13 03 15
The day we took our Smart 453 For Two up to Silverstone for some track time and testing Channel 4 were doing some filming for the programme For the Love of Cars programme and our Smart Roadster race car (sponsored By Smart-Roadsters.com and driven by Den Grace) was up there.
The For Two had been picked up the week previously, the car had only been used around town and for some shorter journeys. We arrived at Silverstone bright and early, meeting Den Grace (race car driver for the Smart Car Specialist, Geoff Hall (from Smart-Roadsters Ltd) and they team from Smarts4YouRacing.
After attending the driver briefing we took our allocated numbers for the day (and access to the track) and when track lane opened got ready to venture out. Realising it was open pit lane and 115db limit – meant race cars were testing and serious drivers getting some early spring track time in.
The track was wet and looking over the pit wall we watched as high performance and race cars ventured out (Radicals, Porsche Gt, Cayman, Ferraris, race cars including several of the Smart 451 race built cars and these are 130bhp)
It looked daunting for a brand new Smart 453 and amateur Stig, even more so when we spotted one of our customers (who has several Smarts (451/452 (roadsters x 2!) and has raced competitively at the Nurburgring) out in his Porsche!!!!!!!
After some strong coffee we apprehensively ventured out wondering how this little town car would fare, if we would be a liability or indeed danger.
Taking it easy to start with and with lane assistance trying to help me (ha ha ha) we got to know the little car a bit better, the incredible turning circle and nimble steering so perfect for town took some adjusting too, the turn in took a delicate touch and it was a while before we could feel how much turn in we could add, still unsure of the stability at this point, however we need not have worried – Smart’s Direct-Steer system with speed-dependent steering power assistance and variable steering ratio made it more stable at speed.
As the laps passed and confidence grew we realised we were actually grinning like idiots most the time, the unlikely shape and look of this little city car not designed for track life, feeling safe and sound (within the laws of physics and personal safety ha ha) and most of all fun, there were some serious cars there and racing drivers present, keeping a keen eye on the rear view mirror so we were not getting in the way.
Geoff (from Smart-Roadsters Ltd) took the wheel and myself co-pilot- we took to the track again at one point Geoff and myself careering round Luffield corner (a tight almost hairpin bend) tyres complaining, the car with a distinct attitude (door handles almost rubbing on the floor) laughing out loud. We were tailing a group comprised of a couple or Porsches, a radical and a race car – we were thinking that they must be looking in the mirror at the comedy sight of this little Smart car hanging on the back of them before they opened the throttle and left us on the straights.
The engine propelled us to just over 90 mph on the straight, the brakes worked well and did not appear to suffer from overheating from the abuse we gave them and we still could turn almost on the spot in the car park to amuse onlookers and ourselves, indeed we took one of the channel 4 film guys out for his first ever track laps… in the Smart and put a HUGE smile on his face, we gave a few hot passenger laps too, at a reasonable speed – enough to make most people smile or terrify them depending on their demeanour.
We packed up after around 80 laps of the national circuit (1.64 miles) so around 130 miles track time, the ECO tyres looked a little worse for wear, Silverstone not the best pace to test them but they coped impeccably, much more that they would have to do in road conditions.
We averaged 36 mpg during the day but on the journey home managed 61mpg without much effort, after have a 450 model, and driving all manner of Smart everyday – the new Smart endeared itself to us and put a smile on our faces, we held our head up high as we left the pits to journey home. J
Update 6th April, 2016: Having had the car for over one year we have now gone for a remap and other modifications, some of which are listed on this page