Supercar Experience – Dunsfold

For Christmas I was lucky enough to be given a Five Supercar Taster event at Dunfold Airfield, where Top Gear is filmed. I’m always a bit skeptical of these events so thought I’d summarise the day for you 🙂

To start the communications and documents received aren’t consistent. Booked on, but experience with Driving Experiences and waiver and directions from Everyman Racing. No idea who is actually running this event…

Arrive an hour early as per the recommendations, lots of signs for Driving Experiences pointing you in the right direction to the car park. There’s a minibus hanging around the car park, which takes us across to the main site in the middle of Dunfold Airfield. Went straight to sign on and signed in, filled in the Everyman Racing sign on form….got the normal sales spiel you get at these events about Damage Waivers and buying videos packages etc but they weren’t pushy and just took no for an answer which is refreshing.  They handed over the Everyman Racing printed form with the cars you’ve signed up for and the times that you’ll be driving each one.

I headed over to the safety briefing before taking part in the event and to be honest the briefing didn’t really help explain the track layout, they only talked about how awesome the cars are and to listen to the instructor in the car with you. It would’ve been more helpful if there was a big diagram of the track or maybe even a video played of someone driving the track? Due to not knowing the track I signed up for some demo laps which involved one of the instructors taking a few of us out in a Skoda Octavia and doing 2 laps of the track, giving us an overview of the track and what the cones were etc. This really is something that should be explained in the safety briefing and not an additional extra I have to purchase for £10 (apparently it’s usually £20 though!!).

After the demo laps my first car wasn’t due for another half hour, so I hung around for a bit and watched people going out. There isn’t really anywhere sheltered and on a cold windy day, you’re going to get cold!! So make sure you wrap up warm. It is an airfield after all, so probably always going to be windy here.

First car up was the Ariel Atom, I was a bit worried about this being my first car and this was the main reason for signing up for the demo laps, I wanted to have an idea of where I was going before heading out in the Atom. I got strapped into the car and the instructor explained the different hand signals he was going to use and that we would only be using 4th and 5th gear out on the track. I popped the helmet on, put it into 2nd gear and pulled away. I assume we’re being gentle on the gearbox. The Atom drives like a kart and with the raw inputs from the steering and throttle it really is a great car to drive. You’re only supposed to change gear when you get told but I naturally tried to shift down into 3rd going into a chicane and got told off for that. You’re allowed to go full throttle on the straights which is a great experience but you’re not allowed to corner at any decent speed, which to be honest is the bit I really enjoy. You really get to know the car braking hard and taking a corner at speed, but I guess the cars have to be protected and this would be where accidents would occur. On the taster experience you get two laps, an out lap and an in lap, so you don’t really get to build up any proper rhythm in the car.

2nd car – Ferrari F430 Spider. I’ve never driven one of these before but I was shocked to see a cheap JVC stereo fitted in there, took me back to working in Halfords many many years ago!! I wasn’t particularly fond of the Ferrari it felt a bit clunky, the gear changes weren’t very smooth and whilst it was of course fast in a straight line I wasn’t particularly impressed.

3rd car – Porsche 911 997 Turbo. Bit different to the Ferrari, it doesn’t have flappy paddle gear shifters but buttons on the steering wheel. With only two laps I didn’t really get comfortable with the gear change, its different to every car I’ve ever driven. It did handle beautifully though and I was allowed to carry some decent speed through the chicane, it felt great!

4th was BMW i8 – apparently the normal i8 was involved in a crash on the motorway so we had a convertible i8. Instructor showed me how to adjust the seat to get comfortable, first time someone had checked. I can’t believe how smooth this was compared to the Ferrari and the Porsche. The gear change was silky smooth. Unfortunately I got caught in traffic on both laps in the fast sections and you’re not allowed to overtake unless the car in front indicates that there pulling to the right, none of the instructors seemed to be paying attention this time around so they ruined my 2 laps but I really enjoyed the i8 and would like to have another go sometime.

5th was Nissan GTR, got to be honest, I think the GTR I got to drive has seen better days, brakes were squeaking and something was making a weird noise on slow turns. I think it’s probably taken some abuse over the years.

Summary, there’s quite a lot of waiting around and getting cold. There is a burger van serving some food and drinks but don’t expect anything special. Any spectators you bring are really going to struggle on a cold windy day!

The taster experience “two laps” isn’t really two laps. It’s an out lap and then an in lap. These two laps really aren’t enough, you need a lap or two to get used to the car and you don’t really get into a rhythm with the car. I would definitely recommend upgrading to do more laps if you can afford it. It will make for a much more satisfying day.