Jenson Button for a day: Now anyone can drive a McLaren around Silverstone

Emma Haslett
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The McLaren 570S is a snip at £146,000 (Source: McLaren)

Showjumper; vet; Spice Girl: those were my childhood career ambitions. And yet here I am, strapped into a fluoro green McLaren 570S, touching 150mph on the Hangar Straight at Silverstone, fulfilling the dreams of small boys everywhere.

In the passenger seat is instructor Elliott Cole, who has spent the day showing me the ropes - how to work out lines into corners, when to put my foot down, and how to signal correctly to let other drivers pass. Which they do, a lot.

Given my chequered driving history (a smashed number plate here, a knocked-off wing mirror there - who’s counting?), the fact McLaren has set me free on one of the world’s most challenging racing circuits in a car worth £146,000 seems foolhardy.

But not nearly as foolhardy as the fact I’m on the same track as one of its now-discontinued P1s - worth upwards of £1m.

Track days are part of the allure of the McLaren brand - it is known for giving its owners a chance to push their vehicles to the limit at frequent outings to tracks all over the world.

But latterly, the events have also brought together its Performance Academy, for track enthusiasts who want to improve on their skills, and Pure McLaren Experiences, for abject beginners like myself.

For just under £1,000, you get a briefing from a safety expert, a half day whizzing around an iconic racing circuit (the brand has run days at Spa in Belgium and Circuit of the Americas in Austin), expert instruction from the likes of Cole, who is not only a professional racing driver, but also a stunt driver, and lunch. You also get to mingle with McLaren owners and chief exec Mike Flewitt and wife Mia, who bring their own cars to the events.

At the end of the day I’m whisked around the track by Bruno Senna, a former Formula One driver who now races in Formula E, to show me how it’s done.

Senna takes his hands off the wheel and looks directly at me as the speedo nudges 180mph on a straight. And as we screech around a hairpin bend, I can’t help but notice the wing mirror on the passenger side clips a bollard. Maybe there’s a future in this for me after all.

  • The session costs £995 for 3 x 15 minute sessions on the track with a coach. For more information visit McLaren's website.

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