The best seven minutes of my life was, without doubt, in the F1 simulator at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello near Modena, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.
I’m a huge Formula 1 fan and my favourite team is Ferrari. My excitement was palpable. I slid into the seat and the Ferrari attendant lent in close to strap me in, pulling the straps so they were firm. He attached the steering wheel then asked if I could reach both pedals, the very stiff brake on the left and the smooth moving accelerator on the right. Check. I listened to the briefing which included how to use the paddle gear shifts on either side of the steering wheel and what the DRS turbo button did and when to use it. Then he asked which track I wanted race.
Concaving around the front of my stationary Ferrari F1 car were three giant screens and graphics of six race tracks. Being in Italy and of Italian descent, in the Ferrari Museum, strapped into a Ferrari F1 simulator meant there was only one option, Monza. A good choice I was told, as it’s one of the easiest tracks to negotiate.
Lights out and away we go.
Pedal to the metal. I did as instructed and went flat out, too excited to ease up as a bend quickly approached. After oversteering and kissing a barrier three or four times, I got back onto the track. This was a lot harder than it looked. Within moments, I was on a straight. The green light flashed and hit the DRS, watching the speedometer reach 300km/h, 307km/h, 322km/h. The simulator pushed me back into the seat with some force and my harness tightened. This felt real. With my eye on my impressive speed, I didn’t see the next bend until I was in it, a tight hairpin, I hit the skids and went sliding off the track into the gravel. All my weight was on the brake pedal and the harness around my shoulders tightened and sucked me back into my seat which vibrated as the centre of gravity shifted.
Back on the gas and into another straight, maximum attack with DRS assistance, my racing harness compressed me into the seat and I squealed with delighted listening to the unmistakeable F1 engine roar as I clicked up to eighth gear. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up in the pit lane, the car automatically slowing to 60km/h. I pressed the accelerator to the floor, even pumped it a few times, nothing. I just had to endure the restricted speed zone and crawl through the pits as if I’d been given a penalty. I made a mental note to keep left next lap.
After five laps of exhilarating speed, slides, skids and skirmishes with the barriers, my time as an F1 driver came to an end. My adrenalin was peaking and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I immediately wanted to do it again.
- Race Track: Monza
- Fastest lap: 1:40 minutes
- Fastest speed: 322km/h
- Number of crashes: over 20
- Number of corners successfully manoeuvred: 3 (or 7 if you count keeping two tyres on track)
- Likelihood of being offered a test in a real F1 car: less than zero
Cost €25 (about AUD$40) for seven minutes.
Ask ten people what their dream car would be and it’s likely that nine of them would answer a Ferrari, and this is precisely why. So much fun!
An edited version of this was first published in Driven Women magazine