It's been a week since Craig Lowndes took us around Eastern Creek Raceway -- hitting 270km/h in the process -- and we're still tingling.
Craig Lowndes' V8 Supercar rushing down home straight.
It was a bright, clear, rather sharp winter's morning when we arrived at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway. The previous night we were fanging Ferraris around Switzerland -- albeit on a PlayStation. Nothing, though, could prepare us for what lay ahead. You see, no matter how stunningly vivid and life-like the PlayStation 3's rendering engine is, nor how crazily accurate Gran Turismo HD Concept's vehicle dynamics are, there are certain things that can't be recreated in a computer game.
Like the smell of burnt high-octane race fuel -- we got a massive whiff of it every time Lowndes' car returned to pit-lane. Nor could a computer game ever give us the same heightened state of nervous anticipation that we had as we sipped our boiling hot tea. And it's highly unlikely that we would ever bother donning a fireproof jumpsuit, a helmet and a pair of gloves to play Gran Turismo.
Even though we were listed to go fourth, it seemed an eternity before we stepped into Lowndes' car -- rather inelegantly, we might add, over the thick metal bars that comprise the car's safety roll-cage. Lowndes' crew strapped us in tightly, cameras click-clacked, the door slammed shut and the engine roared back into life. And then, within an instant, we were accelerating out of pit-lane. Each gear change sending a massive jolt through the car, and our body. The gear changes, though, did provide a millisecond's respite from the forces which were pinning us to our seat and relocating stomach closer to spine.
Through the first corner, Lowndes didn't let up; the pedal nestled firmly against the metal. The sensation was akin to a much faster, much more terrifying version of a rollercoaster. By the second or third corner, reality sunk in: the man in the driver's seat was a professional, the car was doing his bidding -- even when it did a little sidestep out of the corners -- and nothing was going to go awry. Hell, by his standards, he probably wasn't even going that fast.
The fearful grimace on our face turned into a wide-eyed grin and we were -- mentally at least -- urging him to go quicker. Somewhere down the home straight, we supposedly peaked at 270km/h. We had no way of verifying this, however, because our eyes never ventured off the road. As quickly as it had begun, our two hot laps were over and we were trundling slowly, though still rather noisily, down pit-lane.
Rather reluctantly we stepped out of Lowndes' car. We looked back in admiration at the car and the driver that had propelled us around Eastern Creek with such great pace. The car which looked like a loud, lowered and logoed taxi was, in truth, a very different beast to the garden variety Falcon which might give us a ride home after a big Saturday night out. Gone not only are most of the interior bits, but also the entire engine and suspension package -- replaced with race-bred components. So, for those of you interested, here are some vital comparative stats.
So did we ask Lowndes what his favourite gadgets were? Or ask him about where he thought tech was taking motor racing? No and no. All we managed to stammer out was a very dignified, "Thanks for that Craig, that was bloody awesome."