Twelve months ago, Crash.net was lucky enough to get the chance to hit the track at Oulton Park to sample one of the more challenging circuits on the British motorsport scene.

Now, a year later, we had the opportunity to return to the Cheshire venue to try out MotorSport Vision's M3 Master experience - with tuition from one of the BTCC's leading stars thrown into the mix.

When not racing his sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Honda Integra, Paul O'Neill - voted by fans as the most popular BTCC driver this season - can be found sitting alongside rookie drivers as they get a taste of what circuit driving is all about and he drew the short straw when Crash.net paid a visit.

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The M3 Master experience, launched earlier this year following a tie-up with BMW, allows visitors the chance to get behind the wheel of the latest generation M3 saloon, featuring a four litre V8 engine producing 420 bhp and fitted with a seven speed sequential gearbox.

While we managed to make our visit before the current snow arrived, conditions on track were far from ideal and the driving briefing included warnings on the fact that the circuit was particularly slippery under the trees at Druids.

With the M3 being rear wheel drive and full of power, it was arguably what a room of novices didn't want to hear. That point was driven home after relocating to the pits, when the red flags were shown after someone on an earlier Race Master Experience managed to spin off track in their single-seater.

Climbing into the passenger seat, it was time for a lap with Paul at the wheel to show the lines we were expected to take before swapping roles as Crash took control.

Using the shortest layout at the circuit means you can complete plenty of laps behind the wheel during your time on track, with Paul and the other instructors working together to ensure that slower cars move out of the way - and also act as an extra pair of eyes to warn you of quicker vehicles approaching, such as the JP1 prototype that was in action giving passenger rides and going noticeably faster than any of the novices on track.

The M3 certainly requires a different style of driving than the Renault Clio Sport 197 sampled last year, and the initial laps were taken getting used to how much grip was available and also using the sequential 'box - which was proving to be a touch temperamental on the downshift on the day we visited.

Despite the power under the bonnet, the BMW itself is easy to drive, with the only issue we encountered being the position of the gear levers which seemed a touch close to the indicator stalks.

Through the initial 15 minutes behind the wheel, the speeds were gradually increased as Paul handed out tips on where to turn in and how late to brake.

Overall we weren't doing too badly, although Old Hall proved to be the real troublesome area as lap after lap, the turn was taken too early, reducing the exit speed from the corner as a result. Druids was also slippery, with the back end of the car being somewhat twitchy on more than one occasion as the power was applied.

Just as we were getting into our stride however, an engine management warning light flashed up on the dashboard and the car lost power. A slow lap back to the pits followed but the issue quickly resolved itself and there was time for one more quick lap before the session drew to a close.

While others headed off to try out the Formula Brands single-seater, we returned to the circuit for another 15 minutes of running with the BMW.

With more cars having been on track, the conditions had improved slightly so the second session at the wheel allowed Crash to push a bit more - although understandably you aren't on track to push the car to its limits. As you are told beforehand, it's an experience, not a race.

The 15 minutes seemed to fly by and the chequered flag flew to signal the end of our 'lesson' with Paul commenting that we'd exceeded his expectations when we first hit the track. For some reason, he seemed to think that a motorsport journalist would be about as quick as your average Sunday driver...

The advice he was handing out from the passenger seat certainly enabled us to get the most we could from the day and enabled us to build in confidence as you realised you could brake that little bit later and could get the power on just a little earlier.

While an experience like the M3 Master only goes some way towards showing what it will be like to actually lap a circuit like Oulton Park in competition, it leaves you with a huge smile on your face at the end of the day and certainly wanting more. Let just hope the snow clears away quickly so we can book another lesson...

With thanks to Chelsea Reay at MSV for organising the day.

RaceMaster and M3 Master driving experiences at Oulton Park are available from ?149. Vouchers are valid for up to 12 months. Oulton Park also offers YoungDrive! introductory driving experiences for 13-17 year olds, RallyMaster rally driving technique classes and MudMaster off-road adventures.

For more information call 0870 950 9000 or visit www.oultonpark.co.uk.