9 min read

Silverstone single seater experience

Ayrton Senna reborn, I am not..
Silverstone single seater experience

Earlier this year, my girlfriend Sonia bought me the Silverstone Single Seater experience for my birthday. I deliberately delayed booking it until a time when there would be a better chance for a dry track.

As an F1 fan, I’ve always wanted to try a single-seater, open-wheel racing-style car, so I was super excited about this. I had also never been to Silverstone, so I wanted to make a bit of a day of it, which I’ll talk a bit about towards the end of this post.

For the experience itself, there are a few requirements:

  • Age 18+
  • Between 5ft 2 and 6ft 4
  • Maximum weight: 114kg
  • A full driving license for at least 1 year.

There are a few other requirements for the day itself, like appropriate footwear and clothing (long sleeves, no shorts, etc).

The cars are ‘formula-style’ single-seaters, weighing roughly 500kg, with 140bhp, a top speed of 145mph, and a manual 4-speed straight-cut gearbox. You’re not on the main international circuit; you’re on the Stowe circuit, which is a substantially smaller track within the main circuit.

On the day

For my experience, I turned up roughly an hour before my allotted slot. You’re taken in for a 20-25 minute briefing at the start of your slot, which gives you a brief lesson on the best lines to take through the track (racing line), an explanation of the car, and various rules and safety information. It was an enjoyable briefing with excellent instructors.

They do make it clear that whilst it is reasonably safe, you are still in an open-wheel car with a decent amount of power, and things can go wrong quite spectacularly (anyone who has watched open-wheel racing can tell you what can happen when the wheel of one car goes over another).

The various waved flags are explained (yellow, red, blue, checkered, etc.), and again, for most racing enthusiasts, most of this is reasonably well known. They broadly use the same definitions here too.

You’re given rules on when and where you can overtake, which is on any of the two straights and when a blue flag is raised for the car in front. If you’re shown a blue flag, you have to keep right and slow down, letting the car behind overtake on your left.

After the briefing, you’re pretty much immediately taken out to the cars and assigned to them based on your height, as it seems some cars are preconfigured to be more suitable for people of differing heights. Once in the car, an instructor comes over, straps you in, and briefs you on the controls, all familiar to anyone who has driven a manual car before.

The main difference, and this is one that is explained at length in the briefing, is the gearbox. It’s a straight-cut, ‘proper’ racing gearbox, H pattern. So as expected, changing gears takes some getting used to—it’s not all that easy to feel which gear you’re in, and you have to give it some force. The instructors rock the car back and forth for you whilst you get a feel for the gears before the car is started up.

Finally, they brief you on how many more revs you need to give the car to get going—2.5-3.5k before you start lifting the clutch. Given the emphasis on this in the briefing, and how they recommended you basically give it way more than you expect, and it being fine to wheel spin on your getaway, I suspect this is something many people understandably struggle with.

Once you’re familiar and you’ve started the car up, they send you out in groups of three behind a pace car, one after the other, so you’re all out on track at once.

Getting going

After all the fuss made about how difficult it can be for the layperson to get these cars going, I was determined not to stall like a few of the others who rolled out before me did. Thankfully, I didn’t; it was a lot easier than made out to be—I think just ignoring your intuition of your day-to-day road car is the key here. I didn’t want to wheel spin out whilst there were cars in front, so I focused on a smooth start, and that seemed to be around 3-3.5k RPM.

Once out and on the track behind the pace car, your task is just to follow the line of the pace car and get comfortable shifting gears. It had rained a few times that day, including about 20 minutes before our session, so getting some heat into the tires and brakes was also an objective, as the track, whilst mostly dry, was a bit slippery in some sections.


Following the pace car out

Following the pace car out, the pace car gradually speeds up to give you more space to shift into 4th gear on the straights. You only really need 3rd and 4th gear once you’ve got going out on the track: 3rd for the corners, 4th for the straights. All fine so far.

My impressions of the car were great. Sitting so low down, feeling the vibrations of the engine, even at these low speeds you could feel a pretty high level of grip. It’s a brilliant sensation.

After around 10 minutes, the pace car comes in, and you follow it into the ‘pits’ and line up ready to start your free track session, which lasts 20 minutes—potentially a little longer depending on the schedule.

On my way out, I got stuck behind a few slower cars for a while, but then was released to go for my first attempt at a fast lap. It was pretty good for the most part, though I had to again slow in the final corners as I caught another car.

