sasha wilkins aston martin vanquish
If I had to come up with a candidate for Best Day Out, then being invited by Aston Martin to drive their cars, including the Vanquish, around Millbrook, the British automotive industry’s proving ground in Bedfordshire would have to be in the top ten.

I took my father with me – he and I have both driven around Millbrook before in his classic cars – so we knew this was going to be all the fun.

milbrook aston martin vanquish
sasha wilkins milbrook aston martin vanquish

milbrook aston martin vanquish

It’s very, very different driving a modern production car to a classic. There’s always a slight element of fear with, say, a 1952 XK120 – maybe the brakes might fail, maybe you’ll lose concentration for a snap second and the car will veer off course into a barrier or, because the car is so heavy and there is no power steering, you’ll muck up taking the line around a corner and whizz off into the grass – if you are lucky – or over a cliff  if you are not.

milbrook aston martin vanquish

Modern cars lack that element of risk – on-board computers can over-ride stupidity and basic errors in driving, and of course the brakes are instantaneous (no need to pump those babies)  but the smooth speeds you can achieve with seemingly no effort, and the veneer of mental safety this can induce means that is it conversely easier to make mistakes. Which is why no one is let out on their own in these glorious pieces of engineering.

milbrook aston martin vanquish

Here’s my father with an instructor on the winding hill route. It’s arranged in loops with extended gradients of 7, 11, 14, 17, 21 & 26%. Parts of it are terrifying: no visibility as you crest hills, and uphill corners to really test your skill – and the car.

milbrook aston martin vanquish

milbrook aston martin vanquish

milbrook aston martin vanquish

Millbrook is one of Europe’s leading independent technology centres for test and engineering for the automotive, public transport, energy and defence markets  -it’s a quite unique place: 700 acres  in which everything from tanks to buses can be tested in the most rigorous of settings over 70km of test tracks.

sasha wilkins aston martin vanquish

The tests include a banked high speed circle, a sprint lane, and a hill route full of adverse cambers and corners, all of which we got to drive.

milbrook aston martin vanquish

On the day that we were there I saw an enormous military vehicle lumbering its way around, a coach and all manner of production cars. Because it’s a test facility, all camera are banned and even our cellphones had stickers applied over the camera lenses in the coach on the way in – you can’t drive yourself onto the site either. So all these images are courtesy of Aston Martin-Lagonda and their photographer Max Earey.

milbrook aston martin vanquish speed bowl

One of my favourite parts of Millbrook is the 3.2km (2 mile) circumference banked high speed circle. There is a point  (above) where, at 100mph/160kph, the combined power of the G force and the car’s engineering is such that you can take your hands off the wheel and place them in your lap and the car will keep on driving around the bowl at that speed.

That moment where you take your hands off the wheel is truly terrifying:  it takes a phenomenal act of will to remove your hands from a deadly machine against everything your mind and body is screaming at you to do. It’s not quite as terrifying bowling along at that speed with your hands in your lap, but it’s still pretty scary.

milbrook aston martin vanquish speed bowl

Apparently if I set the car on cruise control I could perfectly feasibly climb onto the back seat.

NO WAY.

And then, and just as oddly, when I gently decreased speed with my hands still in my lap, the car moved further and further down the circle until in a couple of circuits we were in the lowest lane and ready to come off on the slip road. An utterly bizarre experience – and testament to the handling of this amazing car.

milbrook aston martin vanquish

This part of the day was incredible: a 1.6km (1.0 mile) straight and level road with downhill approach at one end, which is  basically  a strip of road designed to test acceleration and braking. You set off and immediately hit the gas pedal. And keep on doing so. I reached 146mph before I braked, but still think I slightly bottled it – my father made it to 165mph before he slammed on the brakes.

Huge thanks to Aston Martin-Lagonda for a truly sensational day out from both my father and myself.

milbrook aston martin vanquish

milbrook aston martin vanquish

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4 comments

Reply

What a fabulous father/daughter outing. I’m amazed at all your technical knowledge plus your ability to look chic under all circumstances!

Reply

145 on the straight! Not too shabby! Nor for your dad at 165. Even with all those technical advances it has to still be a heart pumping experience. Reminds me of Bond in” Casino Royale ” minus the airborne and roll scene of course!! Eva Green really picked a bad spot to have a lie down 😉

Keep on motoring and all the best
James

Reply

I don’t even have a car at the moment – but this sounds an amazing day 🙂

And that bowl sounds a cross between terrifying and curiously interesting!

Reply

What an amazing outing – that’s some serious ‘daughter points’ earned there! I love myself an Aston Martin (but I’m too stupid to drive without killing myself) so a modern ‘dumb-safe’ one could be just the one I need. Thanks for adding another lust-have to my shopping list, Sasha! x

Jasiminne / Posh, Broke, & Bored – Luxury lifestyle blog

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