So I promised you more on the driving I did last week at Daytona International Superspeedway. As I’m now sat by the pool I can tell you a bit more about it.
The whole day was handled by the Richard Petty Driving Experience and we’d called them up a few weeks back to organise it all from the UK. After touching down on the Thursday we got up on Friday to drive up the Interstate. After about 30 minutes we were there (thanks to my trusty TomTom on the T-Mobile MDA Compact III). The minute we got out of the car you could feel the rumble of the cars. The sound – even from the carpark – makes your bones vibrate.
After checking in a doing some “test runs” on the Daytona USA arcade game (I just had to play it – that music is infectious!) we headed into the tunnel towards the infield.
The Daytona track is massive. So massive that there’s a lake in the centre. We went around in a van first so that the instructor could give us some tips. The banks on the corners are just insane – a 30 degree pitch or more. In a van / minibus it feels like you’re about to topple over and, if you were going slow enough, you probably would.
Then, it was time. We basically had an instructor in front of us in a separate car while we drove behind. You simply had to keep up, with a 2-3 car distance being maintained. I say “simply”, but it’s a quick and fierce introduction to racing and race speeds. Without the instructor you’d probably spend a dozen laps doing 80mph thinking you were breaking the sound barrier, but with an instructor you’re forced to go beyond what you thought possible. On the first couple of laps I did nothing but shout – it’s the most amazing experience. I was so wired I ended up screaming, “I wanna go fast!!! I wanna go fast!!!”
The monster V8 rattles through the chassis and your vision becomes a vibrated messy blur when you really floor it. The next couple of laps were a little slower due to some traffic on the track, but after that I nailed it. It is, quite simply, the most insane, exhilarating and thrilling experience. For a start you have no idea how fast you’re going, there’s just a four-speed manual gearbox and a rev counter. It’s the noise of the engine, which growls at you angrily when you dare to lift off the joy pedal in a corner, that got me. At home, on a trip to work you’re taken care of by electronic stability controls, ABS and all manner of safety systems. Here there’s a fire extinguisher and a helmet. It’s fantastic.
All I kept seeing was the back of the car in front and the words “Daytona International Superspeedway” flying past ever few seconds. Sure, you may just go “round and round”, but at nearly 150mph when you’re in a car that’s constructed from just a massive V8 and some scaffolding, it’s simply stunning.
If you’re planning to come to Florida (which, by the way, is really cheap due to the amount of Brits coming here and the ridiculous exchange rates), make a point of adding Daytona onto your “to do” list. Sure, it costs a bit to do it, but it’s well, well worth it.