It's not every day that someone whose only experience of racing has been in front of a television or watching from beyond the limits of a racetrack gets a chance to get behind the wheel of a racing car.
That too on an F1-grade racetrack. Yours truly, a complete novice with no racing experience whatsoever, was one such person at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.
Getting a taste of the hot seat
The Race Polo used for the Volkswagen Polo R Cup is intended to encourage grassroots racing and as far as the pros are concerned, is a car that can be pushed without too much concern for losing control.
As far as this writer was concerned, however, it was a bit overwhelming given the racing-specific seat, steering wheel and seat belts designed to keep a driver from moving around in the seat while cornering. The lack of creature comforts and soundproofing also gets the pulse racing, especially when you turn on the engine and hear the un-muffled sound of the exhaust. Sure sounds like the real deal.
A Formula 1 fantasy comes to life
Rolling down the same pitlane where the likes of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel roared out in their F1 beasts last October is even more of a thrill. The thrill continues as the car comes out of the pitlane and onto the wide straights and corners of the circuit.
It may be a modified road car but feels nothing like its road-going version. The steering is far more direct and you can feel the car give you a little kick every time you change gears and slam the throttle.
This writer got lulled, however, into daydreaming behind the wheel and thinking himself to be a bit of a Schumacher. Big mistake.
The car spun as it was thrown into a corner at too high a speed. Twice.
Thankfully, however, the spin occurred at one of the safest racing venues in the world, and not during some nighttime joyride on a public road. So an unforgettable experience of a lifetime continued and my envy of professional racing drivers increased, as well as my appreciation of their abilities.
Not to mention an appreciation of their fitness and conditioning as the inside of the car turned into a bit of an oven and the sweat started to pour.
Difficult to let go
I didn't want the experience to end, but end it did. As I walked away I felt the hot rubber of the car's tyres to get one last sensation of being around a racing car.
Do not turn down the chance to drive a racing car, you will not regret it.