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Headline:FastSaloons.com Review of the Thruxton Ferrari dayDate:01/12/2003
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com Review of the Thruxton Ferrari 355 and saloon car day  

FastSaloons.com
Review


Ferrari Driving Experience


Test Date
28/08/2003

Our Thoughts
'Short but oh-so sweet; an excellent way of experiencing a Ferrari V8 if you're not a millionaire. Extra drives in an MG and a single-seater really gets the petrol running through the veins and wanting for more. An excellent prelude to a track day.'

'Go and enjoy yourself'


'Go and enjoy yourself - you're driving someone else's Ferrari!' That was the last word of advice from our instructor at the end of the briefing session before being let loose on one of the UK's fastest touring car circuits in one of Marranello's finest.

The recipe is simple:

1. Get a loved one to fork out £225 on a well deserved birthday present.
2. Wait for a fine summers day, then bunk off work for the morning.
3. Add the spice - a gorgeous 380bhp 3496cc V8 Ferrari 355.
4. Simmer in the waiting room for an hour or so to let the nerves build.

Result - A guaranteed petrol-head rush of adrenaline and speed.



Red or Yellow? What the hell, I'll take both
The said event was a Ferrari Driving Experience. There are several 'experience' locations across the country and you can get them through Red Letter Days in supermarkets, department stores or on-line (http://www.redletterdays.co.uk). Red Letter just put you onto one of two locations: The Thruxton circuit near Andover or Prestwold Hall in Leicestershire. I choose the Thruxton circuit because it was a 'real' circuit and it gave the chance to get into the driver's seat of a 355. The 355 has for me been the Ferrari to lust after. Sure, it may not be the most powerful, or even the best driving (but not far off) - but the style is absolutely sublime.

The day was straightforward - menu of short briefing followed by starter of 6 instructed laps in an MG ZS. Then onto the entrée - a 355 for an additional 4 chaperoned laps. The devilish dessert was a full 6 laps in a single seater.

The briefing session was refreshingly frank and level-headed. I was expecting a 'now don't go too fast, will you?' nanny attitude and whilst it didn't go the other extreme of 'let it rip, dudes', it was all good solid advice. For example there was basic instruction (it was a beginners course after all) on turn-in, apex and power out points, yet they talked about heel and toe if you felt up to it.


Starters


So, first off was the MG ZS. The first time in the car was sitting in the passenger seat whilst the instructor took us around the track for the first 3 laps. Getting faster each time, he pointed out the appropriate cones for turn-in, apex and end point. The cones were a particular benefit to everyone. Whilst you still had to get used to following them, without them I think a lot more people would be in the gravel on the slower corners. By the end of the 3rd lap instructor-driven lap you felt you had the understanding of the corners - all 4th and 5th gear corners.


Pick a MG ZS colour - as long as it's blue
Then it was my turn! My first question to my instructor on starting off in the ZS was 'slower first, then get faster, yes?'. To which he replied, 'well, you're not on your driving test!'. I took this to mean 'start fast, then get faster'. The first few hairpins in the ZS were a complete mess - as soon as you start going faster you completely forget everything that was already told you. So 1st lesson - relax and let it flow - don't let the speed turn into white knuckles - keep it smooth, etc. Lap by lap you really felt yourself improving - OK, I got that wrong last time, but this time was slightly better. If anything this is absolutely where the addiction can come from. It's like an addictive video game, except it's real life so it's scarier and ultimately more rewarding.

Whilst I was trying to concentrate on lines, and speed, etc. - I couldn't help noticing what a fine car the MG was. I had no real preconceptions of the MG - I was there for the Ferrari after all, but the ZS felt taught, with communicative and sharp steering and nicely weighted all round. It didn't feel underpowered and I came away thinking it was a decent car to get going in.

Before upgrading to the next car, your instructor gives you some hints as to what he thought you could do better on - my instructor's main comment was 'too fast too quickly' ! (Well, I wasn't on my driving test!!!)

