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Aston Martin & Porsche Experience

on Sat, 22/11/2008 - 17:00

Porsche 911 GT3
Porsche, like Lotus, are well known for producing drivers cars. I’ve been looking forward to my first drive in a 911 for a while now and as a bonus it was to be a 996 GT3 in Canary yellow and fitted with the optional half roll cage, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

It is hard to tell much about a car from 3 laps around a 1.5 mile circuit but the Porsche certainly felt like a nice car to drive. Being a GT3 things were pretty basic on the inside and I had some concern that my feet would slip against the bare metal flooring, thankfully they didn’t. When on the move it ticked most of the boxes: easy to place through corners, strong acceleration and good straight line speed, certainly more than I could make use of. One aspect I didn't really get used to was the weight transfer under breaking which is far more pronounced than in the Elise.

Porsche 911 GT3
It would be wrong to write about the 911 without comparing it to its little brother the Porsche Cayman. You can read more about me driving one as a warm up to the Lamborghini Murcielago in my blog post Lamborghini Murcielago Experience but suffice to say I was impressed. Clearly the 911 is a fantastic sports car, few would argue that, however personally my preference would have to lie with the mid-engined Cayman, the way it feels so engaging yet easy to drive.

Aston Martin DB9
Next up was another special car. If Carlsberg were going to design a Grand Tourer it would look like the Aston Martin DB9, probably the best looking GT car in the world. I prefer the tighter packaging of the V8 and V12 Vantage but the DB9 certainly has presence. Unfortunately the driving experience didn't quite live up to its looks. I was quite wide on my first couple of laps but when encouraged to get in tighter ended up clipping a couple of cones on the final lap. Weight was the real problem, feeling very heavy in anything other than a straight line the big Aston felt like a barge rocking about in the water. I know I’m spoiled by the Elise’s light weight and perhaps it is unfair for me to make such a comparison, after all it is designed for cruising across Europe and not for being a nimble track car.

Lotus Elise
The event was rounded off with an instructor driven hot lap in an early S2 Ice Blue Elise (so early it had one of the long style soft tops). I love that despite all the supercars people sign-up to drive you can’t beat the Lotus Elise for making people smile. The lap was over all too soon, mostly in a sideways fashion, and while I’ve been passenger to better drivers it was still a lot of fun.

Heyford park, like many track day circuits, was born out of an airplane runway. It uses a basic cone layout rather than being a fully developed circuit. This makes it somewhat harder to follow and doesn’t give the same level of satisfaction that a fully developed circuit would. The sighting laps are done in groups using a people carrier, not the best or most glamorous way to get a feel for a circuit. There where other small disappointments which stuck with me as well, like the front slats missing from the Elise and wheel centre badges missing from the supercars. I’m sure this makes it easier when having to do frequent maintenance but it detracts from the cars aesthetics and cheapens the whole experience. Equally "U Drive Cars" plastered down the side of the cars was also a bit of a disappointment and spoiled what will be for many a once in a life time photo opportunity. However, despite all this Heyford Park does offer some of the cheaper experiences on the market so I guess you get what you pay for.