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Alf McQueef

Everyman supercar day - Prestwold

We had a work-funded supercar day yesterday. My experience of driving these sorts of cars is very limited (I have driven quite a lot of lightweight track focused cars instead) and I have generally avoided these sorts of 3-lap experiences because if you have decent track experience, the track time is too short and they are not keen for you to rag the car, but on someone else's budget, it was great to play with the cars!

I started with a rally experience - in a LHD, manual Polo that was not at all quick or especially rally prepared as far as I could tell. It was fun to punt around, like driving a FWD car in snow, but far from epic.

I then moved on to an F430 Spyder. The instructor was a lovely chap, his dad was a top level rally driver, he made the mistake of not asking if I had done anything before, went very quiet after the first corner, then let me crack on - though I stayed in 4th-6th as requested and did not take the piss. The car I loved - it felt tiny from the inside, I liked the seats and the clear instruments, the engine was more gravelly inside than the high-pitched Italian exterior sound suggests but the handling was very enjoyable and predictable. It was a car you can just get in and drive, with no bad surprises, and a neutral balance - I just felt I gelled with it. The only poor aspect was the very slow gear changes (all the cars we drive are paddle autos) and the inexplicable fixed paddles. The now 10-year old ZF 6 speed auto box used by Jaguar and BMW (since updated to  the 8), that I had before in the 330 and have again, shifts so much faster on manual and yet is better on full auto too, and lasts forever without silly priced clutch replacements. The BMW paddles also move with the wheel and feel nicer. This era of single-clutch automated manual gearbox was not a good one.

On to a Gallardo spyder of some flavour, with ceramic brakes. It felt quick, and (being asked to shift up not much over 6k revs) didn't sound much better inside than the 430, for all that it is a V10 (from the outside the Audi R8 V10 won hands down on noise). This car was harder to like - the seats were shiny leather and too wide, the dash a mess and not clear, the paddles nasty little things and the steering and brakes too sensitive. The brakes I could live with (in fact the XFR has a similar instant response, though I have not pasted them yet to see how long-stop feel is) but the steering was so sharp I turned in too much, lessened the lock, then I could feel the weight over the rear end moving about and the effect was to make the car feel twitchy and less approachable. The gear change was as before, possibly worse.

Then a brand-new Nissan GTR. First shock was the interior - really well screwed together and just much nicer than I expected (the instructor said they have really come on in recent years).  Gear changes were like lightning. And the pace.... Kept at decent revs, this was the first turbo car I have ever driven where I could distinguish no lag, and it is probably the fastest as well. It was blistering, giving you much more to think about in the corners, such as the fast left on the back straight that needed a confidence lift in the other two but a short brake in this car. In the corners, you can tell things are going on, there is some roll, and it lacks the transparent appeal of the Ferrari but it mostly just does your bidding and sticks to a line then rips out of corners like a rocket. Very impressive.

I think I benefited from last year's JP day (which was infinitely superior to this) in that I felt very at ease in the cars (I can take a while to settle) and with the paddle shift, which works differently to the BMW's in being left down, right up, not forward/back. I don't wish to blow too much smoke up my own arse, but you rarely get much feedback at these things so I was chuffed when 3 of my colleagues overheard the Ferrari instructor point me out to one of the others as I walked away and said "that guy was amazing". Scores wise a few of us got much the same (38/40) but it was nice to hear I put the instructors at ease and was, as they put it, "very natural" on track. I fret a lot that I have lost all the skills I gained over 10 years ago now, I'm glad something stuck!!!

Overall a great day for novices and people desperate to try a car - but if you want to really drive, pay more for a JP day or do a trackday and hire package -with instruction - from someone like Bookatrack.
PhilD

Sounds like a great experience Alf! As you talking about noise "inside" Was the roof up on both Spyders?
Alf McQueef

No, it was roof down, and no helmets worn - I just mean that engines always sound different in the car (usually bassier) than outside.

Driving on track without a helmet or 4+ point harness is not something I feel 100% comfortable with.
PhilD

Alf McQueef wrote:
No, it was roof down, and no helmets worn - I just mean that engines always sound different in the car (usually bassier) than outside.


Guess it didn't help that you couldn't rev them.
Eff One

Alf McQueef wrote:
No, it was roof down, and no helmets worn - I just mean that engines always sound different in the car (usually bassier) than outside.

Driving on track without a helmet or 4+ point harness is not something I feel 100% comfortable with.


Very surprised that you were allowed on track without a helmet on.
Martin

Sounds like an interesting day, better than working!

A F430 is on my vaguely affordable want list.
PG

It does seem slightly perverse that you go on a super-car day and then there are a list of requirements of things you can't do with the "super-cars", which they ought to  be designed for. Like driving them really fast and ragging the arse off them.  

But none the less, a great "work day" had there.
Stuntman

Thanks for sharing, and good to hear that you impressed the instructors!  I doubt whether you have lost much of your skills through lack of use.
Bryan M

Very interesting write up - this is the place I am going to on the morning of my wedding. Hopefully I will get through 3 or so cars in an hour
PhilD

Stuntman wrote:
Thanks for sharing, and good to hear that you impressed the instructors!  I doubt whether you have lost much of your skills through lack of use.


indeed, this is a great line

Alf McQueef wrote:
The instructor was a lovely chap, his dad was a top level rally driver, he made the mistake of not asking if I had done anything before, went very quiet after the first corner
Twelfth Monkey

Sounds like a good day, glad to hear your skills were noticed and appreciated.  Obviously I'm nowhere near your level, but I've always enjoyed getting what I've felt was genuine positive feedback after track days.  You really do have to go a long way down the food chain in order to be able to drive as the manufacturer intended, and I've loved the Elise/Exige-based things we've done.  I have been saying for far too long that we'll have an hour's one-to-one at Silverstone at some point.  If the tax account is overstocked, as I hope to find it is next week, I must get that sorted out.

