Sunday, 6 January 2013
Aptitudes run in families. Ours was driving. Passing driving tests first time was obligatory. The requisite gene, I am sure, was my mother's. She rode motorcycles in the war. Father wasn’t very good, but my eldest brother had whatever visual acuity or sense of balance that makes a natural driver. He never lost the keen spatial awareness and skill he showed in a rally car. Or a Challenger tank I put him into in his 70s. Son Craig shows the same sort of natural talent, masterminding yachts at Cowes or in Atlantic races. Daughter Joanna showed it as a teenager on horses. Daughter Charlotte? Well, she kept her head tumbling out of aeroplanes, much as eldest brother did a generation ago.
He didn’t crash. Kind man showed him the reverse switch only once and he backed up, counter-steering, as though he’s been doing it all his life. He leaned into corners, obeyed the traffic light and was totally unafraid. His great-grand-mama would have been so proud. But she’d be completely unsurprised. It was as natural as riding a motorcycle.
I started driving seriously aged about 12. All my family did, and I have long been convinced that the foundations of a long and safe career at the wheel are laid long before you are 17. Great credit then, to Mercedes-Benz for giving 118,000 under 16s their first drive at Mercedes-Benz World. These young people have driven around a million miles since the scheme was launched in 2007. The only requirement is to be tall enough to reach the pedals of an A-class. There is guidance from professional driving coaches in 30-minute or one-hour Driving Experiences, which extend to dynamic handling and skid management.
The youngest under-16 to drive at Mercedes-Benz World was a tall-ish seven year old. What a great use for the historic Brooklands track.
Dear Teddy. You could be behind the wheel again inside three or four years.