Fancy being James Bond for a day, and experiencing the ultimate thrill of getting behind the wheel of an Aston Martin and letting rip around one of the UK's premier race circuits? That's what I was asked too. Silly question really…
I was invited along to try out an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster – a soft-top sportscar of the highest calibre, with 380bhp of grunt beneath the bonnet – around Silverstone's southern circuit, composed of such evocative corners as Club, Abbey, Vale, Becketts, Chapel and Stowe and the Hangar Straight. Never mind James Bond – I was going to be Lewis Hamilton for the day. Or so I thought…
“Most people find the sheer power a bit of a shock to the system at first,” I was warned in a briefing by Silverstone instructor John-Paul Ivey, who accompanied me on my high-speed ride to tell me where to brake, turn-in and accelerate out again.
“They also find they have very little speed perception because it's such a big, wide circuit. It's only usually 300ft before the corner when you have to brake that you realise how quick you're actually going – and by then it's too late.
“Most people don't realise just how slow Vale is in particular. Even F1 cars turn in at only 50 or 60mph, and we get at least three people a day in an Aston or a Ferrari who try to take it at 65mph! They haven't realised just how fast they were going and just how slow the corner is.”
Nor, it would transpire, did I the first time I came hurtling into Vale way too hot, but of all the corners Abbey was undoubtedly my bête noire
, as I realised that Lewis Hamilton I certainly wasn't. On a damp, greasy track surface with minimal grip – 'Silverstone at its worst', as JP cheerily pointed out to me – 113mph at the end of the Hangar Straight seemed like a lot quicker. A LOT quicker.
Paddle-shift gears, right foot-braking and no clutch also took a little while to get accustomed to, but the traffic light system of cones – red for braking, yellow for turning-in and green for accelerating away again after the corner – was a real help, and as my confidence increased, my throttle foot became heavier and the enjoyment was multiplied.
Marketed as the Aston Martin Thrill, the experience lived up to its name and then some, and is part of a range of gifts on offer for petrol-heads this Christmas at the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing', available as an option with the £99 Christmas Super Choice voucher which can be purchased until midday on 23 December.
The limited edition Silverstone Driving Experience voucher, launched exclusively for the festive season, allows the recipient to choose from a variety of 'Thrills' – be it in an Aston Martin, Ferrari, rally car, single-seater or Lotus Exige.