You may be too old, too poor or both to become a Formula One driver. But having a go in a Formula 3000 car is by no means a hand-me-down, as Ben Griffin found out at the PalmerSports Autodrome while testing the new Motorola G6, G6 Play and G6 Plus. Having been a phone reviewer before I became a motoring journalist, I know how technology events work. Turn up (late, usually), eat canapes, drink champagne, get dirty fingerprints on a something that isn’t yours. It’s the same as motoring, basically, minus the booze. So when Motorola invited me to drive a Renault Clio Cup and a Formula 3000 single-seater, which is unusual for a phone launch, I found myself waking up at 5:45am to get the train to Bedford Autodrome. If anything was going to keep me awake, it was pretending to be Lewis Hamilton. As it turns out, we would be driving the full 1.8-mile Bedford circuit and not the smaller variant. To become acquainted, a manager at PalmerSports gave us a quick sighting lap in a minibus (as you do) before it was time to slide on a helmet and head out in the souped-up Renault. Deciding to be brave, I joined group one and jumped into car ’01’. I say jumped, I daintily tried to avoid impaling myself on the various bits of exposed metal throughout the cabin. Then it was time to harness up, get the engine running and wait. What felt like an eternity later, my instructor hopped in and hooked me up to the intercom so he could give me driving tips. Given the noise of an uninsulated Clio and the potency of a stripped-out car with 200bhp, I was glad he did. As the car roared into life, I felt more boy racer than I had ever done in my entire life. And this is bearing in mind my Mk1 Punto 60S had two Pioneer subwoofers. But man was I excited. Warming up, Renault Clio Cup style If you have ever driven a Clio cup, you may have experienced the rev-limiter function. You are meant to fully press the accelerator pedal and then ease up the clutch. Sounds easy enough, except after years of refining the process in a road car I managed to stall three times. Because nobody wants to be that guy who over-revs a car, obviously. With my inability to follow basic instructions now clear as day, my instructor seemed less confident. But then these cars are fitted with dual controls, the sort you had in your driving instructor’s car to keep you from killing other road users. This sounds a bit rubbish but trust me when I say it isn’t. For you see, the fact instructors can avert disaster (running off at the first corner into the gravel and then a wall of tyres, for instance) means they push you hard. After one nervous lap, you are hamming around at a ballistic rate and by the end of the session a reasonable driver is within seven or so seconds of the professionals. Tyres squeeling, accelerator buried for vast portions of the track, painful levels of G-force, this is not a driving day for the faint-hearted. I paid the price for my stalling shenanigans, as my first few laps were then spent trying to get round slower drivers. This meant fewer laps to set a good time, leaving me to settle with 1:28.19. Given that 0.35 of a second separated first and third place, it pays to leave the pits at a good time. But over that time my instructor was able to explain a few driving tips and even touched on trail braking, which involves braking as you head into a corner to dig the front wheel in, improving grip. This is something reserved for front-wheel drive cars as it is usually best to brake before turning so as to avoid unbalancing the car. Sadly, though, the experience was over all-too quickly and we are given the chequered flag to head in. I think to myself that, as race tracks go, the operation is very slick but it is also very relaxed. Where some places wave you in the moment it appears you are about to have fun, all we saw was a sign that told us to spread out, which was probably sensible given the varying skill levels. As fun as the Clio Cups were, they were really just the starter and the main course was the single-seater. For many, this is as close to driving a Formula One car it gets – me included. We headed over to put on our racing overalls and, if your shoes were deemed too fat (damn you, Vans), plimsolls. Or daps, for those from Somerset. Formula 3000: The serious bit Formula 3000 racing at the PalmerSport Autodrome in Bedford As you lower yourself into the PalmerSports Formula 3000 car, it is apparent the seat is more like a bed. You are effectively lying down about 3mm away from the road, and there is very little room to move your arms, such is the width of the cabin. Having the visor down is essential this time, as there is no windscreen to protect you from bugs and other debris. On the flip side, pulling away is vastly easier as you only need to get the revs to around 3,500rpm, then ease the clutch out as per a normal manual car. There are relatively few machines that actually feel like a race car and those that do are massively expensive, an example being the Senna, or are massively impractical, such as anything from Ariel, Caterham, Westfield and Ultima. But from the second I was in the Formula 3000, I felt like Nico Rosberg. A taller, poorer, slower version, anyway. From the steering wheel to the extinguisher leads, which get pulled once a month by some ‘idiot’, everything looks and feels serious. Pulling away, the F3000 feels remarkably sedate. There is barely a whiff of its 250bhp output. But when you bury the accelerator and unleash all 3.0 litres of Jaguar supercharged V6 and the wonderful raw sound it makes, my feelings of fear are replaced by trust and excitement. It is immediately apparent you have serious pace (0-60mph in 3.1 seconds), but the brakes are magnificently potent and the racing slick tyres let you go round corners at great speed. The sort that gave me blisters on my elbows, such was its ability to change direction rapidly. The Bedford Autodrome main circuit is very fast and has a lot of straights, which means getting the right line and exiting with as much speed as possible is important. But so is braking much later than the road cones, there for the Clio Cup, and trying not to end up facing backwards in the grass as quite a few people on the day managed to do. Although you are on your own, the track marshals are just as relaxed. We only saw one blue flag, which was because I was trying to work my way through the pack and nobody was giving way. But then they perhaps know that inner sense of self-preservation keeps most people from overdoing it. For me, though, I was there to push as hard as possible. I had about 20 minutes to see what a Formula 3000 car could do, which resulted in a lap time of 1:22.42. A pro driver can do it in 1:13, for comparison. I knew I had plenty more in me, as I was beginning to trust the car when bashing over chicanes and getting ever closer to the kerb at the chicane, plus I was braking way too early and I had met back markers, who made my last three laps much slower. Just as I was getting into the groove. Not that I had loads left in the tank as by the end of the session my arms felt like they were going to fall off. I was also the thirstiest I have ever been in my entire life, not to mention seriously hungry. No wonder F1 drivers lose so much body weight in one race. Despite being broken, I was utterly hooked. The sensation of speed is unrivalled and the circuit is one of the most exciting I have driven. More than that, though, the Formula 3000 car is a pleasure to thrash about. Both twitchy and commands respect, yet also wondrously intuitive and rewarding when you get it right, it makes your average sports car feel like a skip. Sure, you can do a day in a supercar and, sure, it will be fun. The bragging rights may be superior, too. But it will never provide a glimpse as to what proper racing is like in the same way as a Formula 3000 car. Even the mighty McLaren Senna felt cumbersome in comparison. Take it from someone who drives a lot of cars for a living, many of which are so fast it hurts. Driving a baby F1 car is as glorious as I had hoped. As glorious, I would like to think, as the mid-range Motorola G6 used to take the photos. A big thank you to everyone at PalmerSports Autodrome and Motorola for inviting me along for the day.