Caparo T1 and Mika Hakkinen on video

Mika Hakkinen Gives John Simister a tour of the Goodwood estate in a Caparo T1. Video and report here

Until last Thursday's Goodwood preview, showcasing July's Festival of Speed and September's Revival race meeting, I had never been driven by a Formula One world champion. But I have now. It turns out he's pretty good. Which is excellent news, given that the car in which he drove me was a Caparo T1 and the roads were narrow strips of tarmacadam between Goodwood House and the farmyard some distance north. No Armco, no run-off, just cattle-grids, trees and the odd parked tractor. Mika Hakkinen waits in the Caparo, two blue eyes peering through the visor of the famous 'Mika' helmet, overalls black and gold not in homage to his first F1 forays with Lotus but as the colours of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, for which he is now the 'responsible drinking' brand ambassador: 'Don't drink and drive, always nominate a designated driver for a night out,' are the messages. Hakkinen was world champion in 1998 and 1999 for McLaren, but to see him in the JPS-like, black-and-gold Caparo would be oddly nostalgic were it not for the fact that by the time Mika was in the Lotus team the JPS sponsorship had long gone. I climb into the Caparo, squeezing into the seat staggered slightly behind Hakkinen's, snug against cockpit side and my driver's left hip. This is the ideal car for the task with its carbonfibre structure, its 3.5-litre, 575bhp, flat-crank V8 and its strong aura of F1 inspiration. It's the trackday version with no lights and little else, and it weighs 575kg. That's 1000bhp per tonne. Excellent. It sounds as you would expect: savage. The 'track' is clear and the instant we're pointing up it, Hakkinen lets rip. Good grief, this is violent. I've been miked-up but I'm lost for words, besides which no-one could have heard them anyway. Mika punches up through the gears and there's the biggest of dentist drills boring right through my head, making my ears sting and my teeth vibrate. I have to keep moving my head to spread the pain, and not let my helmet hit the engine cover because the NVH then increases tenfold. And my brain might dissolve. Here's the cattle-grid. Ker-DUNK! Back on the power, up to 10,000rpm or so on the flickering LCD readout, these trees seem very close but minute steering inputs keep this F1-shaped car where it should be, just as the same hands' inputs did in Lotuses and McLarens. A quick doughnut in the farmyard and we're hurtling back again, finishing up with another inch-perfect doughnut by Goodwood House. At 42, Hakkinen still likes to play. Now we're walking back to the house, helmets off, and Hakkinen is relaxed and happy in a way people don't necessarily remember him. How 'on it' has he just been? 'Oh, about 50 per cent. We have to take it a bit easy.' Was it much like an F1 car? 'You can't really compare the weight and power ratio with an F1 car, because this is a road car. But it has 1000bhp per tonne, which I like.' Did Hakkinen ever drive a turbocharged F1 car, in which the power-to-weight ratio got really extreme? 'My racing was after the turbo era, but I did drive Alain Prost's turbo McLaren in 2003. That was something.' These days he manages new drivers instead of racing, but he's always aware of his past. Particularly his huge accident in 1995, and how he fought back to become a double champion. 'It was a big impact. I think about it every day. I lost some hearing in my right ear; it's not a problem but I can't get rid of it. 'I came through thanks to McLaren and Mercedes, and the great support of the fans. I can't look in the mirror and say "I did it." I am not the centre of the universe, although it would be nice to be. My feet are on the ground.' Even at three-figure speeds on Goodwood's farm tracks…


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