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Caterham Drift Experience at Brands Hatch: Dan Wright tries the Kent circuit's latest driving experience

By Dan Wright

The latest driving experience at Brands Hatch makes great use of an iconic British sportscar built just a few miles from the circuit, as Dan Wright found out

While driving a car around some traffic cones doesn't sound much fun on paper, the latest offering at Brands Hatch is anything but dull.

Using a nippy Caterham Seven 270 assembled at the marque's factory in Kennet Road, Dartford, the famous circuit's new experience is designed to teach punters how to drift the Ford-powered pocket-rocket.

According to Trackdays.co.uk, drifting bookings across the UK have gone up by 59% compared to 2018, making it the country's fastest growing driving experience.

KentOnline's Dan Wright tries the new Caterham driving experience at Brands Hatch
KentOnline's Dan Wright tries the new Caterham driving experience at Brands Hatch

And after spending an afternoon behind the wheel of the tail-happy racer, it's easy to see why the demand is there.

Rather than taking to the track, the Caterham Drift Experience is conducted in the outer paddock, which is packed with competitors during race meetings but sits empty in the week.

The abandoned expanse of tarmac dotted with cones may lack the appeal of driving on the historic circuit, but it provides acres of space to test the machine's handling.

Dan gets comfortable in the rear-wheel-drive Caterham
Dan gets comfortable in the rear-wheel-drive Caterham

Drifting originated in Japan and is all about sliding a car around a course, concentrating on style rather than speed.

It means drivers don't reach eye-watering speeds in the Caterham, as they never get out of first gear.

But that doesn't take anything away from the thrill, as the rear-wheel-drive weapons can still be flung sideways with ease, entering giant slaloms, doughnuts or figure-of-eights in a cloud of smoke if performed correctly.

Rallycross driver Max Weatherley was Dan's guide
Rallycross driver Max Weatherley was Dan's guide

Getting it right is the difficult bit, though, as deliberately chucking a car off balance and then attempting to keep it a lurid angle is a completely unnatural sensation.

To get it sideways, a sharp amount of steering into the bend is required before a quick stab of the throttle kicks the rear-end out.

Controlling the slide is the next challenge, but the Brands Hatch instructors are always on hand offering tips and tricks, helping drivers tweak their technique as they try to dance between the cones.

Taking the Caterham between the cones is difficult
Taking the Caterham between the cones is difficult

"The cars are great because they go sideways at sensible speeds," says instructor Steve Morris.

"Everybody has seen or heard of a Caterham before and now they've got the chance to drive one in a safe, controlled environment.

"They are set up purely for drifting and it means people can experience the limits of grip without having to go too quickly.

"Rather than thinking about lap times, it is all about having fun."

As well as the drift experiences, Brands Hatch bosses are also offering track hire activities, catering for those keen to try a Caterham on the proper circuit.

Drift experiences cost £189 per session. They are available on selected dates and sessions run between 8.30am to 11.50am, 12.30pm to 3.30pm, or 4pm to 7.20pm. Visit www.caterhamcars.com/en/experience or www.brandshatch.co.uk for details.

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