I've only passengered in a Gallardo, and whilst it was exciting enough, the flaws were manifest.  The gear change was artificially thunpy, presumably to make it feel exciting - it just felt poorly-engineered to me; it felt a bit tinny, probably because there wasn't a lot in the wheelarches so stones sounded undeadened; the interior was no step up from The Beast's, in some ways less nice - though some of that might have been the patina of heavy use; and the engine, which sounded epic outside, seemed distant, quieter than I expected and sounded as though it was a long way behind - definitely losing something over a front installation in that respect.  Don't get me wrong, I'd still love a late model with a manual, if such a thing existed...
PhilD

Twelfth Monkey wrote:


I've only passengered in a Gallardo... the interior was no step up from The Beast's, in some ways less nice



Isn't it pretty much the same?!
Chris M Wanted a V-10

Re: Everyman supercar day - Prestwold

Alf McQueef wrote:

.....- but if you want to really drive, pay more for a JP day or do a trackday and hire package -with instruction - from someone like Bookatrack.


Or buy yourself an XFR and have a supercar driving experience every day of the year  
Twelfth Monkey

PhilD wrote:
Twelfth Monkey wrote:


I've only passengered in a Gallardo... the interior was no step up from The Beast's, in some ways less nice



Isn't it pretty much the same?!


Not sure that they share much beyond the steering wheel, but I'd be lying if I remembered with great clarity.
PhilD

Twelfth Monkey wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Twelfth Monkey wrote:


I've only passengered in a Gallardo... the interior was no step up from The Beast's, in some ways less nice



Isn't it pretty much the same?!


Not sure that they share much beyond the steering wheel, but I'd be lying if I remembered with great clarity.


and Nav, climate control...
franki68

The 430 is great,first Ferrari I enjoyed driving.As with all ferraris though I found the steering too sharp /quick for my liking .
What year gallardo  was it ? The bit about the steering sounds a bit odd,and shame it wasn't a manual ,one of the best gear changing experiences around as a Manual,the flappy paddle shifter is rather crude .Sounds like an expensively but badly specced car (notorious shit ceramics,and stupid gearbox)
Alf McQueef

I don't know what Gallardo it was - as an Evo reader I'm vaguely aware that there were loads of models and changes, like with Porsche the spec is critical. Ferrari seem less complicated in that way. They did have at least one "Balboni" or whatever they are called, it could have been that, though it felt a little tired - I'd guess it was older. The way the weight shifted around behind you on corner entry was deeply unsettling compared to the 430, which just seemed so natural, handling like a bigger Caterham.

I wonder about their business model - they had stupid numbers of cars there, loads in the paddock plus car transporter loads elsewhere. Also some new ones like a McLaren 650S (the 12C and 650S were visibly the fastest in a straight line). These sorts of cars are so valuable these days, and so expensive to maintain, and yet get so tired-looking used in this way - how does it all add up? None of the cars have plates on, I presume they get sold on as "low mileage" examples after a spruce-up, and I bet they learn when the gearbox or whatever is about to go pop. Lucky next owner..... not.
franki68

Alf McQueef wrote:
I don't know what Gallardo it was - as an Evo reader I'm vaguely aware that there were loads of models and changes, like with Porsche the spec is critical. Ferrari seem less complicated in that way. They did have at least one "Balboni" or whatever they are called, it could have been that, though it felt a little tired - I'd guess it was older. The way the weight shifted around behind you on corner entry was deeply unsettling compared to the 430, which just seemed so natural, handling like a bigger Caterham.

I wonder about their business model - they had stupid numbers of cars there, loads in the paddock plus car transporter loads elsewhere. Also some new ones like a McLaren 650S (the 12C and 650S were visibly the fastest in a straight line). These sorts of cars are so valuable these days, and so expensive to maintain, and yet get so tired-looking used in this way - how does it all add up? None of the cars have plates on, I presume they get sold on as "low mileage" examples after a spruce-up, and I bet they learn when the gearbox or whatever is about to go pop. Lucky next owner..... not.


the balbonis are 2wd ,if it was significantly quicker than the 430 it would be some form of lp560 .I think generally ferraris are better track cars,the lambos are a more amusing road car.
And you're not alone in wondering how their business model works.
Alf McQueef

I also meant to say the Gallardos pedal's were very offset as well.

I don't want to take too much of a pop at it - I'd have one if offered, and a lot of stuff like the dash is personal opinion, it was just a harder car to just get in and instantly like than the Ferrari. Trying some back to back is a big plus with this sort of day.
franki68

Alf McQueef wrote:
I also meant to say the Gallardos pedal's were very offset as well.

I don't want to take too much of a pop at it - I'd have one if offered, and a lot of stuff like the dash is personal opinion, it was just a harder car to just get in and instantly like than the Ferrari. Trying some back to back is a big plus with this sort of day.


have a pop by all means the lambo is a long way from perfect  ,but they are both wonderful.What I did notice when I bought the gallardo was the following,the ferrari you drive like a porsche ,its intense and you focus really hard,the lambo especially in convertible form just made me laugh and giggle.
The lambo is also more compact and better suited to UK roads ,the ferrari is really wide and intimidating to thread down narrow b roads.

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