With the 2007 motorsport season due to roll into action at Oulton Park, Chronicle reporter ALEC DOYLE visited the circuit for the ride of a lifetime.
WHEN I was invited to Oulton Park for the launch of the 2007 season, I was told to expect a ride around the track.
Learning that I would be going around with one of ex-Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell's sons in a Renault Clio, I envisaged a nippy drive during which I would also interview the rising star.
However, as we raced towards the hard left-hand Cascades turn at 80mph, I realised that my driver, the older Mansell brother Leo, was attacking this track as hard as possible in our turbo-charged French tin can.
'Oulton Park is the hardest circuit in Britain,' he said as he threw the car over the kerbs at the tight Hizzy's chicane.
'It is so much more technical than any other circuit and that is a great leveller. It makes for really exciting racing.'
I could not disagree as I experienced what is by far the most fun I have ever had in a Renault.
Now I enjoy motor sport. I'm not a beardy tinkerer or a guy who dresses in an official team hat and coat when F1 is on, but I watch more racing on TV than is probably normal.
As a result, when the guys from Motorsport Vision (MSV), owners of Oulton Park, asked me if I wanted to go for a couple of laps with Matt Harris in a Porsche 997 GT3, I didn't hesitate.
Once I negotiated the roll cage and safety harness, we were off.
The raw power coupled with extraordinary grip was both frightening and exciting.
If a chat in the Clio was difficult, in the Porsche it was impossible. The noise, like a lion gargling with razor blades, was so loud that conversation was a non-starter. But if it had been, I would have been as coherent as a monkey with a Chinese phrase book.
I experienced fear as we chewed up the corners and elation as we roared up the straights, but one thing was certain - I loved every minute of it.
Finally, as I comically extricated myself from the Porsche, the MSV guys led me straight to a true beast, Damax team's Ascari KZ1R, driven by Jamie Brodie.
This GT3 car competes against the Porsche but is a completely different animal.
It feels eminently more powerful but has none of the control of the Porsche. As a result I truly experienced speed, going into corners believing we may actually fly off the track as the car twitched and writhed through the turns at more than 100mph.
Unlike the other cars I rode in, this was pure racing. The air vents in the dashboard served only to pump hot air from the engine into the cockpit, making me sweat, and the smell was pure gasoline.
As the car tried to leave the road due to some disagreement over the laws of physics, I should have feared for my life.
Instead, I want to do it all over again!