Racing truck or BMW M3?


No doubt many of you have gone on driving experience days before and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, some are more successful than others.

Parting with £100 is one thing, but when you end up with only three laps of the track and a sandwich for lunch that even urban foxes would have problems keeping down, you do feel a little cheated.

Nowadays, thankfully, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere where the cars aren’t up to standard. That’s because a level of competition has ensured that even the most budget of locations has a certain pride when it comes to which car they put paying guests in. Apart from, that is, a certain place I went to a few months ago which shall remain nameless. The ’80s touring car racers looked as though three angry chimps had been left to do their worst inside – what was left was an eclectic mix of wires which didn’t work and upholstery that smelt of oil and, alarmingly, cinders and burnt Nomex suit.

But, in the words of a certain Rob Widdows, I digress. The other day I was at Brands Hatch for the launch of its 2009 racing season where the media and drivers gathered to sample various cars and bikes at the track.

MotorSport Vision – the company owned by Jonathan Palmer which runs the Formula Palmer Audi series as well as various driving days at Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Bedford Autodrome – announced that it has teamed up with BMW to offer new M3 track days.

The new M3 is a staggering piece of kit with over 400bhp and, as Palmer pointed out, “When I started driving anything with 200bhp, like the original M3, was powerful. But the performance of these cars really is superb and it can only be used a to limited extent on public roads – that’s the advantage of running on the circuit.”

Never a truer word was spoken, and what’s more you can either go for 15 laps in the M3 and then jump into a single-seater, or just stick to the BMW and hammer round for 30 laps.

Having done one of Motorsport Vision’s driving days at Bedford Autodrome I can assure you that they are the most professionally run events I have been to, so I expected nothing less from the new M3 experience. In the event the car was beautifully smooth and, although the instructor decided that he wasn’t going to switch the traction control off, the M3 certainly had enough power to make you go a little ‘wide-eyed’ through Paddock.

Having said this, it was events at the end of the day that have stuck in my mind. Because it was the season launch Brands was playing host to all shapes and sizes of vehicle, from Formula Palmer Audis to historic Lolas and McLarens, and from the new Formula 2 car (more on this in the magazine soon) to racing trucks.

The racing trucks are truly unbelievable. They weigh more than an elephant and pack a quite ridiculous 1000bhp. The brakes are water-cooled – otherwise they’d last approximately three metres – and they leave the pits with liquids pouring all over the place and smoke billowing from their tyres.

I was lucky enough to have a passenger ride in one and the feeling of coming out of Clearways in a six-wheel drift is one that I will never forget. They aren’t slow either … despite being limited to 100mph we hit the limiter at the start of the pitwall.

If you get offered a ride in one of these, please, please say yes. It’s the closest you’ll get to being part of a herd of stampeding elephants.

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