Although the cycling season is done and dusted, our riders have been keeping themselves busy in various imaginative ways this autumn, and Alex Dowsett is certainly no exception. Dowsett is a huge fan of fast cars and hit the track at Silverstone recently as a 23rd birthday treat from his parents. Armed with a laptop and camera, he was also typing and snapping away throughout the day and sent us this blog to let us know how he got on:
The track day came about as a surprise present from my Mum and Dad, and when I told Mark Cavendish about it, he was keen to get involved as well. That proved to be a good move too because once the guys at Silverstone found out he was coming they gave us a bit of extra time on the track, so a big thank you to them for that!
Unfortunately the M1 was pretty busy that day though, which meant Mark couldn’t get there in time for his practice runs. His loss was my gain because I got to use his track allocation on top of my own, so as bad as I felt for him, I didn't complain too much!
To start with my instructor, James, took me out in a 220bhp Renault Clio and taught me how to drive a car properly around the famous Grand Prix circuit. Being the cocky guy I am when it comes to four wheels, I thought “Hey a little Clio? No problem!” but oh, how wrong I was!
I spun it twice in spectacular fashion as I struggled to get to grips with the beast under the bonnet, but once I’d eventually got the hang of it, I overtook a Nissan GTR and a Ferrari 430. That probably says more about the quality of my tuition though and less about my driving! James was happy to let me take the car to its limits on a damp circuit, and I’m glad he had that faith in me.
With the Clio safely back in the pits it was on to the single seaters, and although they only had around 160bhp in their engines, the fact they weighed under 500kg meant they were still very, very quick!
Mark had arrived by that point and the fact he’d done a track day before showed when he cruised away at the first time of asking while I stalled my car three times in a row.
Thankfully, I got the hang of it slowly but surely, and I was surprised by how much the car felt like a go-kart once I’d got it going. It was a very different experience to the front-wheel drive Clio, which required much more finesse than the punchier single seater!
For the whole time we were out there we only spun our cars once apiece, and given our fast and competitive natures, I’m sure the staff were shocked and relieved to get their cars back in one piece.
The most important part of the day was about who had clocked the fastest lap, and when the moment of truth came we waited anxiously for the news.
Mark had set the benchmark pretty high with his time of 1min 06sec in the pouring rain, so you can imagine how delighted I was when I found out I’d pipped him by less than a second!
Mark didn’t take his loss well and insisted it wasn’t a track record because his personal best the last time he'd come was a second quicker and in seemingly worse conditions (though I only have his word for that!). Either way, I wasn’t complaining - it's not every day you get to say you've beaten Mark Cavendish!
Joking aside, he actually took it in his stride pretty well and is very keen to do it again. Whether that's to turn the tables on me or just for a bit of fun remains to be seen though, but we're both competitive guys so I guess the former is probably more likely!
All the best,
You can keep up with all Alex's adventures by following him on Twitter at @alexdowsett