Driving experiences from Red Letter days – any good?

Now, this opinion piece is only based on two (very different) experience days. It’s very possible that I might have got the extreme ends of both of these experience days, and that this article is slightly biased. With that caveat in place. Let’s get to the meat.

Red Letter Days Ferrari driving experience (Stafford)

Ferrari 360 Modena

Ferrari 360 Modena

The red letter day (£99) was at the Stafford activity centre. Now, having checked their website, nearly all the other venues are real race tracks as opposed to this activity centre, which was basically an oval track, and a small one at that. Four right turns and a ‘chicane’. Never out of third gear (or at least that’s what by instructor said). 6 laps of the ‘track’ and straight back off. I didn’t really feel like I’d got to know that car at all, or even warmed up. They may say an hour on the site but that’s total, you’re only talking 10-15 mins of track time maximum.

So, the driving experience wasn’t spectacular. The customer experience then, was even worse. These companies of course want to put as much through in any given day. As a result when I arrived I was amongst a good 20+ other people for that time slot. Packed into a small room with a queue to present your driving licence and voucher. It felt a bit like the queue to get on an easyjet flight – not a pleasant or rewarding experience. Out of there and then  into a new pen for the driver briefing, short and sweet.

Overall, a disappointing experience.

Porsche driving experience, (Silverstone)

Now, to the opposite end of the spectrum. At just shy of £300, we are in a very different place in terms of price, I recognise that. The experience though, is suitably different. I was invited by one of our clients so myself, Adrian and Chris went down to meet Mike (a long time Porsche client and enthusiast. We were being treated to the standard Porsche driving experience in the 911 Carrera.

Porsche 911 Carrera

Porsche 911 Carrera

We were greeted by one of the Porsche guys by the door and signed in before being led into the main atrium where three fantastic cars were on display – a Panamera, a Boxster Spyder and and a Cayman. You could have a look around them all, sit in the seats, play with the switch gear (the Panamera was in particular an amazing vehicle to sit in). The guys even demo’d the (slightly comical) roof putting on mechanism for the Spyder. Great food and coffee was available and a great building and facilities – well put together, great staff, very very pleasant experience.

Then came the driving. Now the Porsche track is their own and separate to the Silverstone track, and is right next to it. While we were there, there must have been a Ferrari owners club day there as there was a plethora of beautiful Italian metal flying around to help distract us as everyone had a go on the track. The track itself has a number of elements including an ice hill, kick plate, a circuit and a low friction area. These are all really interesting areas. The kick plate is where you drive on and then the kick plate slides fast to move the rear wheels in a random direction. You have to try and control the ensuing change of direction – great fun. The circuit is useful and has some different corners to help you understand the car. The ice hill is similar to the kick plate and is all about traction and control. All of these areas of the experience really mean you learn more about the car, it’s capabilities and your own. It’s an actual challenge!

With around an hour of actual driving time, this is a lot of time with the car and a one-one instructor who will tailor your experience to what you want. Want to master the kick plate? No worries. Want to just do track time? Yes, sir. Our instructor was great – patient, knowledgeable about driving as well as the car itself. I could go on. Very different to the red letter day where the Ferrari’s engine light was on.

Conclusion

It’s a simple one – you get what you pay for. In this case,  I believe it’s not just that, but you get much more value from the Porsche experience. Now I’m not a great fan of Porsche generally – not enough passion for me, Ferrari’s are my thing. Yet the difference in experiences was staggering and the Porsche day was superb in every detail.

In my opinion, go for a non red letter day experience and get advice from people who have been on these days, and in particular, the one you’re thinking of going on.

About Rob

I'm just an average petrolhead - I love cars and do a lot of get as much driving experiences as I can out in the world from test drives to track days.