Driver Blog

The whispering Rocket blog by John Paterson

Hello and welcome to my blog,

I have been lucky enough to have the chance to run the first Lightning GT prototype on the Technology Strategy Board’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator Competition. I’ve had this wonderful car in my possession for around 4 months, now.

We recently took the car to the Goodwood Festival of Speed; the build up to the event was incredibly busy. The car had new stiffer rear springs and the dampers were adjusted to stiffen her up even more, plus a new set of stickers and stripes added to her black paint finish meant she was ready to impress during the 6 runs up the Goodwood Hill Climb. The whispering Rocket looked resplendent in her new war paint and the driver wasn’t looking half bad with a new hair cut and full Lightning gear.

Wednesday soon arrived with the usual pre show panic, it doesn’t matter how well prepared you are - there is always something that gets forgotten or goes wrong at the last minute. This one was no exception!!!

We get to Goodwood at 10.30pm and set the car up on the stand.  Then we looked for somewhere to lock the car trailer up for the weekend. Trailer safely chained to a tree at the race course, we head to our B&B.

Next day: up at 6.00am so we can get to the circuit for an 8.00am start. Why do TV and radio people always want to start at stupid o’clock when the show does not finish until 7pm?

The weather is hot, very hot, the sun is blazing down and we quickly realize that a black car is a heat magnet. It also proves to be a big people magnet with lots of interest from the show goers. Most of the day was spent talking to the press and a lot of wealthy car buyers.

Much to my disappointment we were not allowed up the hill on the Thursday but instead were sent to Scrutinising where the car was inspected to see that she was safe to run. All our gear, crash helmets and clothes were good to go to. We all passed with flying colours and now have some fantastic Goodwood festival of speed drivers passes, stickers on my skid lid. (Very cool down at my motor bike club). The car has a set of three stickers on the windscreen too.

The best bit of scrutinising is that it takes place in the famous Black Rock drivers club. The walls have pictures of all the greats adorning them for as far as you can see.

We strolled up the 300 meter red carpet lined with classic Ferraris and 300 gull wing Mercedes cars. How the other half live?!

Our first run was set for 9am Friday morning. As we waited the nerves started to build, you become aware of the crowd and the TV people and the whole atmosphere that is building up all around you.

You inch up to the tape that is held by a marshal in a white suite. They check to see if you are wearing all of the kit that was checked yesterday. They stop us for not having our sleeves rolled down and our arms covered. (It was Hot!)

Dressed correctly we get to the start line and are counted down from 10-0 and you are off up the hill, the first corner is long with a short straight to a sharp flick right, foot planted in the carpet you go up the hill in front of the house past grandstands with thousands of people all looking at you!!! (My Bon Jovi moment) under the Goodwood bridge and remembering yesterdays drivers notes you count down 1000, 2000, 3000 brake hard, very hard, steer left.

Malcolm corner appears from nowhere, if you wait until you see it you’re in the straw bales or the grandstand?  Foot flat down again and a dab of brake for the right hander at the start of the Pheasantry (the big flint stone wall that everyone remembers from the TV coverage) the corner is tight and made harder because of the camber change and the light, dark, light, dark, nature of the tree lined corner, you burst out of this light dark tunnel into blazing, blinding, sun light,

Then you brake hard into a sweeping right hander as you come over a crest and the car jumps and you hurtle into a dark forest with tall trees that cut out the light.

Then as soon as it has begun, you are at the top and through the finish line all in one bit.

As you come out of the trees you get to a loop at the top of the hill, this is where the F1 star’s do there burnouts to the two grand stands at the top.

All of the cars wait at the top to form up for the parade back down the hill. It is not until you reach the top and look back down do you really get a sense of just how steep the hill is. 

This is when it hits home just what you have just done! As you look around to find you are parked next to Horacio Pagani in the new Huayra and then next to him, is Lewis Hamilton in the new McLaren MP4. Jason Plato is doing doughnuts in a convertible Comaro. (A surreal moment indeed) 

As you come back down you see the crowd for the first time, there are thousands of people clapping.

Jason lights up his tyres again and the road is gone in a sea of choking burnt tire smoke. Brake as you nearly stack it into the blue Roller with Lord March or Adrian Newey driving.

This scene is repeated as each grandstand is, all the way down the hill.

Then back to the stand and get ready for it all to start again at 1.30pm for the afternoon show.

Big boy’s day out YES? And one of the ten things you should definitely do, before you die.

All the best JP