What an amazing experience. I got the chance to drive the X-Bow, and to do some Karting. Also trial bike was on the arrangement, but there was no more time for it, and, from the otherside I was already pretty satisfied about what I had before.
So, here a small report about the day:
I'm here in Austria for the 10th anniversary of the company I'm working for (TMNS). They organized a nice 4 days for all empoyees and families in Austria, and to keep us busy they organized many different activities, including a driving experience. Guess what I've chosen?
This morning we woke up pretty early, and at 6.30 we were on the bus to the circuit. I actually haven't slept much all night because I was so excited about it, waking up every 2 hours thinking "is it aready time to go?".
Well, we arrived to the circuit around 8 AM. Really nice weather over there. The circuit itself it's quite impressive. Really nice to be there. Unfortunately we didn't drive on the real F1 track, but on a smaller circuit inside of the ring. I could see from there the the first straight, and I was impressed about how long and steep it is. Around the braking point is going up hill with a huge slope. It's really really steep. I'm now sure if I can manage to take a proper picture, but that was really something I didn't expect. I thought it was all flat over there. Really strange to see such a corner with hard braking with such a positive angle!
Let's go to the juicy bit: the X-Bow. First of all this car looks gorgeous. It's so nice from any angle you look at it. Really low on the ground, with suspensions like a Formula car with this really nice spring on the bonnet (push rod).
Since I've been studying quite a lot about suspensions to create the physics of the Gallardo, I was really curious to see in detail how it looks like in real life. Really cool to see the way the Anti Roll Bar is connected, and see how you can modify camber and dampers.
We were 40 collegue there, so we've been splitted in 2 groups. One that was driving the xbow first, and the other on the kart.
I've started with the xbow. They had cars for everyone, so at each turn one of us was driving, the other was as a passenger.
On the first round I didn't get a car as a driver, so I've choosen to go with a guy that I though could be fast enough an jumped on his car.
This was actually pretty good, because I had the chance to know the track a bit, and understanding how the car behaves and what you can actually do with it.
So, first of all, the seats: extremely low on the ground, basically like being seated in a kart. The seat are in a fixed position, but you can adjust the pedals, pushing towards you using a small lever.
You get fasten with a crossed seat bealt (like F1) that holds you tight to the car.
Time to start the engine: there is a quite complex procedure to start it up: press the start button, wait for the READY TO RACE? message on the digital display on the cockpit, press MODE on the steering wheel (that is with detachble with the quick release), press clutch and brake, and then finally press the start button once more.
The engine is not very loud, despite his 220 HP. Looking at the specs this car has a huge power/weight ratio (just 700 kg of weight), so it has huge acceleration (1-100 km/h in 3.9 s). On top of that no electonics at all. No traction control, no power steering (not needed because the weight is all on the back), just nothing. You need to be really careful with the throttle because the car just oversteer on throttle very much....and that's a lot of fun. You can go out of corners drifting and coutersteering extremely easily.
The laps as a passenger were already quite fun, but nothing compared to what you can experience once you're driving for real. That's just great. The car is really responsive, and you feel all shifts of weights, and you defitely feel when the car is loosing grip. So easy to control oversteer/understeer. It's all so natural. The pedals are really nice (just like a competition car), and I found extremely simple to drive it. I was a bit scared that it wasn't easy to drive with clutch and manual gear (H-shifter), since I only drove cars with paddles before on track (Aston Martin Vantage, Porsche GT3, Lamborghini Gallardo), but it was all really natural and easy. The shifter has a very small travel, and it's very easy to down/upshift.
The acceleration is just unvelievable. You don't really expet it. You can have huge fun just going on the throttle to get some oversteer going around the tight corners. It's so easy to control it. That was something I really didn't expect. I thought it was much harder to get to the limit.
One of the things I liked most was that here you can actually drive the car as fast as you want without having anyone telling you to slow down. You just have 1 rule: don't overtake. If you have anyone that is slower than you, there is a part of the track in which you can go on a circle (like a skidpad), so that you can get some space between you and him, before you start going full on again. On the top of that going in circle is just great, because you can try some drifting, or experience some pure understeer, depending on the way you steer and go on throttle. It's so nice how easy is to get the car balanced in drifting conditions.
After that you can unleash all the horsepower that is behind your back, and have some more fun full throttle once more.
We had 2 sessions each of 20-25 minutes (2 as a driver and 2 as a passenger). Great great fun. I tried to put it here in words, but it's very difficult to describe the feeling of drifting the car out of a corner in third gear, hearing all the tires screaming. I felt as a real driver for once. I didn't get that not even with the Gallardo. Over there I had someone in front of me, so although it was very fast I always had to be a bit more cautious.
Here you can do really whatever you want, and I haven't really given less then the 100% of what I thought it was possible all the times.
I spinned only once, in a section in which you have 6 little pales between you do slalom at quite high speed (3rd). After 2-3 of them I just lost the car from the back because I wasn't fast and hard enough on the throttle to control the roll...great fun then to put the 1st and do a full spin to get back on the right direction.
After that the karting was quite normal. I've to say very good karts, pretty fast, and nice track. I had the track record of the day (1,5 seconds faster than anyone else, and just 1.3 second for the track record of the track done by a professional). Great fun!
Coming back I went up hill on one of the grand stand in front of the 1st corner of the F1 track. Incredible view from there. you can see all the main straight and all the following straight (the one I was speaking about earlier).
Really a nice place to see a race. Such a pity no one was on track!
And tomorrow...one more time!
Looking forward to it.
Pictures and videos will follow.
Last edited by Andrea Lojelo on Thu May 03, 2012 9:28 am; edited 3 times in total