Thrills without the spills - virtual F1 racing.

It's actually not too difficult to entertain my younger children during the holidays but once you hit the tween and teen years somehow a picnic in the park or a treasure hunt in the garden isn't greeted with quite the levels of enthusiasm you'd hope for.

I have banned the phrase "I'm bored!" in my home but still am often left wracking my brains for something which will earn me supermum points.

However, I have found an activity which even my uber cool 21 year old son thought might be fun and so last week saw us heading round the M25 to Let's Race in Horley, just round the corner from Gatwick airport, for some virtual F1 driving.

I'm not sure what I was expecting. The Let's Race website boasted proudly that the venue is the UK's only full motion Formula 1 simulator centre, but that didn't come close to describing the impressive reality of what this place offers.

Let's Race F1 simulator #review

I think I expected a row of the sort of racing games you see in bigger arcades but this is significantly more immersive than those offering a thrilling and realistic experience for all abilities from inept beginner (me) to experienced gamer (my son).

We started our hour long experience with a safety briefing. Then we chose our course from a huge selection of famous F1 tracks and were informed of some driving tips which unfortunately were rattled off so fast I could not absorb them.

In mitigation- we had a lovely friendly lad trying to teach us but we were very late arriving - the M25 was running at far from F1 speeds- so we missed our booked slot and they had to squeeze us in before another booking arrived. 

Then we were shown to the hall containing the simulators.

sim room F1 sims Let's Race, Horley

Wow! I had an iRobot moment stepping into the darkened room where rows of shiny F1-style cars were hooked up to computers ready for our practice and race.

We climbed into our cars, fixed our steering wheels and then we were off!

It took me a while to get the hang of the paddle gears, driving style and track but finally I managed to exceed 30mph, get out of 4th gear and actually go round a corner instead of bumping over gravel and grass after missing it.

That's the amazing thing about this experience. The simulators are very realistic - you can feel the gravel under your tyres and you can feel impact if when you hit a wall. For this reason there are some restrictions on who can drive the cars. For a start there's a height restriction of 1.5m and a list of health conditions which would preclude driving so check with the venue before booking if in doubt.

Not a fan of F1? Although the cars are F1 style the onscreen visuals and driving style can be changed so you can experience Indy car racing, drive a GT3 Ferrari or a LMP1 Porsche  or a Formula 3 car to name a few of the choices available.

I was happy with the F1 experience where you can experience speeds of up to 200mph and downforce to keep racers flying round the track on trick corners.

After a practice sessions we left the sim room to discuss our driving so far and hear more tips on improving before heading back to our cars for the big race!

Suffice it to say my son lapped me and was significantly faster than me. I felt a bit guilty that I wasn't really much of a competitor. I might have been better sitting in the grandstand for spectators and letting him race against one of his peers but I had so much fun I'm glad I had a go even if I was Captain Slow.

At the end we got to have our moment on the podium although sadly there was no Champagne in our bottles!

I would imagine a big group would have a fabulous time - there are ten cars available and a full house would make the race very exciting. It would be the perfect experience for birthday parties, hen or stag dos or nights out with friends or work colleagues.

Equally I would imagine a family day out with parents vs kids would be awesome and with a quality onsite burger bar offering a wide range of refreshments AND a virtual golf experience suitable for even young children upwards there too, you could easily while away a happy day at the venue so it makes it worth travelling to. (There's a cheap and cheerful family friendly pub over the road too if burgers aren't your thing.)

Let's Golf, golf simulator

Blacks Burgers at Let's Race, Horley

Prices for the F1 experience start at £16.50 for a lunchtime experience. Check online for details of packages, party deals, competitions and offers.

Even my son (who can be critical!) said he enjoyed his experience so if you are stuck for something to do check it out - it's certainly more exciting than a picnic in the park!

Let's Race Horley #reviewLet's Race, Let's Golf, gatwick, review

Disclaimer: We enjoyed a F1 sim experience at Let's Race free for the purpose of this honest review.