Sometimes, you can get a little cocky. Relative to the general public, you believe your skills to be clearly superior and this can lead to… over-confidence.
I know this because, until very recently, that was me.
Thanks to a *cough* abundance of natural talent and a little experience behind the wheel of some potent pieces of automotive engineering ranging from a 3,5-litre Formula Renault single-seater to, most recently, the McLaren 650S (driving impression on p52), I had backed my skills behind the wheel.
You get used to the cars’ power, speed and handling, and you begin to regard yourself as something of a skilled driver. You talk about over- and understeer using the kind of swooping hand gestures racing drivers employ when they describe tackling Eau Rouge, Parabolica and the Dunlop Chicanes. Thoughts such as: “You know, I reckon if I had the opportunities earlier in life, I could’ve been a pro,” move from the realm of fantasy to serious consideration.
Then you get in a car with an actual racing driver – a young guy like Charlie Hollings. Charlie drives sportscars for a living, including GT-spec McLarens, and he sat next to me while I reeled off a few hot laps of Ascari circuit in Spain during the 650S’s launch.
Then he got in the car and schooled me.
Not only was he much braver behind the wheel than I had been through the high-speed corners, but his brutal braking technique and ability to judge corner-entry speeds made my inadequacies painfully obvious.
What struck me the most, however, was the way in which Charlie handled the car when things got a little out of hand. Once or twice, he overcooked it into a corner and unsettled the 650S enough for the McLaren to become decidedly squirrelly. But, it was his ability to reel it in and rescue what could be a messy situation that made me realise how much I still have to learn.
Modern performance cars – and we drive a raft of them in this issue – are incredibly quick and come equipped with traction aids that flatter your abilities. However, make the mistake of going past what the car’s electronic wizadry can correct and there’s a high level of skill required to save things.
Unfortunately, we don’t always have a Charlie Hollings sitting next to us…