‘Driving a supercar on the track’ dream now a reality
With the inclusion of two new supercars, Race Day Events now makes it possible to go fast in road going machinery.
Side-by-side, the 911 Turbo and Atom made for an evocative sight.
Although still one of the newest professions based on the automobile having been in existence for less than 150 years, a misconception still surrounds the role of a motoring journalist in certain quarters of everyday life.
A factor this writer largely attributes to the rise of Top Gear in 2002, never mind the supposed modern-day impact of influencers, the biggest misunderstanding is that motoring scribes only drive around in supercars “because that what’s Jeremy, Richard and James” are doing.
What’s more, the regularly asked “what is the best car you have ever driven” question, causes much confusion and even dismay when anything but a supercar is named.
Afterall, how can a Renault Duster, Hyundai Palisade or even a Mahindra Scorpio-N be better than a Ferrari or Lamborghini?
The simple truth is this; driving supercars are treats motoring journalists don’t enjoy 24/7 as Top Gear wanted everyone to believe.
Absent, or not kept in a manufactures’ media fleet as result of costs and insurance compared to a normal hatchback, SUV or bakkie, driving any type of supercar is, therefore, rare and something most journalists still aspire to experience.
As such, when the opportunity does present itself, it is taken with both hands and savoured as you never know when it will happen again.
Established just over a year ago, Race Day Events represent exactly that; allowing the public to sample a race car or supercar, but from behind the wheel instead of only from the passenger’s seat.
“We deliver thrilling supercar rides for everyone to enjoy. Indulgence is rare and as such, Race Day Events provides the perfect opportunity for that indulgence to be fully experienced,” says co-founder and Managing Director Jarred Welby-Cooke.
Similarly, fellow co-founder and CEO Ricky Frankental remarks, “we started Race Day Events so that we could turn automotive fantasies into realities. There is nothing better than seeing the looks on people’s faces after their supercar drives”.
In a clear confirmation of Frankental’s comments, the proverbial “cars are the stars” saying rang true at Race Day’s most recent event earlier this month at a baking Gerotek where more than 50 guest turned-up for a special unveiling.
Surrounded by the daunting handling track backing in 30-degree Highveld heat before mid-afternoon, the eyes of those present were firmly fixated on Race Day’s latest acquisitions, never mind the rare and dramatic Ariel Atom with its supercharged 2.0-litre engine that once powered – forced unassisted – the Honda Civic Type R.
Along with a fully race bred and prepared BMW 325i E46, the newcomers consisted of a 997-generation Porsche 911 Turbo and an original V10-engine Audi R8
As much as Ingolstadt’s soon to be discontinued icon attracted the biggest fanfare, the 911 Turbo resonated just as much, especially as it features the six-speed manual gearbox instead of the much criticised R Tronic automated manual that predated the seven-speed S tronic in the Audi.
Hold your horses
Before play could start, it was time for a safety briefing and how to get comfortable behind the wheel.
While allowing drivers to realise their dreams from behind the wheel, a Race Day instructor is still seated on the other side to provide guidance and also to reign-in those wanting to undertake risky driving or believe their abilities are equal to that of a Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher.
Besides the cars − the 911 producing 373 kW from its 3.6-litre twin-turbo flat-six and the R8 firing 386 kW from its normally aspirated 5.2-litre bent-ten − there was the matter of the track itself.
While less than two kilometres long, the track does what its name says; designed to test a car’s handling through a series of flowing corners, tight hairpins, a pair of chicanes, a fast straight and a difficult, tight uphill right hander with no margin for error.
A layout ready to punish those who come unstuck, the unfortunate reality become all to apparent when the Atom was rendered a no-no early-on after spinning across in the infield on its second lap before the first chicane.
Part of its carbon fibre nose and radiator damaged, the water gushing Atom was moved away from the heat of battle, its wiring supercharged engine replaced by an industrial sounding Lamborghini V10 in the Audi and a chirping boosted straight-six in 911.
Unleashing the beast
Having witnessed the Atom’s demise, and not wanting to do the same, I settled into the R8 first for the four-lap joust around one of Gerotek’s toughest.
Although familiar with the R8 having sampled the latter 449 kW variants in coupe and drop-top Spyder forms in 2017, the surreal sensation still prevailed as the V10 barked into life a few millimetres behind my left ear.
Getting accustomed to its characteristics after six-years, the nerves soon disappeared as the comparatively gentle first run turned into a fall bore maximum attack on a track that had already showed its teeth.
As much as taking Jarred’s advice of “enjoy yourself” rang true, competitive instinct took over and while no times were being recorded, the enjoyment stemmed from ringing every available ounce out of the R8 while trying to hit the apexes without exceeding my internal limits or undertaking any foolish risks.
A cliché it may well be, “becoming one” with the R8 was of the order and while the R Tronic box lived-up it to its horrid reputation, it failed to detract from the overall experience.
With each planting of the throttle, the heightened soundtrack and immediate grip from the quattro all-wheel-drive system saw the R8 rocket out of the corners and feeling composed through the twisty bits.
In what seemed like a flash, my four rounds were finished and as the cooling lap finished, the notion having driven a supercar outside of a public road hit hard. A fitting finish to Audi’s supercar, the R8 had, however, provided the appetiser for what lied and wait.
Realising the dream
While less powerful but also with all-wheel-drive, the 911 Turbo has a vested reputation of being lively and somewhat of an animal to control once the pair of turbos kick-in.
What’s more, whereas booting the R8 required no additional concentration as result of the R Tronic, the manual in the Porsche was a different matter that would require more attentiveness and being smoother to get right.
A personal meet as no previous or current iteration 911 derivative has resonated more with me than a 911 Turbo, setting off was a chilling experience as the flat-six burble started signing is familiar tune on the installation lap.
Sighting run finished, it was time to turn the volume-up – a task the Porsche obliged in the most dramatic way possible way. Besides being lighter than the Audi, the real magic lied with its acceleration out of the corners.
Told by the instructor to head straight from fourth to second gear at the very tight uphill turn, which I had avoided doing on the first lap, the sheer kick as the turbos boosted verged on the brutal, but with a huge smile on my face.
As with the Audi, I was again driving within my limits, despite the 911 feeling capable of going beyond as it gripped and gripped in spite of being hurled at the hairpins and through the chicanes.
Let loose on the straights, it felt more planted than the R8, faster, and as a result of the manual box, a lot more involving as any supercar should be.
Truth be told, the four laps in the 911 disappeared faster than in the Audi to the point where I had to restrain myself from asking for another tour behind the wheel.
“Stop being a dreamer”, “face reality” or “are you mad” are sayings probably uttered on more than a few occasions to car enthusiasts wanting to release their ambition of wanting to drive a supercar in anger.
For fear of stating the proverbial, Race Day Events now makes this a reality in the purest way possible; placing you behind the wheel and not only in the passenger’s seat.
An experience likely to be remembered by all present – especially by this writer now able to tick the 911 Turbo box – the news only gets better as Race Day will add two further additions in the form of a prancing horse and raging bull to its stable at some stage in 2024.