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Caterham Driver Academy Silverstone

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It isn’t all fun and games being a motoring journalist… You can forget all the glitz and glamour of motor shows as 98% of your time is spent slogging over news pieces. Long hours, not fantastic pay, and often being lumbered with something rather pedestrian to review is par for the course. Not today however. You see this job does have its perks and today they came in the form an invitation curtsy of buyagift.co.uk and included words such as Caterham along with Silverstone. Who were we to refuse such an invitation?

Our day may have began at 4am but upon arrival the events were all laid out, and boy were we in for a treat. Silverstone is a motoring Mecca and hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix, to say it was a great venue would be an understatement. Yet this day revealed itself not to be all about lap time, but pure hooliganism. Instructed by a crack team of drivers we were tutored in the art of drifting. Our weapon for the event was a 1.6 litre 140BHP Caterham Roadsport. The featherweight sports car is about as refined as a 6 year olds birthday party where the e-numbers have taken their toll. No doors, roof, radio or even carpet can be found in the design that originates from 1957. Despite their rough and ready nature they were the perfect tools thanks to being rear wheel drive and capable of accelerating to 60MPH in under 5 seconds.

Starting with the basics, we were shown how to tease the rear of the car out of balance on a simple cone circuit. To begin with the Caterham proved itself to be as lively as a jack-in-the-box with spins and accompanying tyre smoke in abundance. With further instruction from our wise team, we all began to climb the steep learning curb. A few hours later, and a couple of crushed cones making their way into the skip, things began to click into place.

I learnt to drive on a race track long before I had my license. “Keep it smooth, don’t let the car step out.” were all things that I have deeply engrained into my driving style and so to purposely upset the balance of a car went against everything I knew. Yet, when it all came together the sensation of lighting up those rear tyres, adding that dab of opposite lock and looking like god behind the wheel was immensely satisfying.

 After a delicious lunch provided, we were set our final challenge. A maze of cones culminated to produce two slaloms garnished with a complete 360 doughnut and a 540 degree drift for the finale. The pressure was on to show the instructors that we had taken all of their advice onboard. Me and my jet black Caterham 7 flew out of the box and produced a near perfect start. Stringing three short slides together we hurtled into the 360. A little too much speed put me wide but jarring the brakes soon had us back in line. I was eager to finish the run and check the replay to see just how cool my start looked, but this slight impatience was just enough make the final slalom not quite as neat. 100% concentration is key. The one and a half doughnuts was the only thing between me and the finish line. It was good, it was very good! The car pitched perfectly and in tandem both me, the car and the laws of physics worked hand in hand to produce a beautiful tyre smoking finish. All I had to do was to snap the car back into place. It was my own fault, a quick slip of the throttle at the wrong time spun me out. Teeth gritted, I returned to a round of applause in the pit lane.

I learnt a new skill today on this driving experience and would love to thank all of those at buyagift.co.uk for inviting us. The entire day was a riot from start to finish, and despite making myself look a bit of an arse at the end, I found a new found friend in that feisty little Caterham.

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