Let's Race Surrey: racing simulator review
I have always wanted to be a Formula 1 driver and that dream lasted right up until I crashed into a barn when I was 14 years old. It was very much a sign that I was not going to rubbing shoulders with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel any time soon.
Born to perform
Now being resigned to being nothing more than a judgemental fan, I leapt at the opportunity to try out the Let’s Race experience in Horley. It was time to dust off those racing gloves and re-ignite my Formula 1 career. The principle of the experience is that you’re in an extremely realistic simulator. The cars move with and against you; whether that’s sliding around a sweeping third gear left hander, or under heavy breaking. It’s relatively inexpensive as well, with prices starting at just £5.00 and with plenty of options, from your corporate business days to a splash-and-dash lunchtime extravaganza.
After watching Martin Brundle assure you that motorsport is dangerous, you climb into the car, bolt on the steering wheel and you’re ready to go. It’s the closest that most of us are ever going to get to driving a proper racing car, and every part of it feels like you’re joining the elite of motorsport drivers.
We got two sessions, one qualifying session and then a race. The first session in truth is mostly about getting to grips with the car. The amount of focus it requires to keep the car on the track alone is incredible. It’s unlike any PlayStation game you’ve ever played – but that’s the best bit. It’s unforgiving, if you get a wheel onto the grass you will spend the next ten seconds wrestling with the steering wheel to try and stop the car from swapping ends. Then there’s the realism. You feel everything; every rumble strip, every inclination, especially every accident. You’re not sat in your living room in your underwear; you’re in a racing car feeling every bump, every braking point and holding your breath for every potential overtaking opportunity.
Burn baby burn
The three screens in front of you give a brilliant impression of the speed you’re supposedly travelling. It’s hard to tear your eyes away from the one in front of you, especially when you’re struggling to keep it on the road, but the blurs of scenery from the other two make it feel like you’re actually going the one hundred and fifty miles an hour you know is possible. Every braking point is an accident waiting to happen, and if that doesn’t get you, the proceeding traction zone should get you reaching for reverse. But boy is it brilliant fun?
After taking a recess to churn through some telemetry, it's race day. The big one. Watch the five lights go out, drop the paddle to upshift into first gear and you’re away. Hit the first apex, coax the acceleration on the exit, no one can catch you now. You cross the line victorious and see the chequered flag. But it’s a hollow victory. The real victory would be sitting in that monocoque and racing all day.
59 Brighton Rd
Written by Dave Howells.