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By Rory Gammell

Having previously experienced a tour of the Millbrook, I was well aware of just how impressive an establishment it is. Equipped with a high-speed ring, race track, hill track and an astonishing off road track, they are the most versatile vehicle testing grounds in the country.

Being my first year to attend the Millbrook DVD, I didn’t know quite what to expect, and so I underestimated the seriousness of the event. Having been asked to help distribute magazines for Battlespace, I assumed that I would spend the majority of the 2 days inside on a stand at a relatively ordinary motoring show. How wrong I was.

The interactivity of this show amazed me. The whole event is geared around customer involvement. What I failed to realize was that we ‘the viewers’ were entitled to the full use of these world renowned facilities. At DVD, unlike other large scale events such as the Scottish ‘Highland Show’, everyone attending the show is issued with a special DVD Driving Licence on entering the grounds. Besides making you feel special, this entitles you to test drive a large proportion of the vehicles on display. However, unlike in an everyday test drive, you are granted the use of the test track, and on your own. Having this sort of freedom gives you a far better idea of a vehicle’s potential than in a conventional test drive where you are always conscious of the salesman’s presence beside you. Although there are speed limits on the tracks, you are able to explore a vehicle’s limits to different level without as many serious safety issues concerning the main road. All the tracks are one way and have marshals monitoring them.

Among other activities, I was driven by a race driver in a Vauxhall VX220 Turbo (similar to a Lotus Elise) at implausible speeds round the racetrack followed by a 130mph trip round the speed ring. As if that wasn’t hair-raising enough, a mad Welshman then took me round the same racetrack sideways in his Land Rover Defender! With the only modification being an anti-roll bar, this Tdi was a remarkable rally contender.

I then headed for the off-road sector of the show (shuttle buses operate every few minutes between the two areas) to investigate what else was on offer. I did expect to see some exceptional machinery, but little did I know that I would be given the chance to be a passenger or in some cases even test drive these weapons-grade battle cruisers under the extreme conditions they were built for. After being driven in a Unimog, the outstanding Duro II, a huge armoured Mowag, an extraordinarily manoeuvrable Supacat, and a Mercedes G- Wagen, I became increasingly familiar with this breathtaking off road track. Casually reversing up a 1:1 slope (insanely steep for those who don’t know) I declared the G-Wagen to be the most capable everyday vehicle, using full differential locks for ‘proper’ off-roading rather than relying on ‘cheating’ with modern technology. I then drove the surprisingly capable Honda CRV (mainly down to traction control) and Roush’s new economical diesel quad bike. A man from Mercedes eagerly took me for a gut-wrenching whirl round the hill track in the new Dodge Ram SRT-10; a gargantuan American Pickup Truck fitted with the new Viper’s 550bhp V8. Remarkably, mainly through luck I also managed the quickest lap in the BMW F1 racing simulator. I know I shouldn’t be proud of my misspent youth, but it won me a bottle of Tattinger Champagne! I’ll be coming back next year then…

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