It has to be said that they prepared their cars magnificently. All cars were immaculately clean and a credit to them. They had 5 Ferraris ready for the day, four 355's and one 360. Other driving courses, organised by the same company, were sharing the same track so there were also Porsche 911's, Lotus Elise's and Mercedes SLK's darting around. But all were as equally well prepared.


Entrees




1st it's all a blur, then the 355 is taken out, 360 drawn in, then history

Then onto the Ferrari - no waiting, straight into a gleaming yellow 355. I'd decided to go for the DVD record option so that if it all seemed a blur I would at least have a replayable memory. This was a sound move because although I felt like I took it all in at the time, the DVD helps you remember just how fast (or slow!) you really were going. To start with I wasn't particularly impressed by the 355 - difficult driving position and this car had already done 125Ks! But I was there for the 'experience' so I turned the key and…….yes! That was the experience I was after, an excellent V8 burble.

Starting off, and with my previous instructors comments ringing fresh in my ears, I took it fairly easy. The instructions for the Ferrari are - don't go below 4th for the hairpins and you'll be up to full whack in 6th on the straights if you're pushing it. Sounds simple - as soon as you get going you're glad of the time in the MG learning the track - you don't want to waste track time in the 355. On my first lap I got stuck behind another MG from another group - no worries as soon as he got clear of the hairpins he'd signal it ok to overtake and wooosh, we're past.

The ride was firm and flat, but the engine very strong and the sound - well, quite intoxicating - there's definitely something alcoholic in this Entrée! Although at the time I thought I was going fast, on replay of my DVD I was actually going pretty slowly. But that changed the more laps I did. The 2nd and 3rd laps got quicker and quicker and by the end of the 3rd I'd caught up with one of the other 355s and a 360. It was obvious the leading 355 was holding both the 360 and myself up, so we soon shot past him. Then it was the 360 and my 355. I easily tracked the line of the 360 for a few corners and thankfully the 360's instructor could see I could go faster, so with his indicator on - foot down…..overtaking a 360 in 5th in a 355 - it can't get any better than that!

Then, just as quickly as it had started, it was over. Fleetingly quick, now gone, DVD off, out of car, quick car photo op, that's it. I want some more - 'can I go out again?' was the only thing I could ask.


Desserts


So, straight onto the single-seater. Whereas the MG ZS gave no preconceptions, the single seater was different. For one, obviously, you're out there on your own, in a small, slightly-powered but light, honed for the occasion, racer. Slightly scary maybe, but after the 355 you're on a high, you could feel like you could strap yourself into a 700bhp F1 racer and give Montoya a push for pole.



Mini F1 cars? Not sure about that, but bloody good fun!
So this is the real thing, slip on the racing shoes, get the helmet sorted, push off. Nothing dynamic to start with - get used to the raw ride, gearbox and cart-like handling. Push on after the 1st lap - this is the stuff, much more raw and exciting than the 355. Whereas the 355 could be one of the ultimate road-car meets-track experiences, pushing on in a single seater on a fast track - that really gets the juices flowing. You could easily forget how many laps you'd done, I think I did.

So how much do I really remember of driving the single seater? Not a lot really, but I seem to remember both smiling and griting my teeth and hoping I would go through the corners in equal measure. This car was massive fun to drive - completely different from the road going cars and a totally different sensation. The cars themselves are powered by a 1.6 Renault engine, sounds clonky, the gearbox even worse, but in a car like this, it really doesn't matter because the way it sticks to the road and makes 100mph feel like 200mph is all that counts.

The cars themselves are rev-limited and I hit the limiter in top going down the back straight. However, the limiter is more for stopping spins when power out of corners is applied a little bit too early. Overall these cars were the most enjoyable of the lot. Sure I was probably way off of any proper pace, but it felt really good, and for that it definitely meant I got an experience.


Thruxton Racing
Web Site
See For yourself!


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