I ask Kim from Aston Martin two things. Will I fit in the seat; and do you have a race suit big enough? I'm certainly no racing snake, But Kim assures me I'll be able to squeeze through the roll cage and into both the Rapide and V12 Vantage racers that took class podiums in the Nurburgring 24-hour race earlier this year.
I do fit - just - but it's tight in there, and Aston's usual attention to detailed craftsmanship has gone to hell. Inside the Rapide the dash is a ramshackle collection of road car switchgear and toggle switches. There are no fine wood veneers or leather, and I don't remember the steering wheel coming off the last Rapide I drove.
That was about half an hour before, around Silverstone's National circuit. It was wet and, as all 10 laps underlined, very slippery. Factor in my limited experience of racing cars (I've driven two prior to today) and it's no wonder I'm a touch nervous.
No wood veneers here
Flicking the ignition switch and pushing the starter button only adds to the nerves. The 470bhp, 6.0-litre V12 engine fires up with a more purposeful note, as the Rapide's weight loss plan removed not just the leather and wood niceties, but a good deal of sound-deadening. It's so much more physical; the vibrations and the sound ricocheting around the bare, caged, interior fill my ears and shake my body even though I'm helmeted and strapped in tight.
The brakes and grip amaze. Accelerating out of the pit-lane exit at Copse the reduced weight and excellent traction is apparent, though it's when I reach Maggots that the brakes and grip come into play. I've braked where I had done in the road car. Never has there been a better demonstration of how much more effective racing tyres, 500kg less weight and a set of racing brakes are. The Rapide loses all its speed at the mere brush of the brake pedal. I have to get back on the accelerator to make the corner. It's amateur hour at Silverstone, but at least I've 10 more laps to get it right.
Each one just gets better and better. The Rapide is so forgiving and so easy to drive. I lean harder and harder on the brakes, feeling the big four-door around Silverstone's greasy surface. The feedback is immense, the detailed information coming through the steering wheel rim allowing me to find every last bit of grip and understand exactly what the car's doing. The grip and traction from the wet tyres is remarkable too. Compared to the previous laps in the road car the track now feels dry. Thank the tyre's need to last just 100 laps rather than 10,000 miles for that. There's no slack in response; turn the steering wheel and the nose goes where you want it, so the speed that can be carried into, through and out of the corners is difficult to comprehend at first.
Kyle is not pleased to drive the Rapide...
Ten laps flash by before I'm called in. Chris Porritt, one of the drivers who drove this very car at the Nurburgring 24 hours is there to greet me. He's interested to hear what I think. My incoherent babbling emphasises my limited race car experience. He agrees with one thing though: the big Rapide is a cinch to drive; even I could understand how 24 hours in it would be a joy.
The V12 Vantage, with its serious aero and nastier growl doesn't look so friendly. It's nicknamed Kermit - can you guess why? It looks pretty scary despite sharing its name with a friendly puppet and has more power than the Rapide - at around 510bhp - and a shorter wheelbase.
It's similarly tight inside, and again the cabin has been stripped out; a cage, a racing bucket and ball-crushing belts replace the lovely stock interior. It's angrier-sounding too, and there are three pedals here; the V12 needs some fancy footwork compared to the automatic (paddle-shifted) Rapide.
It turns out to be everything that the Rapide was and more. The intensity level raises significantly, though my fear that the shorter wheelbase would make the Vantage more of a handful does not materialise. Porritt admits that the Vantage's proper aero aids it here, the Vantage feeling as planted and as friendly as the Rapide. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to gearboxes and my first heel-and-toe downshift at Maggots - braking left much later now - is rewarded with a clean cog swap and a rasp as the engine revs rise. Back on the accelerator and that same enormous confidence-giving feel through the steering, the extraordinary grip and stability allow me to push the Vantage as hard as I dare.
Fortune practises 1000-yard stare
Not really hard enough on the first lap if I'm honest, but by the fourth or fifth I'm finding a rhythm and getting faster with every circuit. Again, it's all over too quickly. I really could have stayed in there all day. Or indeed, 24 hours. Any chance of that, Aston?