Drivers as young as 11 can take to the ‘road’ in a MINI

Jack Woodgate from Bedford in the Young Driver MINI at Bedford Autodrome with instructor Paul Gorolini.
Jack Woodgate from Bedford in the Young Driver MINI at Bedford Autodrome with instructor Paul Gorolini.

Getting behind the wheel of a MINI would be a dream for any young schoolboy or girl - but that dream can come true thanks to a cutting edge driving scheme.

Underage driving is made legal at Bedford Autodrome where one 12-year-old who drove for the first time said the experience was “just amazing”.

Young Driver instructor Paul Gorolini gives a briefing to Jack Woodgate, from Bedford, at Bedford Autodrome.

Young Driver instructor Paul Gorolini gives a briefing to Jack Woodgate, from Bedford, at Bedford Autodrome.

Young Drive has been developed courtesy of Palmer Sport and uses tracks on part of a 440-acre site at Thurleigh Airfield Business Park.

Youngsters are put straight into safe hands as Advanced Driving Instructor Paul Gorolini has designed structured sessions for anyone 11 and over, but keeping the fun aspect there too.

Listening intently to Paul’s briefing was Jack Woodgate, a 12-year-old schoolboy from Bedford, who couldn’t wait to get his hands on a BMW MINI.

Some statistics about young drivers, a review of what the session entails and what a new driver could expect to learn are included in Paul’s rundown, and it wasn’t long before Jack was in the driving seat and learning to master the clutch. Within a couple of minutes he was negotiating the car around the course where Paul has designed road layouts, parking bays, a roundabout and junctions.

Jack Woodgate, from Bedford, with instructor Paul Gorolini and the Young Driver MINI.

Jack Woodgate, from Bedford, with instructor Paul Gorolini and the Young Driver MINI.

Experiencing steering and braking, changing gear and reversing, using the mirrors and indicating, it wasn’t long before he was driving along a normal ‘road’ section at up to the maximum speed allowed of 40mph. Along the way, Paul provides a progress report and helps the driver with any difficulties, such as stalling the engine.

Paul’s debrief in the car was rounded off with Jack receiving a certificate and details of his achievement.

Getting out the car beaming, Jack said: “I thought that the experience of driving a MINI was fabulous. I listened to everything Paul told me to do and he explained very clearly which I found amazing.

“He gave me support when I needed it such as helping me with the steering.”

Jack Woodgate from Bedford negotiates a roundabout on the Young Driver course.

Jack Woodgate from Bedford negotiates a roundabout on the Young Driver course.

Although a little nervous at first, Jack overcame that with Paul’s help and said the best bit was “just the driving experience.”

He added: “I definitely want to go back again.”

Well that’s all made possible by Young Drive Plus, where again youngsters aged from 11 - and are between 4ft 8ins and 6ft 7ins in height - can develop their driving skills further.

Young Drive sessions are run with groups of youngsters learning together, and spectators are welcome.

Young Drive is just one of a number of driving experiences at Bedford Autodrome and gift vouchers are £79. For more details visit www.youngdrive.com, or call 0843 453 1000. For details of other driving and track experiences, operated by Palmer Sport, visit www.palmersport.com, or call 01403 733222.