Riding shotgun at 200mph

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You know that guilty pleasure of dropping down a couple of gears and flooring your car? Or of a visit to the local kart track?

Forget them. They may never satisfy again.

Fortunately, there’s an infinitely superior alternative.

One of F1B’s partners, the Formula GP Experience, provides that same buzz – only enhanced by a very great deal. All the pertinent details are on their site and we’ll keep you in the loop, but this post seeks to discuss the experience itself.

The programme, along with partners Pirelli and Circuit of the Americas, offers you the chance to be a passenger in a 750 horsepower V10 Jordan F1 car from 2004. And it’s coming to the US very soon.

I was lucky enough to be at the project’s effective unveiling at the Circuit Riccardo Tormo in Valencia this weekend – think MotoGP, DTM and F1 testing, not the harbour-side snoozefest (well, at least until this year) that we’re all talking about.

GP2 and WTCC star Felix Porteiro, a former teammate of Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica, was our chauffeur for an out- and in-lap around the track.

You may have seen modified passenger F1 cars before, McLaren famously made a two-seater in the ’90s.

But to paraphrase Porteiro, the problem was that you couldn’t see very much beyond the back of the driver’s head. Making these cars three-seaters, with one passenger either side of the driver, was a masterstroke.

Provided you fight the enormous G-forces – which is tough, but possible and totally worth it – you have an unbelievable view not just of the track, but of the driver.

The Experience

I sat on the left side and think I enjoyed the slightly unsighted right-hand turns at Riccardo Tormo most of all. When turning left I could watch the apex as it rolled under my backside, while during right-handers there was a bird’s eye view of Felix Porteiro’s driving on offer.

You’re sat two feet away from every steering input, and you can feel what you see at the rear of the car. Imagine an onboard camera at an F1 race, then replace it with yourself. It’s even possible to keep an eye on the steering wheel display and know which gear the car’s in.

A lot is made in Formula GP Experience’s promotional material about the staggering speed and acceleration, with good reason.

But what I remember most vividly is the deceleration. The forces under braking are incomparable. And that’s despite the fact that I had the distinct impression that Porteiro was being kind to his passengers at the big stop into turn one. (That suspicion wasn’t formed while screaming like a schoolgirl into the crash helmet as a passenger, by the way, but by listening to the engine note on the other runs. It felt full bore when on board.)

Describing the unique is no easy task, so let’s try it another way.

Though rather talentless, I adore go-karting and am quite used to shouting and cackling like a madman in that privacy afforded by a crash helmet.

A day after having the Formula GP Experience, I went karting on a brilliant, hilly outdoor track on the Mediterranean to the north of Valencia. And I was calmer, quieter and perhaps less exhilarated than ever before, even on a fresh and challenging course.

What was it Larkin said? Never such innocence again.


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