As many of you know I’ve followed Formula One for many many years now. I stay up late nights and wake up very early to catch each practice and qualifying. I watch the race on my computer, the tv, and follow everything on the F1 app on my iphone. To say I’m a nut is an understatement but I love every little detail about Formula One and when I got the phone call to get my butt to Austin to test drive a Formula One car, I dropped everything as I knew this would be an opportunity of a lifetime.
So as I let the family know I was going to drive an F1 car in Texas the next day, I booked a red-eye flight and a hotel by the river in Austin. I was told I didn’t need to bring any equipment with me so I packed lightly and made sure to bring my good cameras to document the entire trip.
Before I even try to make sense of the experience I’d like to thank the people who helped make this happen. Pirelli North America and Rafael Navarro, Victor & Marco from the ID Agency, Henrique Cisneros or Momo Motorsports and Jean Paul Libert, co-founder of the GP Experience.
As I landed in Austin, I noticed the forecast was spot on. Overcast and Rain. I haven’t been to Circuit of the America’s yet so I was super excited to finally make it to the track.
This is the race tower. Looks like a ramp of some sort and luckily theres an elevator cause it looks like its quite the trek by foot.
Henrique Cisneros (Momo) & Victor Carillo (the ID Agency).
Henrique pilots the MOMO/Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia built by NGT.
Look at the way the air channels thru the car.
What a great looking 458.
The GP Experience has each participant suit up using brand new equipment and learn about the track from understanding racing lines to ride alongs and then by taking all that knowledge and jumping in the F1 car and driving to your limit.
About to get in the car with Henrique who is an awesome driver.
911 991 GT3 Cup Car. So good.
Notice the Fatlace & Illest stickers on it. Thanks guys!
Before I got behind the wheel of the F1, I was told I needed to do a ride along so I could get an understanding of the track. From photos and television, you cant really tell how steep the hill of turn 1 was but driving and seeing it in person is totally different.
What an experience! Ok, it was my turn to drive one of the Lotus themed F1 cars.
Jean Paul getting all the drivers on the same page. It was raining so we needed to understand that we were using wet tires and it was extremely slippery on the painted line. “Stay off the berms” was the most repeated words before getting in the car.
As you can see, COTA is full of turns. 20 to be exact. Memorizing all 20 is quite difficult, especially if its your first time on track. I would need about 25 laps before I could start remembering the markers.
Jean Paul really helps you understand what you’re about to experience. I really liked the fact that it wasn’t as difficult as I would have thought to drive one.
Rooster tailing! I remember seeing this in so many races. To experience driving on an F1 track in the rain was amazing.
Ok, now it was my turn to get in and drive like I stole it….
But first.. Shaka!
Learning what not to touch when driving.
Explaining to me that I have that much play in the clutch before it dies. All day long people didn’t understand that you needed to keep the rev’s up and hold still while releasing the clutch. Its like a balancing game. I used to have an old 996 Turbo that had the worst rock solid clutch out there and everyone I knew who I let drive either stalled or looked like they were jerking like crazy. It wasn’t as bad as that car and I was off!
Back in the pits I was talking with JP about the experience. I apologized for spinning out of turn 14 on my last lap. I guess I was pushing too hard and after reviewing the tape, I downshifted after the turn which spun me out.
Nice to see media there asking each driver how their experience was. I definitely will not forget this day.
Ok so let me tell you what I was thinking in this photo. First, I’m sitting in one of the side pods and right behind one of the tires. Doing a ride along while sitting in one of the pods was insane. I felt I personally wasn’t driving the track fast enough after doing the ride-along but now that I’ve done this, I really know the limit of these cars. Next time!!!
COTA is an incredible and safe track. It’s wide and long.
A few candids of the car.
At the end of the day, everyone receives a certificate and trophy recognizing you’ve driven an F1 car. I feel really blessed to have been given this opportunity and its something I’ll never forget.
The following are extra photos from the day, enjoy!