in a safe environment.
Philip Shoulder took a ride down to one of 6th Gear’s southern locations, Longross Proving Ground, near Chertsey, Surrey - in search of some serious supercar fun.
An assortment of pre-bookable supercar selection packages gift vouchers are listed on their website
www.6thgearexperience.com, but for those who just want the option of paying on the day, there’s a ‘pay and drive’ alternative.
Prices start from £25 for a one-lap passenger ride in a Ford Focus RS, to £65 for two laps behind the wheel of an Audi R8 or Ferrari 360 Modena, and peak at £150 for three laps in a Ferrari 458 Italia or Lamborghini LP640.
After selecting a car you wait in the paddock area, which has on-site facilities and refreshments.
Once your name is called, it’s off to your car. The instructor goes through a quick safety briefing before firing-up the engine.
You then coast across the tarmac to a photo-point and pose for the camera from the driver’s seat.
The instructor waits for radio clearance, before ushering you out onto the circuit. Understandably, the first lap is a steep learning curve as you orientate yourself with the track layout, but the instructors are there to keep you safe.
Confidence has built by lap two and by the third and final lap; you’ll wish it wasn’t over.
The noise; feeling of acceleration and cornering - and the calm confidence of an experienced driving coach - all make this a super supercar experience.
It was wonderful pushing the Audi R8 towards the red-line, taking in the intoxicating sound-track and savouring the directness and agility of its chassis and steering, as we weaved through the twists and turns of Longcross.
The only real downside was that driving home in a run-of-the mill hatchback afterwards, felt rather dull by comparison!
If you’re not feeling quite up to taking the helm of one of these dream machines, then opt for one of the ‘hot-lap’
This is worth it, if only to see first-hand just how quickly these cars can be hurled around the circuit
by a professional.
I opted to ride shotgun in the Ford Focus RS hot hatch, driven by Steve: “All the instructors swap round and take it in turns - doing the hot-laps is our way of getting our own back on you… and also acts as a good therapy for us”, he jokes.
Many of the instructors have been with the company since its inception and their skill and experience shows.
In the hands of a professional driver, even this non-supercar Ford felt rapid, especially around the twisty bits, which were tackled at unbelievable speeds.
“It’s a good piece of kit, this Focus RS”, says Steve. “Obviously it’s not as quick as the supercars, but it’s still fast enough to impress. I can get it up to 110 mph around the back straight of the circuit.”
I wasn’t tempted to dispute that claim.
On several occasions I had to close my eyes, such was the speed we were travelling while traversing the twists, turns and undulations of the tight circuit. “The trick to driving around this track quickly but safely is smoothness and control”, he adds.
I ask Steve what’s a good way to develop the skills to get the most out of track days. “Just do more track days, maybe get some tuition from a racing school, even try go-karting… the key is practice, practice, practice.”
For additional cost, photos and videos of you at the wheel - or in the passenger seat - can be purchased after your driving experience. Although, if friends or family have come along with you and are handy with the camera, then photo opportunities can be had from the track perimeter.
On the day of my visit, the site was bustling with a broad mix of different people, and from the looks on all the eager faces, everyone was having a great time - whether blasting around the track themselves, or watching on the sidelines as the cars whizzed by.
And in case you were wondering, supercar experiences are enjoyed by as many women as men: 6th Gear say they have almost a 50:50 ratio.
This confirms the long-held suspicion, that girls really do like going fast just as much as us boys. Well now…it’s official!
For more information and to book your own driving experience with 6th Gear, visit www.6thgearexperience.com or call 01675 433800