“YOU lucky sod” was the first of many similar, albeit more colourful and less printable responses I received when I told people what I was up to last weekend.
Scotsman Motors was treated to an Extreme Supercar Driving Experience at the Royal Highland Centre (RHC), at the Ingliston Circuit, Edinburgh. This was a morning like no other: the welcoming and trusting staff at the RHC, Supercar Drive Days and Gift Experience Scotland let us loose in some of the most exotic metal in the country, including the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Ariel Atom, Nissan GTR, Aston DB9, Audi R8 and the Ferrari 458 Italia.
And that Atom, with its Honda- derived 3.0-litre supercharged engine can accelerate from 0-60 in a trail-blazing 2.8 secs – only a sneeze slower than an £840,000 Bugatti Veyron.
Aside from being a truly stunning experience, the point of it all was to highlight, remind and showcase that motoring has finally returned to the RHC after a period of dormancy.
The Royal Highland Showground was a home for motorsport dating back to 1965, when the first official race took place, opened by Grand Prix World Championship winner Jim Clark, who had won the second of his two world titles only months before.
The boot-shaped track with its tight corners, chicanes, a long straight and fast uphill swerve made for exciting spectating. The following 27 years, up until 1992, saw many famous faces nurtured there including Allan McNish, Dario Franchitti and David Coulthard, comprising 31 seasons and around 160 races. By the close of 1994, however, motoring events stopped as they were no longer financially viable.
Iain Nicolson, a fan of the track who has catalogued its history on his website (www.ingliston-circuit.co.uk), told me: “In July 1966 the reigning King Hussein of Jordan [himself a motor racing fan] visited Ingliston during his official visit to the UK. For many years afterwards, the King Hussein Trophy was awarded to the winner of the main race of the day at one of the Ingliston meetings each year.
“Ingliston will arguably be best remembered for its ferocious saloon car races, populated mainly by Minis and Hillman Imps – these small, fast cars were ideally suited to the tight track, and provided close and exciting racing.”
But now, after 19 years, motoring has returned to the RHC in a big way. And it’s about time. The director of the RHC, Archie Glendinning, says: “We are experiencing a surge in the number of track-based events at the Royal Highland Centre. As a general rule, if it’s got wheels we can hold an event on the track. Our long history of holding motoring events at the Centre is something we’re very proud of and we’re keen to utilise the track as much as possible.
“In addition to car experience days, we also hold car rallies and club meetings, cycling events and corporate product launches on the track itself. We offer value, flexibility and a central location, and plan to grow and develop track events that are second to none.”
Boasting a cavernous 18,000m² covered exhibition space, the RHC is comfortably Scotland’s largest indoor and outdoor event venue, and, situated right next door to Edinburgh Airport, it is more easily accessible than other purpose-built racetracks, too.
Phil Wardle, co-owner and managing director of Supercar Drive Days, says that, unsurprisingly, the car events have proven extremely popular. “Customer feedback has really been fantastic and many have returned for more.
“We’ve got a contract for our second year running at Ingliston and we have around eight weekends remaining up until November,” he says.
From the cars available on the day, the all-new £250,000 Ferrari 458 Italia was the one that grabbed most people’s attention. Everything from its sensational looks, Formula One-inspired technology and cabin, the instantaneous paddle-shift gearbox, matched to performance that will shake you to your very core, made for an unforgettable few laps. Wet eyes guaranteed.
Personally, it was as close to the perfect car that I will realistically drive in my lifetime, and I struggle to imagine how the aforementioned “BugVey” could do better.
The driving packages on offer start from £89 for the Ariel Atom Challenge, up to £189 Premium Supercar Driving Experience, enabling you to choose four supercars to drive, as well as a “passenger hot lap”. The only time I have seen more happy faces in the one place was at a Rolling Stones comeback tour gig in 2004.
These supercar events are only part of it. With so many different motoring activities happening, and with more in the pipeline, the potential is great, especially as Ingliston historically helped to establish motor racing in Scotland as an accessible and increasingly popular activity with the general public. It seems only right that they continue in the same vein.
Vouchers for these track days are available from Gift Experience Scotland