PH BLOG: PISTONHEADS TAKES TO THE SKIES
Dan gets an unusual view of Goodwood with a little help from Abarth
I'm supposed to be riding up the hill in a Lotus but when the call comes that my plane is ready and a nice chap in an Alfa Romeo is waiting to drive me to the nearby airfield - sorry, 'aerodrome' in Goodwood speak - the boys from Hethel are going to have to get blown out.
The plane is waiting, its pilot - aerobatics champion Mark Jefferies - ready to go and a burly Aussie bloke in a black flight suit holding a parachute standing by. "Are you up for some loops and swoops then?" asks Mark as I'm strapped into the 'chute. Hell yeah! "You might regret saying that," says parachute guy.
I decide to concentrate on the plane instead. Comparisons between the Extra 300 we'll be flying in and your average supercar are actually not a million miles apart. A tubular steel frame and carbon fibre skin are a little behind the curve of the latest generation of mega motors but a Lotus-like dry weight of 660kg and a Lycoming air-cooled flat-six engine with around 300hp invite all manner of pick and choose automotive comparisons. The quarter of a million (or so) pricetag isn't a million miles out either. So, running with that idea, we've got a Lamborghini Muricelago's construction and pricetag, powered by a Porsche engine and with the kerbweight of a particularly stripped down Elise. Or something like that.
As the cockpit slams shut I'm vaguely aware nobody has mentioned what I'm supposed to do with the parachute, though the warning on the ground not to pull the big red handle was probably a hint. We're bumping across the grass in no time though, the Lycoming flat-six smoothing out as the revs build and Mark pulling smartly up in what seems like no time. We circle about as another plane approaches to land and then head over to the house, where I can see the crowds on Lord March's lawn and various cars heading up the drive. Pah, cars. Boring!
Mark's only pulling half of the 10G the plaque on the instrument panel suggests is available, the rapid-fire sequence of rolls - vertical and horizontal - and loops all playing havoc with my spatial awareness. But thankfully not his. "And that's the ground," comes Mark's voice as everything before me goes green rather than blue and the engine revs build as we dive. The view from the bubble canopy is extraordinary too - I can just about make out the engine cowling but apart from that my forward vision is just sky/ground/sky/ground [repeat to fade].
Hands are shaken, my legs wobble a little bit and there are a few raised eyebrows that apparently nobody else seemed as 'up for it' as I did and then I'm back in my Alfa Romeo and dropped, a little dazed, among the champagne quaffing crowds outside Lord March's pad.
Photos: Michael Ward
There is some video from the flight but, frankly, it doesn't show a whole lot being as how it was a fairly hazy day and there's little to give it context. But if you want an idea...