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Published 01 February 2011

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2011 went off with a roaring start as Goodwood’s MINI Drivers saw its first 2-day sessions take place at the motor circuit this weekend. Peter Bowles, aged 16, took his first ‘mission’ and below gives us his account of his time on the track.

“I have always wanted to drive, but the plastic pedal car in the back garden is somewhat different to a Mini Cooper at the historic Goodwood Race Circuit!

But with the expense of driving lessons, and then insurance ever increasing, it seems like a daunting thing to start. And of course the reason insurance prices being what they are, is because of how high risk young drivers are, with one in four collisions on the road involving someone under the age of 25. So, the Goodwood Mini Drivers events allow underage prospective drivers to get some great experience and learn how to drive safely before taking to the roads with other motorists.

Moreover, when they say that there are no age limits to this experience, they mean it! Before my lesson, I was told about how the previous day three brothers, the youngest of which was only nine years old, arrived all hoping to drive. They were all above the height restriction (at least 4ft10in), so they all got to drive!

The afternoon started with the registration and my introduction with my instructor for the next hour or so. After a brief explanation of seat adjustments and what was expected on the tarmac, the steering wheel was handed from my instructor to me.

My first tutorial was in the basic elements of accelerating and braking, namely accelerating from a stationary position to 20 mph and then braking (smoothly) into a marked out zone. After a few shaky attempts that ended with me stopping outside the box, either from braking too late or too soon, I managed to get to a stage where I felt that I could brake confidently without jerking my brilliantly patient instructor to the front of his seat.

Following on from the braking lesson, we moved onto the slalom course near the starting grid at the Jackie Stewart pavilion, watched closely by family and friends. The art of smooth and fluid steering, despite seeming easy turned out to be somewhat more of a challenge. Luckily, no traffic cones ended up crushed under the wheels of the car!

With the hour‘s driving almost over, it was time to head over to the starting grid with the other learners to follow in the tyre tracks of the racing greats of past and present, Jacques Villeneuve, Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill to name but a few. Being first in line for the single lap of the circuit, I had the slight pressure of starting off the proceedings and I took the words of my instructor ‘It’s a long straight ahead, go for it!’ to heart and put the pedal to the proverbial metal! Driving around the full length of the circuit is a true honour as you can just sense the history of your surroundings.

Overall, by the smile on my face after I stepped out of the Mini, you could easily tell that I more than enjoyed my time on the track! But the idea of encouraging safe and sensible driving is clearly not just a marketing idea. You do get a sense of how the instructors skilfully show you good habits for when you do reach the open road. Finally if I haven’t said so enough, this truly is a brilliant opportunity, and certainly one not to miss!“

MINI Drivers has more days planned on the track for 20-22 February, perfect for a half term day out and also 20 March, 17 April and 15 May.

For more information about availability and gift vouchers please call 01243 755060. 

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