Single Seater Driving Experience
My wife booked this Formula Silverstone driving experience for my birthday, and I’m extremely glad that she did as I’ve had the single-seater bug for a while now. With family in the F1 industry, avidly watching the Grand Prix has become our much-loved bi-weekly ritual. As much as I enjoy the races, nothing compares to actually getting out on the track yourself. Thankfully Silverstone is under an hour from our home, and with the track’s provenance and historic links to Formula 1, booking a driving experience here was a no-brainer.
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Although Formula Silverstone cars definitely are not Formula 1 cars, they do provide a chance for drivers of all abilities to get behind the wheel of something that is far more visceral than anything road-legal. The single-seaters feature a 1.6 Ford Duratec engine, hitting 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds. This is fast by road-car standards, and feels even faster due to the spartan, open-top nature of the vehicles. The bottom of your seat is only a few centimeters from the ground, so every sensation is amplified.
The cars can be unforgiving at first; the clutch is essentially a very heavy on/off switch. To set off, we were encouraged to apply a significant amount of revs before dumping the clutch. This felt completely counter-intuitive, but was essential to combat stalling. Full commitment is required here. It goes without saying that you’ll need to be able to drive a manual transmission before jumping in to one of these.
Once moving, the cars come alive. No assisted steering or brakes creates a sensation of being directly attached to the vehicle. The H-pattern 4 speed gearbox was clunky and mechanical. It was everything I had hoped it would be. Despite the small capacity engines, the cars felt great on the small, technical circuit.
The cars feature semi-slick trackday tyres. As such, you’ll need to ease in to the laps to warm them up before going full-bore. Once they have come alive, the grip is incredibly impressive, and your confidence will quickly grow as you put more laps in.
I signed up to an early session to maximise my chances of a quiet track; I didn’t want to get caught up in traffic. Thankfully, this paid off. Five other drivers on track was the perfect number to encourage healthy competition without getting slowed-down entirely. Everyone in my session was respectful and swiftly obeyed the blue flags. In short, if someone is coming up behind you at a faster speed, simply let them by instead of trying to block and/or race them. All drivers receive a print-out of lap-times at the end of the session, so you’re really competing against the clock.
The drivers’ briefing was comprehensive but didn’t drag-on. Some participation was encouraged, and at the risk of looking like teacher’s pet, I found myself piping-up to combat the awkward silences. Throughout the morning the staff and instructors made me feel safe, and the whole event was extremely well-run.
The most succinct way for me to describe the Formula Silverstone Single Seater Experience is go-karting on steroids. All of the thrills and spills of go-karting are here, but the stakes are much higher. I was initially sceptical, as I am with all experience days, whether it would deliver a true experience, but it ended up surpassing my expectations.
Maximum enjoyment does rely on respectful drivers, suitable weather and a track that isn’t too busy. As such, anyone interested in Formula Silverstone should book with these in mind. My wife and in-laws accompanied me for the session; there is a cafe on-site, and families are welcome to watch from the side-lines.
Although we couldn’t compare our performance to historical lap times due to a layout change, I was satisfied leaving as the fastest driver on the day. Formula Silverstone delivered on my expectations; I’d recommend it to any automotive fan.