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Driving F3000 cars with Jean Alesi – a Fans’s view
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Driving F3000 cars with Jean Alesi – a Fans’s view
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Oct 2010   |  12:08 pm GMT  |  15 comments

On the way back from the recent Singapore Grand Prix myself and Fan Ambassador Neil Donnell were lucky enough to be part of a group of media and fans taking part in a unique two day event, learning what it takes to be a F1 driver.

The event was put together by the organisers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and involved driving a range of vehicles around Yas Marina Circuit.

Starting out with karts we worked our way up a ladder to F3000 cars, with F1 legend and 1989 F3000 champion Jean Alesi as our mentor. This video shows what happened when we took to the track in these wonderful cars.

Read Neil’s account of the experience below the video window and see if you can guess who is spinning out…

Neil Donnell writes:“The Formula Yas 3000 experience at the end of Day 2 was just sensational. Having worked our way up from karts, stepping into the Yas 3000 car just felt perfect. I have goosebumps just thinking about it now. The whole driving experience was exactly as it should be; strapped in, low to the ground, engine behind you, paddle shift and those big slick tyres right in your face.

“As we trundled up the pit lane in a line following Jean Alesi I thought to myself ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’

“l was cautious through the pit lane exit tunnel (as you would expect) but then as I accelerated up the hill the car just came alive, it was just so responsive with kart-like steering directness plus rapid gear changes and acceleration. Even though I was alone in the car you could almost sense the delight coming from the other cars in the group. Everyone realising that these cars were going to be brilliant fun.

“Jean was supposed to control the pace and I was surprised at the pace of the ‘exploratory laps’ but it all made sense when I realised Drag Racing champion Rod Fuller was number two in the line, right behind Jean! It didn’t take Rod much time to start pushing whatever car he got in and Jean wasn’t going to hang around with someone in his mirrors. He soon got carried away, racing Rod meaning that James and I had to push very hard to keep up!

“It took me about 2 laps to get comfortable and then I started to attack the braking zones and corners. Over 4 or 5 laps I only felt like I got close to the limit of the car in a corner 2 or 3 times, with the back end starting to get a little loose but nothing too scary. The car had a lot more performance left in it, especially under braking and cornering. I could tell that driving one of these cars on the limit would start to become a very physically demanding task. The long straight offered some respite to take in the awesome surroundings and that beautiful orange glow that envelopes the circuit late in the afternoon, but even that was accompanied with some quite heavy crash helmet buffeting at high speeds.

“As you can imagine, I was really disappointed to see the chequered flag come out to signal the end of the session, with my adrenaline flying so high I felt like I could have stayed out all day.

“An experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

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15 Comments
  1. Andy W says:

    Looks like an amazing experience, did you actually get to race the F3 cars, or were you just experiencing them?

    1. James Allen says:

      F3000 cars. No we were supposed to follow at a certain speed, but then Alesi got carried away and it became very fast.

      1. Rich says:

        That’s what happens if you put an F1 driver under pressure! I remember once being driven around a circuit at Bruntingthorpe by Johnathan Palma in a JPM Caterham. Half way down a straight I lent across and shouted ” I was worried that it was going to be terrifying…Not bad really” What a mistakea to makea

      2. Andy W says:

        Did you or Neil feel that you would have been able to push the F3000 cars and even race them? Or was that just out of the question?

        Looks like you had a fantastic time, wish I could have got (like everyone else who reads your page I am sure).

  2. Dan says:

    Just curious- What sort of output are those Jag V6s getting? They clearly are more muffled than the “proper” F3000 Zytek V8s which shriek like F1s, and the cars looked sluggish on acceleration in the video relative to what I’ve seen F3000 cars do in races. I’d still give a pinky finger to have been there, they just seemed a tiny bit slower than I expected…

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, some of the footage is of the group Alesi took after ours, when he’d been told not to go so quickly. The earlier shot of the two cars blasting out onto the main straight – that was our group!

  3. Rafael L says:

    So….Jealous….

    Very, very cool James :)

  4. Robert Lujan says:

    Very lucky man Niel. I am happy that he won and has written about such a great experience. Well Done!

  5. jonrob says:

    How were the brakes James? Did they work ok at low speeds (relatively speaking, no offence intended) or did they either fade or grab or maybe they put soft pads in for his type of event. How hard do you have to push the pedal, is it vacuum or power assisted ?

    We still have not got to the side by side double cockpit car seen in the first montage, which looked rather LMS orientated, what was it?

    1. James Allen says:

      They were usable. The car is very driveable generally, detuned I guess for our use, but still fast enough for me. I could have stayed in it all afternoon. It was a total pleasure.

  6. Bayan says:

    Very very very very awesome. I’m super jealous. This video is awesome. When’s the next competition James? WOW!

  7. MonzaOne says:

    What a wonderful experience and with one of the most exciting “Villeneuve-like” drivers!

    I think Alesi would have best suited the 1970′s into the early 80′s.

  8. Luke Osborne says:

    Hahahahaha That shot is funny, Rod chasing Jean down the straight. I would have been the same! How often do you get to have a run with an F1 driver!?!

    They even made it easy for you with the brake lights on the rear wing. Alot harder when there’s no lights to guide you!

    Would have been fun, but they should have upped the speed a bit to whatever you felt comfortable driving. Plodding along like the 2nd group did is boring, and doesn’t give a true picture of what they’re like.

  9. Relativity says:

    Exciting stuff!! I have watched the three-part What it takes to be an F1 Driver in awe so many times. This has got to be an amazing experience. I race a BMW M3 here in the US but I cannot even imagine how an F3000 car with full ground effects will feel like. You lucky folks :-)

    Now how about a competition like this for your international audience :-)

  10. Frenchie says:

    Many thanks Neil and James for your account of the two days at Yas Marina circuit.

    I have very much enjoyed both videos and Neil’s diary.

    Of course, very jealous, but at the same time glad that Neil is able to put his experience in writing in such an Dan Brown-esqie manner. A very easy read.

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