300 KM Per Hour in Valencia – My Experience in an F1 Car

The Formula 1 World Driving Championship is the pinnacle racing series in all of motor-sports. The championship features the world’s most advanced race cars whose top speeds reach 300 kilometers per hour and are capable of going from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in two seconds.

I have been a Formula 1 fan for many years. As a college student in Boston, a group of friends and I made it an annual event to drive to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. Those were good times. On race weekend, the city was electric. I could feel the magic of the circus that is Formula 1 everywhere. However, never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to feel the adrenalin rush of actually being in a Formula 1 car at top speed.

Fast-forward twenty years and boom. On a hot sunny day in June, thanks to my good friend Joantxo from the Valencia Tourist Board and Best Lap F1x3, I found myself getting strapped into an actual Formula 1 car before heading out for two hot laps around the Valencia Circuit.

Best Lap F1x3 purchased two Formula 1 cars that the Jordan team used to compete in the 2003 championship. They modified the sidepods to accommodate a passenger on each side of the driver. After a brief overview of what to expect during the experience, I donned a fire suit, boots, gloves, balaclava and helmet, then jumped in.

As I struggled to get into the car that is certainly not built for someone who is 6’ 3” and 200 pounds, the one thing that was going through my head was how the driver mentioned the importance of getting as far down into the car as possible. The reason he said this was so important was because if the wind gets under the helmet at top speed, it will feel as if your helmet is being ripped from your head.

Once in and buckled up, I found myself basically lying on my back. This made me recall when retired Formula 1 driver David Coulthard once likened sitting in the car to sitting in a bathtub. Now very cramped and very hot, my heart started racing as I grew anxious to get going. Not a moment too soon, the crew fired up the engine. I saw the driver’s eyes in the mirror looking for a thumbs up. As I was more than ready to go, I quickly gave him the sign, within seconds, we launched.

I say launched because my heart felt as if it were still back where we started. I have never had a sensation like that before in my life. To be completely candid, for a fleeting second, I was unsure whether I would like this or not. That feeling quickly subsided once we got out on the track and underway.

While not the fastest cars in the world, Formula 1 cars are the quickest cars in the world. As we tore through the course breaking hard into the corners and quickly accelerating out, my view was the same view offered by the actual in-car cameras shown on television. As we rounded the last corner and made our way onto the main straightaway, the driver rapidly ripped through the gears. At this point, I was going 300 kilometers per hour. What a rush!

Making our way around the track again, I remember trying to soak everything up as I knew my experience in a Formula 1 car would quickly come to an end. After rounding the final corner, we went back into the pits rather than heading down the main straightaway again.

As the car came to a stop and the crew rushed over, I did not want to get out. When I did finally step out of the car, I felt like a champion on cloud nine. At the same time, I felt completely drained, as if I had run for miles. Though I was only along for the ride, my legs were wobbly and my hands were shaking.

This was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life and I am very thankful to those that made it possible. Thinking back on the experience as I write this still gives me the chills. Wow. I actually got to ride in the same car that won the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix. Not many people can say that.

Feature Images: John O’Nolan