Top Gear Lap Time

Director Antony Weeks explains his day out at the Top Gear Test Track at Dunsfold Aerodrome.

On the 31st October 2015, our Director Antony Weeks made the trip to Dunsfold Aerodrome with partner and children in tow to take on what is arguably the best driving experience available in a standard road-legal car - the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car challenge courtesy of Top Gear Track Experience.

We'll let Antony take it from here...

The trip from the South West across to Guildford was the usual mundane trek and the weather was particular bleak - not looking promising for a quick time, but nevertheless a good couple of hours out to experience something new and the eldest was extremely excited about visiting the Top Gear studio!

On arrival, you park just behind the large hangars which sit between you and circuit and are collected by some friendly staff in minibuses and driven down to the main hangar opposite Nigel's garage (you may recall this from various Top Gear episodes!). Outside was a number of recognisable cars including Richard Hammond's BMW 840i, a couple of Kia Cee'ds and The Stig taking people out for single 'hot laps' in a shiny Bentley Continental GT.

Once signed in, you can spend some time in a 'mock-up' of the Top Gear studio. Some of the set looks the same as the TV set and it's potentially part of the same filming hangar albeit sectioned off to make it considerably smaller. A quick wander round and some photographs in and amongst some other recognisable machinery and you get 5 laps on the 'racing simulator'. Cue an XBox with a considerably used steering wheel and pedal set - nevertheless 5 quick laps later with a recorded time of 1:22.0 and you get the sense that if you can master the sim (which the majority of people there on the day seemed to struggle with) you'll have no problems out on track but it's highly unlikely a 1:22 will EVER appear on the stopwatch!

After lining up outside to await the next available 'reasonably priced car' I was greeted by a familiar face - recently awarded 2015 MSA British Rallycross RX150 Champion and ex. Formula Ford 1600 ace Chrissy Palmer.

Following the mandatory pleasantries, we hit the track for a 'sighting' lap. I'd only get one timed lap so needed to make the most of the time in the seat to figure out the nuances of the car, reference points and dry patches on what was a 'mildly moist' track.

The simulator time seemed to do the trick and the car itself was very predictable for a standard front-wheel drive car so very quickly we were lining up for my timed lap. The plan was to set a time quicker than any of the 'celebrities' on the Hot Lap board (ideally a 1:39) but with a mildly moist track roughly 2 seconds slower than a dry lap I wasn't counting on beating Matt Le Blanc's 1:42.100.

So after a 2.5 hour drive, an hour in the 'studio' this was it. Time to set my lap.

With Chrissy's expert tips around the figure of eight circuit, the car seemed to grip-up in the most unlikely of places including the exit of Hammerhead which dropped me a couple of tenths, but remaining flat through the Follow-Through, a good entry to the last to last corner and a slightly late turn-in to Gambon saw me cross the line setting a 1:40.070 - the fastest of the day by over 4 seconds - just over 2 seconds quicker than the target time of Matt Le Blanc - the fastest EVER mildly moist lap and the 3rd fastest EVER time and only slightly under my goal of a 1:39!

Dry-adjusted Chrissy reckoned we'd have been looking at a 1:38 which would have been quick enough to secure the fastest EVER recorded time by a non-instructor at the circuit in the reasonably priced car! Reasons to be chuffed aplenty!

So now I'm contemplating a return trip in the spring when the weather's far better in an attempt to break the lap record completely! But in the meantime, take a look at the onboard footage of my 'hot-lap'!

Published on Saturday, Oct 31, 2015 by Antony Weeks

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