We’ve all seen those racing video games haven’t we? The ones that seem always be in the bowling alley or games arcades near the seaside.
That’s what I was expecting to experience when I visited Classic Race Simulators in Invincible Road Industrial Estate in Farnborough on Saturday (November 26).
But that is certainly not what met us at Classic Race Simulators. I was blown away.
Jim Hill and his team have 10 racing simulators set up in their workshop, four of which loosely resemble the set up you might find at one of these bowling alleys or arcades, but the other ones - my word.
We had the chance to climb in to six replica classic cars and race them round Brands Hatch, Monaco and Monza - but the team say you can race just about any track in the world.
The race tracks are exact replicas and the technology has even been used to get racers familiar with a track prior to racing on it for real.
The controls and driver seating have been designed by Jim’s son, former European and world kart champion, Graham Hill, and the team have even developed software that enables spectators to view the race as if it were on TV.
Climbing in the cockpit is a bit of a task and once you’re in you’re practically lying down - which takes a little getting used to if, like me, you’ve never driven a race car before.
In front of you is then three screens, curved round for an immersive in-car view, and below that your steering wheel and gearbox.
You can drive with the gearbox if you like, but I took advantage of being able to use the ‘flappy paddles’ for the full motor racing experience, and the cars can also be set up to automatic for younger drivers or anyone not used to driving manually.
You then get headphones to put on at which point, to coin a phrase from the great Murray Walker, it’s go go go go!
The in-game graphics are brilliant and you really do get sucked in to the game, especially with the steering wheel giving a bit of kickback when you over steer on those tight corners.
There was a moment when I realised the cars weren’t real and as such, there was no risk of injury, so when my friend in first place lapped me in second, the logical choice was to shamelessly take him out of the game. I asked Jim if it happens often.
“That’s half the fun of it,” he replied.
We also got the chance to have a go on the modern day Formula 3 simulators, which have eight gears and are really difficult to control. The level of detail is such that you also have to take your first few corners easy to warm-up the tyres and you’ll need to warm them up again if you come off the track, which I frequently did.
The cars also have mounts for you to put your phone camera on and we got some great video, and Jim and his team also record every race so you can watch it back later.
It was great fun to give it all a go in a safe environment, the racing is really challenging and plenty of banter was thrown between us drivers.
The simulators can be hired out for up to 30 people and really is great fun to have a crack at if you fancy it. I wouldn’t describe myself as a petrol head but I, and everyone I took along, had a really great time.
It felt a bit weird driving off in my Fiat Punto afterwards though.