Road Test: Sideways
It's hard to say whether my nine-year-old son Joshua and his friend Lucas are more excited than the latter's dad, Flavio, and myself at the prospect of zipping around a world-famous racetrack or two. We are in Sideways - home to 15 networked racing car simulators with colourful cockpit, wide plasma screen and headphones.
We write down our contacts so manager and instructor Warren McInnes can e-mail us post-race performance stats. After a briefing we take our seats, and adjustments are made according to our pedal reach. Children should be taller than 1.4 metres as the brake pedal needs quite forceful pushing; to help get some extra oomph, McInnes places cushions behind the boys. Our consoles are set at novice level - auto transmission, and low levels of steering and brake intelligent "assist". Formula One cars, the hardest to control, will not be featuring. We start off in Renault Super Clios, with a familiarisation lap. Warm-up or not, the competition is on and we are racing against each other at track of the month: Essington Park's Grand Prix circuit in Britain. The software at Sideways is a non-professional version of what F1 and other professional drivers use for simulator training. Despite our light computer aids, cornering and not ploughing into each other take some getting used to. As laps go on, control of accelerator, brakes and steering becomes a little more consistent. We move onto the Porsche Carrera 997 class - which feels more like skating on ice: a powerful beast with sensitive steering. Little worry for Lucus, who seems to tear ahead with little of the spinning out of the other three. Becoming adjusted to 997s, adrenaline pumping, McInnes ups the ante with a night race setting.
Our final race-off, in virtual Formula BMWs is the closest contest, with these vehicles a bit easier to handle than the Porsches. Game over, we are exhausted.
Refreshments are available. Participants can buy miniature cups and medals for winners and other race placings. McInnes, who offered pointers throughout the session, gives us feedback. Our lap times and placings arrive by e-mail that evening.
The verdict: compelling, challenging and lots of fun - enhanced by friendly and informative staff, this a good way to let off steam, grab a bit of parent-child bonding time or to consider for a party venue for children over eight.
Sideways Driving Club, LG/F, 1-2 Chancery Lane, Central; tel: 2523 0983; sideways-driving-club.com Rates start at HK$200 per 30 minutes; packages available. Memberships offer simulator hours and discounted rates