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.
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
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.