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Lamborghini Murcielago Experience

on Sat, 26/07/2008 - 17:00

Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
Thruxton Circuit turned out to be an easy drive from London, although a good 2hours 30mins from the East side. Once you start to get close the track is well sign posted, although you need to be careful to head to the experience centre and not the karting & 4x4 centre. The lane leading to the track was badly broken up in places with some hazardous potholes. Annoyingly I didn’t see one pothole which caused the Elise’s suspension to crack in a truly horrible way. I’ve driven the car several times since and there doesn’t appear to be any damage.

The experience started with a driver briefing session, consisting of a 10 minutes talk from the circuit manager and a 20 minute instructional video (this time it was Tiff Needell going through the track day driving motions). For the first time partners and guests were allowed to sit in on the briefing which was nice, although the video had a few too many shots of cars spinning off to really be very reassuring for them. Following the briefing we split into groups of 3-4 for the demo laps in a Mazda3 MPS. The Mazda was a surprisingly nippy little car; particularly in the hands of the professional driving instructor. We were guided around the track for 3 laps gradually building speed, which if you are not used to high speed driving is a good way to get a feel for things in a controlled environment.

Porsche Cayman
Customer driven warm up laps were carried out in Thruxton’s small fleet of standard Porsche Caymans. I admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the Cayman. I’ve sat in a few showroom examples and talked to Porsche engineers who have suggested they are actually the car to have over the 911, but I wasn’t sure how they would really feel compared to the Elise. I think if I had an expectation either way it was that the Cayman would be too soft and un-engaging. However this presumption was quickly dispelled after my first lap. The car felt completely at home on the track providing a great level of feedback and control. My experience from the Elise allowed me to quite easily overtake everyone else on track including the various Ferraris, Astons and even the Lamborghini. To be honest the Cayman really blew me away by the time I had finished with it and I look forward to the next time I get to drive one.

Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
The main spectacle then arrived, and I was not to be disappointed. Having spent that bit more for a really special experience I was very happy with the format and approach at Thruxton. The instructor walked me out to the latest flagship car to come out of Sant'Agata Bolognese, a brand new 2009 spec Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. I was then given a brief history and guided tour round the vehicle. It turned out that, at the time, there were only two 2009 spec cars in the world and that the other was being used by Christian Bale for the Batman premiers. If you watch the “Dark Knight” about three-quarters of the way through you will see a grey Murcielago that looks exactly the same as the one at Thruxton. After the introduction we settled into the car where I got immense enjoyment from pulling the scissor door closed.
Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
As expected the interior is very luxurious and well put together (although unfortunately we had to sit on seat covers to preserve the leather from all the experience drivers). Adjusting the seat was easy and getting a good driving position no trouble at all. On pulling away the most obvious observation was that the flappy paddle gears had a significantly better feel to them compared to the Ferrari F360 I had driven previously at Silverstone. There was a more tactile click as you pulled back, compared to the spongy paddles in the Ferrari, making it feel like you had really instigated the gear change.

Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
Driving the Lamborghini came with its own distinct version of drama. Being such a big powerful supercar (0-60 3.2s, 211mph top speed) meant you couldn’t really take advantage of the full performance on a busy track, and the track really was busy. The Murcielago was incredibly planted and assured in everything that it did. There was so little yaw that it felt just as grounded going round a corner as it did going down the straights (or at least the straighter sections as Thruxton doesn’t have a real straight as such). Acceleration was brutal and gear changes were accompanied by a kick in the back. I think you would need quite a bit of time to get over the ‘Lamborghini Factor’ before you could really enjoy the Murcielago in its raw sense. Clearly it is a supercar with extreme capabilities and looks to die for but I couldn’t help but feel I had more fun in the Cayman. Perhaps that’s just my personal taste.

Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
The experience was almost at a close and I approached the single seat Formula Renault race car with some trepidation (as did most of the other experience day drivers around me). The single seater was tagged onto the end of several experiences so there were quite a few people preparing to go out. Interestingly the car was covered in Mazda livery, I don’t know much about this category of cars so I couldn’t say if this was or wasn’t a Formula Renault with Mazda livery. I donned my race helmet and gloves (and rather unfashionably tucked my t-shirt into my jeans for Health & Safety reasons). The additional single seater briefing was carried out in the car by a boy that could have only just been 16. That being said he seemed to know what he was talking about and after he had stuffed 5 or 6 sheets of foam behind my back so that I could reach the peddles, almost pushing me completely off the seat, I was ready to go. Pretty apprehensive about starting the car, having seen several people stall on the pit straight, I kept the revs high, balanced the clutch and pulled away. To my joy I set off down the pit straight relatively smoothly. The gears were operated by the right hand and there were four to choose from, 1 & 2 for the pits and 3 & 4 for the track. I enthusiastically hammered it out the end of the pit straight and gradually found my confidence growing with each corner. This was the first time I had ever driven anything of this nature and as such it was a little intimidating, I always kept the car within my limits and didn’t try to over stretch myself.  Disappointingly I had to lift several times to avoid the queue of traffic that started to form ahead of me on the track. It was a shame that my final drive of the day end up being something of a precession but none the less it had been a great day all round.

Would I go back to Thruxton? Yes, I think I probably would, although I would try and pick a time when it is less busy.

You can find out more about Thruxton driving experiences on the Thruxton Racing website