Formula 1? That's for the faint-hearted...


It’s no secret that many current Formula 1 drivers have the utmost respect for rally drivers. The fact that they can be quick on any type of surface over an event that lasts days rather than hours, is something that many people are in awe of.

Whether it be the wintry asphalt of Monte Carlo, the ice and snow covered gravel in Sweden or the gravel from Mexico to Japan; World Rally Championship drivers have to understand all the surfaces and understand them fast. You can’t do hundreds of practice laps and if you (or your navigator) make even the smallest of mistakes, it may well be a tree that you meet rather than a bunch of smiling marshals ready to push your car back onto the track.

However much we try and forget the days when we waited for supermarket car parks to empty to show our prowess behind the wheel/on the handbrake, we’ve all done it and thanks to this, many of us harbour thoughts that we may have made a quite brilliant rally driver given the chance. Now I don’t want to burst your bubble or indeed, ruin your Wednesday, but the chances are you would have been to rally driving what the Millennium Dome is to London. A complete waste of space, time and money.

Which, eventually, brings me to my point. I was very kindly invited up to Silverstone yesterday to have a go at their rallying experience. If I’m being completely honest, I knew I would be ‘average to poor’ when it came to keeping it on the tarmac/gravel/mud and I had visions of a clapped out ‘80s escort, on its last legs, being unwillingly brought out for another half an hour session of gear crunching and over-revving. How mistaken I was, on the car part anyway.

Having regrettably lost the British Grand Prix as of 2010, Silverstone has to make these experiences better than any of the thousands that exist up and down the country. Which, as far as I can see, they’ve done with the rallying. For your £124 you get a good half an hour behind the wheel of a Group ‘N’ Fiesta and some very welcome tuition. The ‘stage’ involves a number of different surfaces that all seem as slippery as the last and the instructors are fully qualified and embarrassingly patient. Even when I put the gas on too early and headed for the tyres for the 10th time in a row, my instructor, Nick Edwards (below) was as calm and helpful as a vicar after Communion.

As predicted, I was well off the pace, but I have to say (and I don’t say this often) I’d actually like to go back. Having seen how fast these cars can actually be driven on the passenger ride at the end of the day I felt so embarrassed about the speed I was going earlier that I need to go back…

As it turns out, almost anyone can be a rally driver. Whether you’re any good or not is an entirely different matter altogether.

Having proved that experience really does count on the rally stage we were ushered to the 4×4 driving stage. I don’t want to ruin anything for you if you do decide to give this £59 experience a go, but the ‘Suicide Drop’, once the mud gets a little slippery, is A) a great advert for the Defender and B) pant-wettingly good fun.

For further information on Silverstone’s Driving Experiences visit or call 08704 588 270. Oh, and if you want to know how Motor Sport‘s editor got on navigating for Tony Jardine at the Swansea Bay Rally, grab a copy of the November issue which will be on the shelves on October 3.

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