Cherry Pop Talking With Ben Collins

NewsPosted on 5th July 2016

Ben Collins, formally Top Gears ‘The Stig’ made his debut appearance in Time Attack last time out at Brands Hatch  and so we thought we’d run some questions by him to see what he made of it all.

  • How did it feel to pop your Time Attack Cherry at Brands?

My first Time Attack event was a lot of fun and although it was my first TA event this was hardly my first barbecue. I think what impressed me most was the relaxed atmosphere and the variety of cars competing in the event. Everyone was focused but having fun at the same time.

  • Guessing from your time at Top Gear as The Stig and getting the best times from all manner of cars, Time Attack must have been a natural step for you in terms of the philosophy of Time Attack ?

I certainly felt very much at home jumping in a car for the first time and rinsing the best time I could from it because that’s what I’ve done with Top Gear for 8 years and subsequently on various car shows, not to mention 20 years of racing. I really enjoy driving something different and figuring out what makes it tick in a short space of time and both the Ford Fiesta and the Focus handled extremely well around Brands. I can’t wait to see what they can do around Oulton Park which is my favourite British racing circuit.

  • What part of the competition did you like most?

I really like the focus on lap time from one session to the next because you can concentrate on maximising that one element, rather than thinking strategically about how the balance will last over a race distance. Going for a one lap wonder is one of the most thrilling parts of racing and with Time Attack it’s the be all and end all.

  • Coming in as a guest driver for Project CARS as a one off, how did it compare in your view from say racing and the cross over from the Sim?

The gap between reality and virtual reality is getting very blurred thanks to Project Cars and it’s been a privilege working for them as a physics and handling consultant. My job is to make the simulator feel like a real car and enable gamers to drive intuitively. When you add Oculus rift goggles or even a smart phone headset into the equation, the experience is so immersive that it has to be tried to be believed. When I crashed the sim at Oulton Park, virtually not really, I tucked into a brace position when I hit the virtual wall. That’s how real it feels.

Hopefully I can steer clear of the Armco this weekend…

  • If you had free choice of a car and spec for future events, what would be your likely car choice from your dream garage?

From the dream garage of road cars I would take out the Porsche Carrera Gt – Porsche’s one and only mid engined Supercar with a screaming V10 engine. It’s a phenomenal car. From my dream race garage I would deploy the Ascari V10 LMP1 car that I raced in 2001/2 because it remains the best driving experience of my life. The crowd would need earplugs though as she was pretty noisy.

  • Have you caught the Time Attack bug enough to return in future to Time Attack?

Yes! I’m coming back this weekend at Oulton Park and will be signing copies of my book “How to Drive” on the Saturday so I look forward to catching up with Time Attack fans and seeing if I can set the fastest time in my class.

  • Beyond your own car at Brands, was there a particular car that inspired you in the pits from a rival team/driver?

Someone told me that there were cars in the pit lane with 800+ horse power which is insane. My mission this weekend is to find out which ones and try to steal the keys when the owner’s not looking

  • For someone new looking at Time Attack, what valuable advice would you give to get started out for the first time?

It’s surprisingly easy to get started in Time Attack because the event format is so welcoming. You can enter your car in the open sessions which are available to the public. That way you can come along and see if this is the series for you. I would say this, but another top tip would be to learn the ropes on Project Cars where you can practise timed runs in a range of cars at all the circuits that Time Attack visits. Just don’t beat my times or I’ll get upset.

Ben will be once again driving the Project CARS Fiesta ST at Oulton Park this Saturday and when not on track you’ll find him in the pits throughout the day. We’ve also teamed up with Ben to offer the chance for one lucky winner to take a passenger ride out with him during a public track time session. Entering is easy, when you arrive at the pay gate and get your free event program, you’ll also receive a numbered draw ticket. At 12.15 Ben will be at the Time Attack merchandise tent in the main paddock to pick the lucky winners ticket from a hat and the ride is planned take place later in the afternoon.

Eligibilty T&C’s apply for the free draw and for winner participation you must be 18 or over and able to participate in accordance with all that may be required for you to do so. Time Attack reserves the right to refuse providing the ride under any circumstances it see’s fit . This draw will include being a passenger in a racing specification car and a personal indemnity of participation will be required.

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