"Happy Christmas!" said my wife, in the middle of July, on the hottest day of the year so far, as I was about to climb into an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
Perhaps I should have worn a tuxedo, James Bond style...
No, we hadn't won the lottery, and she hadn't bought me the Aston Martin. And it wasn't Christmas either.
However, back in the cold short days and colder long nights of the festive period, my Christmas present from Maggie was a 3-lap drive in my fantasy car. I could have had a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, but she double-checked with my son who confirmed Aston Martins are the ones that make me go weak at the knees.
The company that runs these events does them in different places up and down the country, and this one was on the old airfield of Elvington just south of York. We tied it in with a summer holiday, renting a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales this past week, and headed over there on Thursday at the allotted time.
It didn’t get off to a great start when I turned up to register and discovered that although Maggie had paid for it, they do this sneaky little thing with the insurance. You are covered, but still liable for the first £2,000 worth of damage, should you have an accident. However, for an extra £20 you could get a waiver to cover it. If it had been the first £200, I wouldn’t have bothered, but £2,000 is a hell of a lot of money to find, however remote the risk. Bastards. I paid it, reluctantly.
When it came to the drive, though, it was fun, and confirmed my desire to get one if I ever become a fantastically successful photographer, or we win the lottery. The sense of acceleration and power, combined with style, luxury and comfort was intoxicating. Unfortunately it took until lap 3 for me to really feel I was starting to get the hang of driving the beast, and then it was all over. 5 laps would have been more satisfying. A year would have been better still…
A more desirable car than the Ferrari next to it, to my eyes
Also included in the package was a 3-lap passenger ride with an experienced racing driver, in an Ariel Atom. I’ve never been in anything with that amount of speed and acceleration (0-60mph in about 3 seconds) that didn’t have wings and a pilot. It was superbly enjoyable. I climbed out afterwards feeling light-headed, with a broad grin sculpted onto my face and my pupils reduced to the tiniest of pinpricks.
With no windscreen, you need some protection against hitting bugs at high speed...
Not entirely sure what to expect
I had no idea a car could go round corners so fast and not spin off
Grin sculpted onto my face
No matter how rich I might become, I don’t think I’d ever buy an Ariel Atom: I’d probably kill myself in it the first time I took it out.
I think it’s a sign of aging: 20 years ago I would have sold my grandmother to have a car like that. These days my sense of mortality is much stronger.
The Aston Martin, though...