McLaren P1 stars in Forza Motorsport 5 - here's our guide to the cars and tracks
We drive an articulated truck
Don't tell the cars, but secretly, I've always wanted to drive a truck. A quick go in a solo Mercedes 'tractor unit' - as the professionals call the cabs - earlier this year just wasn't enough, so right now I find myself at the wheel of a 483hp DAF hooked up to a 40ft trailer.
It's a pretty huge steering wheel, at that. But then, everything about this requires an immediate readjustment to your sense of scale. I've 52ft of lorry at my command, and I'm going to make a bit of mess if I don't pay attention.
Fortunately, I'm on a sectioned off area of the Chobham test track rather than a high street - so the only things that are going to suffer should the worst happen are a bunch of tiny cones (I've already written off my pride). I pity the pointy little buggers, nonetheless.
I'm also under close instruction from a petite young lady named Celia. She isn't exactly the obvious trucker stereotype, but within seconds of meeting her it's not only clear she knows exactly what she's doing, you can tell she can explain it as well.
So after breaking out the mountaineering gear necessary for the ascent into the passenger compartment - 'only' about six feet above ground but you can never be too careful - I'm on board and in control. Theoretically.
12.6 litres means easy does it
Actually, getting going is remarkably easy. Too easy, perhaps, as the opportunity to be lulled into a false sense of security is quite apparent the moment you happen to glance into the mirrors. Exactly how long is this thing again?
But essentially, since my DAF is an automatic (mastering a 16-speed manual would take far more time than we've got, so I have to make do with a 12-speed self-shifter; er, shame) I twist a dial to select drive, put my foot down and go.
Except, with 12.6 litres of turbodiesel producing a staggering 1,545lb ft of torque, it's more like a gentle caress than a foot to the floorboards. In a truck "slower is always better," says my instructor. Still, the power-assisted steering makes light work of the weight.
Which is good news, since positioning a 'unit' and trailer takes some getting used to. Not only is the darn thing so wide it seems you should need walkie-talkies to communicate with your passenger, you sit right over the front wheels.
From such a high perspective, this means you have to travel far further into a corner than you initially think before you begin steering round it. The blindspots immediately below the windows are huge, and then there's all that length behind you to consider.
Mirrors, mirrors everywhere
As a result, when performing any kind of manoeuvre I spend as much time looking into the various mirrors as I do out the front windscreen. And since we're manoeuvring the whole time, this is constantly. It's exhausting.
Worrying about where the unit is going is one issue - you've also got to account for the trailer. Celia explains this will always take "the path of least resistance". In other words, running over anything you haven't taken extreme care to avoid.
Once I've got my head around this, and grown a couple of extra eyeballs to take it all in, winding the DAF through what initially appeared to be a ridiculously closely spaced slalom is surprisingly straightforward. I'm stunned.
It's also amazing how little space the truck needs to turn around - take it slowly enough, and the unit can literally be at a right angle to the trailer. But if you slow too much, the engine begins to bog down, which you can only unload by reducing the steering lock.
So it's a balancing act. And not only do you need the eyes of a hawk in all directions, you've also got to be able to judge distances and perspectives with incredible accuracy. Something that only comes with experience.
This vehicle is reversing...
Coming into it cold, this gets even more complicated when I'm asked to reverse into a box of cones, as if backing up to a loading bay. Getting the trailer aligned in the first place requires a series of gentle left-right wiggles.
Then, having selected the crawler mode for low-speed operations (symbolised by a tortoise, no less), when you start to go backwards everything is reversed. So to make the trailer go right you have to turn the unit left - as if I haven't got enough on my mind already.
You'd also think a reversing camera would be handy. But no. To receive the HGV licence that allows you to drive one of these on the road, you have to be able to back the trailer right up by human sight alone. It's madness.
Yet, there are thousands of truck drivers on our streets doing all of these things everyday. I'm having enough trouble getting it right on a stretch of tarmac in the middle of nowhere.
Imagining what it's like surrounded by other members of the general public, especially those who think they're safely cocooned in their 'invincible' motor vehicles, brings me out in palpitations.
Scary, awesome and fun for anyone
While basically similar in terms of control interfaces - there's a steering wheel, two pedals and a gear selector - it's clear that driving a truck is an entirely more serious undertaking than knocking about in a car.
The sheer size giveth as it also taketh away; the height means you can see further towards the horizon but also obscures significant proportions of your immediate vicinity, in which may be lurking pedestrians, cyclists - even superminis.
Understanding what's hidden in these blindspots requires the religious observation of your mirrors and an excellent memory, and since you still can't be 100% sure, the default approach has got to be 'with caution'.
But, as an experience in a hazard-free environment, driving a truck is also really, really good fun. Having so much power and potential at your disposal is enough to make you giddy, though the challenge is much more of a mental than a physical one.
And you don't have to take my word for it - 6th Gear Experience offers truck driving with a trailer as a day out for anyone. See the company's website for more details.
I'm pleased to report than no cones were hurt in the making of this feature.
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and he says that is should be law that before you can drive a car you should have to
ride a bike
ride a scooter/motorcycle
drive a truck....... all on the road so you have some idea what other road users have to deal with
Many years and covering many types of LGV driving gives me a rather unique perspective on driving transport vehicles in the EU non of which is representative of this reporters bumble around a closed test track.
Yes he rightly points out a few of the more interesting facts about being in control of such a vehicle but add in the mindless herd that inhabit the roads everyday, the rules regulations and laws applicable to the profession, JIT, deadlines, weather, long hours, bad working conditions, low pay, poorly maintained equipment to name but a few and things get to look a great deal different than this rather rose tinted day out experience of his.
If this reporter really was interested in what being behind the wheel meant to an LGV driver the Chobham test track is the last place on earth he should have been, instead of hauling a few faggoty pimp mobiles around trying to add sex to his article he should get out on the road with 44 tonnes of live cargo and feel what it's like when some moron forces his eurobox into the safe spacing in front of you and realise that a single mistake on behalf of the LGV driver means skin, fur and eyeballs everywhere and while some general motorists richly deserve this fate for there arrogance, ignorance and stupidity it is the LGV driver that will pay dearly for it every time.
Simply put son, don't make so called informed comments on something you know nothing at all about, be professional about your trade, Man up and go out and learn the truth about driving an LGV.
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