German GP: my ride with Kubica

Formula One drivers don’t get out enough. That’s the feeling you have when Robert Kubica is let loose in a BMW M3 CSL for a lap of Hockenheim – with me in the passenger seat, trying to commentate into a BBC Radio 5 Live mike.

F1′s political correctness was forgotten as my driver behaved like a complete hooligan and did things you should never try at home.

Kubica, dressed in jeans and trainers, had ambled up the car and paused to
take a look at the Michelins. There was hardly any tread worthy of the
name; basically, we were on slicks. He seemed happy about that.

I should have know what I was letting myself when he got sideways – leaving
the pit lane. They had opened a hole in the pit wall and we left rubber
onto the pit straight – and each time he pulled a gear on the manual
six-speed box.

The first corner is quick a F1 car but I didn’t think that would be the
case in the M3. Big mistake.

The brakes were cold, as we discovered when the rear snatched viciously.
Not that it mattered. My man had it under control – in fact, as I was to
discover, he probably wanted the car to get out of line as he aimed for the
apex, kissed it and ran onto the outside kerbs before flooring the
throttle, making a small adjustment to his driving position – as you do at
100 mph – and powering toward Turn 2.

I’ve a couple of seconds to gather my senses before, wallop! Hard on the
brakes, into the right and the quick left that follows, seemingly using
more kerb than Tarmac. Now onto the fastest part of the track, a long, long
left heading towards the slowest corner. The speedo rises quickly towards
240 kph and then over it. That’s 150 mph plus. No problem.

This time, I’m ready for the braking. Or so I thought. The microphone chins
me as my head takes a dive to my chest. We’re darting and weaving under
braking before swinging right, his right foot stabbing the throttle,
desperate to get on the power again.

Sixth gear and, ahead, a left that is taken flat in a F1 car at about 170
mph. I’m shouting: ‘Can we take it flat in the M3! Can we?’ Another big
mistake. He tries it.

I’m watching his blue and white trainer on that pedal. It’s
flat….flat…flat. Then he has to lift, just a smidgeon – as you do when the
back steps out at about 140 mph. By the time I’m over that, it’s
chin-in-the-chest time again as another hairpin arrives far faster than I
had ever imagined. I’d all these smart-arse comments planned for each
corner and I haven’t a chance to come out with any of them. Everything is a
blur as more acceleration follows.

Loads of kerb at the apex, plenty on the exit of the fast right leading
into the stadium. Robert is into his rhythm now and there is an audience in
the grandstands. So he performs.

We come through the Sachs curve sideways. But he’s saving the best for
last, a sequence of two rights. Kubica throws the car broadside before we
get there, his hands flying round the leather wheel like he’s in a rally
car on gravel, the white BMW responding to his synchronised demands on
throttle and steering. He’s clearly forgotten the pit lane entrance is
actually on the apex of the last right.

No, he hasn’t. We enter the pit lane sideways. And hard on the brakes -
very hard on the brakes – to avoid a queue of cars that wasn’t there when
we left. Engine off. Lingering smell of rubber. Silence. Save for the
ticking of metal and cheering from the grandstand opposite. They loved it.
So did I. So, clearly, did the hooligan on my left.

You can hear my hysterical screeching on Five Live Formula 1 this evening.

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