22.05.08: Playing with supercars at the SMMT test day

Time 3:15 pm, May 22, 2008


MORE fast cars than you’ve got time to drive, two test tracks and a high speed bowl – it’s a recipe for driving nirvana, and Car Dealer’s been there. The annual SMMT test day is where manufacturers descend on the delights of Millbrook Proving Ground for a day of entertaining hacks with their wares.


From Mercedes to Porsche, Audi to Bentley, all the major players were in attendance and I’ve had the pleasure of participating all day.


It’s now coming up to 10pm, and we started out on the road from Portsmouth to Millbrook in Bedfordshire at 5.30am. I’m knackered, but still running high on adrenaline, Dime bars and more caffeine than is medically safe to consume.


Three of us attended the day at Millbrook – myself and two freelance writing buddies who’ll be putting together a collection of road tests from the day for the magazine. For me it was chance to meet and greet, hand out the mag to some industry big wigs and play with some fast cars – and play I did.


Highlights of the day included a Mercedes SL 63 AMG that sounded like a Spitfire. Mash the throttle and the 500 plus horses tear a hole in the atmosphere as it catapults you at the daunting Millbrook hill route at illicit speeds. Technically challenging, the twisty hill section is a series of tight hairpins, sweeping corners and some stomach-flipping climbs. 


It’s a cracking course, and the perfect place to put the fast stuff through its paces. There’s supposed to be a 55mph limit in place and the rather strict marshals get a little jumpy if you really through the hammer down, but you can push the cars enough to enjoy them.


Smoking the SL out of one hairpin was certainly enjoyable, as was breaking traction out of most corners in the tail-happy 350Z. 


I managed to get behind the wheel of a whole range of cars over the day: the new Evo X 360 version (amazing), the Subaru Impreza (ugly, but equally quick), Mercedes C63 AMG (scary), Audi RS6 (surprisingly diluted), and the eight-geared, yes eight, Lexus IS-F that we’ll be featuring in the next issue.


Disappointment of the day was getting to the Audi stand at 12.01pm to find the time slots for the R8 for the whole afternoon had been filled – they started bookings at 12pm. One minute late! Needless to say the blue supercar was popular…


Oh, and one last thing. Although I didn’t get to drive it, I was fortune enough to be taken around the outfield handling circuit in a Porsche 911 GT2 by one of the best drivers I’ve had the fortune to sit next to. It was absolutely amazing – the speed at which this bi-turbo bahnstormer cracked around this tight, concrete-surfaced track was mind-boggling. And the power from the ceramic brakes nearly had me revisiting those aforementioned Dime bars…


Anyway, as you can probably guess it was an enjoyable day and a great way to test some cracking kit back to back. Sadly, it only comes around once a year – I’m counting the days until the next already.


Right, I feel a coffee come down on the way, probably should get some sleep.

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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