A Mediterranean blue sky with a slight breeze blowing so the lush green trees rustled and shushed me as I walked along the narrow country lane to the Ariel Motor Company that is based just outside Crewkerne in south Somerset.
I waited patiently but with trepidation in the reception area as a ‘test driver’ was chosen to take me for a spin, all in the name of research of course.
First the crash helmet, the smallest they had, but alas, contrary to (some) popular belief, I do not have a big head and it was far from snug but would certainly be enough protection. Side flaps down, chin strap clicked.
No doors to open on the Atom, but a high kick and climb up and over the side bar so you are standing on the seat.
Once you have lowered yourself into the moulded seat, then fixed the four-way harness that comfortably but reassuringly secures you into place, the only pre-flight check is to instruct you on the use of the crash helmet visor (useful when driving at speed apparently. I put it down anyway).
Then the journey began. A slow exit onto the road and that’s when I had my first taste of what was to come – just a very little G-force.
Along the A356, there was little chance to get much speed up but every opportunity was taken by the pilot. Each bend that presented itself was met with that determined sure footedness that only a honed high performance car driver can execute.
Just a few more bends, then we reach the left turn that I just know is going to take me to a place I have never been. The A303 stretched before my widening eyes.
Indicator on (this is done with a flick of a small silver coloured switch on the minimalist dash board). Negotiate our way past the car in front then ….. SLAM! The G-force hits you and to the uninitiated, the back of your helmet makes sudden contact with the head restraint of the seat as your body is pushed back with exhilarating speed.
The engine that sits just behind you roars in your ears making the whole experience even more exciting. You feel like you are winning the race, that no one else stands a chance and everyone is in awe of your presence.
All too soon the half way mark appeared in the form of a roundabout, but there was no letting up as the pilot skimmed the circle, I’m sure leaving singe marks in our wake. Then back down the other side of the A303.
But this time the dual carriageway was clear and the acceleration was mind blowing. 0-60 in no seconds, or so it seemed to me. The G-force was incredible. The sensation of driving in an ‘open’ car with your rear end so close to the road surface and being able to see every moving part of the engine that was hurtling you along your journey, is the most amazing experience.
But all too soon it came to an end as the junction for Crewkerne appeared ahead. The little silver switch was clicked to indicate we were pulling off and we were soon back on the single laned A356.
There was still the same anticipation as we hugged the corners and for a finale, overtook a slightly slower moving vehicle to experience once more the pull that the 2.0 litre Honda engine can give.
The final stretch of straight road from Crewkerne back to the Ariel Workshop and it was all over, or at least they think it’s all over …….
I’ve just gotta get one of those …….
Sophia Moseley (copyright)