Driving full-pelt towards a solid-looking wall is both terrifying and exhilarating but that’s exactly what you get from a day at the Mercedes driving experience at Brooklands hotel in Surrey.
With my pedal to the floor I could see the speedometer sweep up past 60, 65, 70 miles per hour and yet my instructor was yet to tell me to brake. What was he waiting for? Just as it seemed we were about to slam into the wall and end our lesson – and lives – prematurely – he finally said: ‘Brake!’ and I slammed on the brakes with all my force. The car immediately – and it seemed, magically – slowed to a halt with none of the screeching, fishtailing or general chaos I was expecting and in plenty of time to drive smoothly around the wall obstacle. What had I been so terrified of?
‘Let’s do it again!’ I shouted, giddy with adrenaline. So we did.
I had wanted to do the Mercedes-Benz driving experience at Brooklands track in Surrey ever since I had enjoyed a stay in the Brooklands Hotel just next to the circuit. The roar of engines and sight of cars zooming and skidding around the track had looked like great fun, and given the opportunity to return to Brooklands Hotel and try out the driving experience for myself, had jumped at the chance.
There are 25 different Mercedes-Benz driving experience options on offer and I chose one which combined off-road driving with the fast track, called the Best of Both Track vs Off-Road 1 Hour Experience. The check-in at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands was very smooth and in just a few minutes I’d been signed in and met my instructor for the hour, Gareth.
We headed straight for the off-road circuit and climbed into a Mercedes-Benz GLE250 which was vast compared to my own Fiat 500 and packed all sorts of punch thanks to its four-cylinder twin-turbo engine. Driving around the 10-acre circuit with its axle-twisting hills, dips, puddles and foliage reminded me of the Jeeps in Jurassic Park (without the T Rex, of course) and one point seemed just as terrifying as I drove down the ‘ski jump’ near-vertical drop. Gareth pressed a few buttons to show off the GLE’s automatic braking but it still felt like a leap of faith to drive out into thin air.
It was soon time for more nerve-jangling as we swapped the GLE for a Mercedes-AMG 43 and the sheer fun of driving at speed round the fast circuit was hard to beat, especially once I’d gone round a few times and worked out where to floor it and when to ease off the gas. Trying for the smoothest, fastest lap became a target to aim for each time and was so absorbing that I could have done it for hours, whooping with delight when the car felt as if it were about to take flight.
Under Gareth’s calm tuition I tried out all aspects of the track – the handling circuits, wet straight and ‘dynamic straight’ (the ‘driving very fast towards a wall’ bit) and ended up trying to master the art of the skid which was great fun but scrambled my brain trying to work out which way to turn.
The hour flew past but was such fun that a day at the Mercedes driving experience at Brooklands in Surrey is guaranteed to put you on a high for the rest of your stay and meant I practically floated out off the track and into the Brooklands Hotel which was my home for the night.
The Brooklands Hotel in Surrey is a four-star, 131 bedroom art deco-style hotel built on the site of the original Brooklands racetrack. Opened in 1907, the Brooklands track was the scene of the earliest motor-racing in the UK during the 1920s and 1930s (remember those racing scenes in Downton Abbey? They were filmed at Brooklands). While the original track closed in 1939, guests at the hotel have a great view of cars zooming round the Mercedes-Benz track which is at the front of the hotel.
First things first and we headed straight to the bar for an appropriate drink of Brooklands Goldstar ale – recommended by the exuberant Italian waiter – to recover from the adrenaline rush of the driving lesson. Then it was time to check into our luxury hotel suite before heading off to the spa to get thoroughly pampered.
We had been allocated a ‘track-facing super suite’ and ours was the Noel Pope suite, named after the motorcyclist who recorded a mind-boggling 124.5 mph lap of the Brooklands circuit in 1939.
Check out these other hotels with racing links – one car and two horse-racing!
Our super-suite hotel bedroom
It was vast, with a lounge area containing a large sofa, dining table and chairs, a separate area with a desk and fitted wardrobes, and the bedroom itself, of which was a large and smart bathroom. A balcony ran the length of the room and provided great views of the track we had just been zooming around.
The spa experience at Brooklands
The spa at Brooklands Hotel is handily located in the hotel itself and had been expanded since my last visit, including a larger hot tub on the outside terrace – again, providing great views of the Brooklands racing circuit – and a delightfully-womb-like indoor meditation room with heated waterbeds. There are a whole range of spa treatments at Bspa including massages, facials, scrubs and body brushing, as well as beauty treatments such as manicures, pedicures, eyelash tint and eyebrow shaping.
Sunlight therapy room at Brooklands Hotel
The newest addition is the Sunlight Therapy Room which uses ‘sunlight’ simulators’ to replicate natural sunlight and, according to the brochure, has all sorts of benefits including increased blood circulation, relaxes muscle tension, stronger immune system and an increase in energy. We were given a half-hour slot and arrived with sunglasses at the ready (although there are sunglasses to borrow if you’ve forgotten yours).
It was like being at an indoor beach, with bright sunshine, plastic loungers and lots of magazines to read, and while I’m not sure about any longer-lasting effects, I certainly enjoyed the experience and felt very relaxed afterwards while catching some actual sunlight on the balcony loungers.
Dining at Brooklands Hotel
The high-speed racing track experience and the afternoon spa pampering had worked up an appetite so it was time to head to the 1907 restaurant. I remembered the food being good from my last trip to Brooklands and thankfully it remained so, with everything from the hummus and soup starters, to the whole-baked sea bass papillote and ribeye steak full of flavour.
Judging by the packed restaurant we weren’t the only ones enjoying the 1907 service and we even treated ourselves to a white chocolate and rhubarb souffle and passionfruit cheesecake, followed by a couple of excellent Old Fashioned cocktails at the well-stocked bar before heading to bed.
Breakfast at 1907 is a more informal affair, with a buffet-style breakfast, but at least that meant more time at the spa and some more hours of sunbathing before hitting the road again – this time back in my Fiat 500 rather than a top-of-the-range Mercedes. However with me I now had a memory stick with my driving experience recorded for posterity, in case the adrenaline from that blood-pumping experience should ever fade.
Hotel information and how to book the Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience
Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience, Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey.
Check website for lessons, bookings, special offers and how to find it. My Best of Both Track vs Off-Road 1 Hour Experience costs £180 for 60 minutes.
Deluxe rooms at Brooklands Hotel start from £139 room only. Use of the Sunlight Therapy room is included in all spa day packages and overnight spa packages. It can be added to non-spa break packages for £15 or a guest can book a 45 minute treatment during their stay and the £15 will be waived on the day of their treatment.
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