Dreams were dashed

However, something I learned when throwing the car through the corners at relatively high speed: my stomach told me I’m not destined to be the next Ayrton Senna. I am very sensitive to motion sickness; I get seasick, car sick, sick on roller coasters, etc. I had worried a little about this experience in the past because of it, but I thought I might be fine because I’m the one controlling the car—like in a road car, when I’m driving, I don’t get car sick.

But it’s a different beast when you have relatively high grip going around a track. I threw it into the corners as fast as I would dare given it was my first attempt at a fast lap on a slightly damp-in-areas track, and after a few corners, I was feeling a little queasy. Catching a slower car in front gave me a well-needed break to recover, but the marshals had seen I caught them quickly, so in the final corner, they waved blue flags at that car in front to let me go by.


Me going for an overtake on a slower car after they were shown blue flags to let me by.

So I went again and went for another fast lap, throwing it into some of the initial corners quite quickly again. I caught another car and overtook them on the straight and created a gap to them. I saw I was catching another car in front again, but this time decided to hold off intentionally so I wasn’t forced to overtake—my poor stomach needed a break.

I was envisioning a Mark Webber moment for myself and thought I should recover for a few laps before going again. On the following lap, I slowed down further to let a car behind overtake me.

Despite all this, despite the feeling of sickness, it was still so exciting that I just kept wanting to push. I never managed to get a great lap in, as I seemingly always caught slower cars in the last sector of the track, but there was satisfaction in improving in certain corners—particularly the chicanes. The hairpins, I felt, I never really got right.

I kept trying different lines coming onto the straights to give me enough time to try and get close to that 145mph top speed. I have no idea actually how fast we got, nor if it’s really even possible to approach that speed on that track, but it felt very fast in a small, light, low-to-the-ground car. Slamming on the brakes and shifting down to 3rd at the end of the straight was a fun sensation. The wiggle and slide from the wheels locking up slightly as I learned when to ease off the brakes before going into the chicanes was so much fun.


This is one of the few laps where I had someone in front of me who was also going relatively quickly and could maintain the gap on me, so my lap time wasn’t limited by traffic, just my weak stomach.

The above video comes from the additional £40 you can pay for a full video recording of your entire session. The length of the video I received was 40 minutes, so pretty much exactly as advertised. They record the video regardless of you prepaying/booking for the video package; if you didn’t prepay/book, you can just pay later to unlock your video.

The quality is pretty good. I have compressed the video above, so it has a bunch more artifacts than it does without the additional compression. The sound is dominated by wind noise, unfortunately. It would be good to see if they could shield the mic from it a bit more, or even have a dedicated mic wired up to pick up more engine noise and less wind, but I know there are sensible reasons for keeping this stuff simple.

Towards the end of my session, I was starting to feel sick again, so I eased off quite a bit and just focused on enjoying the experience rather than trying to better my lap times. The checkered flag waved pretty much at the right time; the 20-minute free session is enough—a single Formula 4 race is just 20 minutes long too.

I think it says a lot that I really do want to do this again despite feeling a bit ill. I’ll go again, and this time I’ll avoid eating a heavy meal before, like I did this time.

We stopped at the Silverstone Refuel cafe. I had a Gerhard Burger (A+ pun), Sonia had the vegan Hamilton burger. Both were pretty good, but they were also substantial, and that almost definitely didn’t help.

The Silverstone Museum

Before the experience above, we also went to the Silverstone Museum, which was enjoyable. Perhaps not as substantial as I was led to believe by the website, which suggests the average stay is “3 hours,” but perhaps that also includes having a walk around the track outside and spending time in the gift shop and cafe.

I’ll not go into too much detail as to what’s in the museum—it’s worth experiencing museums for yourself—but the interactive elements were pretty cool and good for kids, I reckon.

The museum also has a fun little panoramic video experience at the end, with fans and rumbling seats to add a little immersion.

After the museum, we watched an ongoing Caterham race. I wasn’t expecting to see any racing on the main track when I booked this, so again—a great bonus. The Silverstone museum and vantage point from where you can see the track is around Luffield, Brooklands, and Woodcote. We saw a spin and crash, so a bit of excitement around there too.


We did also catch some more racing with some proper touring cars overlooking Stowe, but didn’t get as much time to watch that as we were there for the driving experience.



It was great to finally see Silverstone. I will get here one day for an F1 race and maybe some other series too. The driving experience was so good that I really want to go again, and I almost definitely will. If you’re even remotely interested in racing or cars, then it’s worth considering.