You may remember that during the summer, when I visited the Williams F1 factory, I wrote about a competition run by Philips where you could win a chance to drive a Williams F1 car. Last week, the lucky winner of the Philips Driving Academy drove the Williams FW29 round Silverstone for five laps.
That person was Rob Tarlton, a 21-year-old Aerospace Engineering student from Chicago. After taking part in the tough online challenge, he had to survive a three-day assessment programme along with several other finalists, including his twin brother (that must have been particularly satisfying)!
Having won the final assessment, he was off to Silverstone. After a series of briefings from Williams team members and driver Kazuki Nakajima, and some laps in a Lotus Exige and a Formula 3 car, he got the opportunity to take the 2007 Williams F1 car round the circuit. He reached 178mph down the pit straight — rather him than me!
While the notion of an everyday person winning a chance to win an F1 car made some people scoff, it was always promised that the winner would be allowed to progress steadily, with a great deal of preparation. Rob Tarlton said:
By the time I got in the F1 car, I felt very comfortable with the track and available grip levels so began to work way my way up safely without having to worry about going over the limit or going off the track. I was focused on working my way up slowly and not trying to do too much too fast, and also to have a good time.
I felt really safe in the car and ready for the experience. The AT&T Williams team did a great job of preparing me. The previous day we had done a lot of simulator work (at Grove) where the guys there were able to keep a really close eye on you and give a lot of instruction. They really helped instruct on the racing line and turned down the grip levels so I could experience realistic track conditions as we knew Silverstone would be cold and damp.
Congratulations to him. I entered the competition myself, but found it very difficult indeed. It was a real challenge, so he must have been a worthy winner!