Lotus Exige

Friday 22nd April 2016

A few weeks ago I got to drive a Lotus Exige for the first time. What a lovely car! Not sure I want to buy one though.

I went on a driving experience day at Thruxton race track, having only driven at Castle Combe before I was pleasantly surprised at how long and straight the track is at Thruxton. It seemed a lot safer too, there's very little run-off at Castle Combe before you end up in the tyre wall.

I wasn't expecting much out of the day to be honest, but the instructor who took me out was simply brilliant. When he learned that I had a bit of previous track experience he changed his instruction and started teaching me the finer details of the track, and we ended the day learning a bit of heel-and-toe braking.

The Exige was an absolute joy to drive: 190BHP and 914KG of high grip fun. You could put you foot down in pretty much any gear and it would charge ahead. Inside it was really minimal, with just two dials and a bare metal floor.

The days I've had at Castle Combe were quite serious affairs, everyone brings their pride and joy and the car park is full of men wearing race suits fiddling with their exhausts to get them through noise control. In contrast the atmosphere at Thruxton was much more fun, and there were even some actual women there!

The whole day had a really nice 'meet your heroes' kind of feel to it. Thruxton have two Lamborghinis, a pair of Ferraris and a whole fleet of Porsches. When the cars weren't being driven they were lined up in the pits like superstars, so men with Cheshire-cat grins could pose in front of them while their girlfriends took photos. It made me realise just how much cars mean to some people!

The day was only marred slightly by Tiff Needell giving people high-speed rides around the track in a BMW M4. I spent a long time discussing with my instructor the apparent contradiction between what he was telling me (approach the corner head on, do all my braking in a straight line, balance acceleration and steering on the way out) with what Tiff was doing - drifting round the corners, screeching the wheels as much as possible, and occasionally spinning off the track. The instructor sighed a little, nodded and told me to ignore him.

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