Meet the...Supercar test driver in Marbella

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet the...Supercar test driver in Marbella

Nick Hall has a job that many of us would kill for: he drives the fastest and most expensive cars and gets paid for it. Based in Marbella, he spends his life traversing the globe to test new motors. Here's the inside track...

My career in cars began when I started working for a motorsport magazine after university - my degree in zoology was utterly irrelevant. By 24 I was lucky enough to be covering Junior Motorsport and Formula 1 and was travelling around the world following F1 - my dream job.

With test-driving you start off with small cars and work up. You build up a reputation based on bringing back a car safely each time you take it out for a drive. Test runs can be anywhere - Arizona, Germany and Australia are typical examples. I may fl y two hours for a 35-minute drive or 20 laps of a race track. Last week I was at the Nurburgring racetrack in Germany.

If someone crashes something big and expensive, it gets out fast in the small world of test-car driving. I've never crashed anything apart from my own first car - a MG Metro which I bashed up quite badly within three months of owning it. I now own an Audi A4.

I'm now lucky enough to not have to drive "pigs" [cars that are ugly or don't drive very well]. My favourite car to drive is a Pagani Zonda - an Italian model which costs around €500,000. It's the most beautifully constructed car I've ever seen, and everything about it is theatrical. I've also driven Ferraris, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Mercs, Jaguars and James Bond's Aston Martin. The
average value of a car I drive is about €400,000.

The most expensive car I've ever driven is a €1.75 million attuned (customized) Bugatti Veyron. It was the scariest day of my life. I was in Germany and drove it for around 100km. You have to have another car within a metre and a half of you, with the photographer hanging out the boot, and, at around 60km an hour, you only have to sneeze and you've crashed.

I met Ayton Senna when I was young and have worked with Jenson Button a lot. My mother was a PR in motorsport and I encountered the famous Brazilian at Silverstone. I've also met Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. I collaborated with Jenson in his early days, covering his Junior races and then when he first entered F1. I helped him with his media work and public appearances.

I find being based in Calahonda convenient for jetting off to other places and like the fact it is quieter than Marbella but near enough all the action. I rent a two-bedroom apartment because it's so cheap at the moment and I don't want to buy until I know I will be definitely be able to sell - tricky in the current climate. Plus I like the flexibility of renting - I don't want to be tied to a place and before Spain I was based in Germany for a while.

Some people get bored of the beach here but I never have. I love the fact I can throw some stuff in a bag and be on the beach and swimming within a couple of minutes. I also love wandering around the older parts of Fuengirola and Marbella - another contrast to life in the UK. Then there's the nightlife, which makes you feel like you are on holiday all the time, despite the crisis in Spain - I feel lucky to here.

It sounds a glamorous life but the reality is lots of time spent at airports, flights in the early hours of the day, and knackering schedules. That said, I hope to do this job until my early fifties, the age of many test car drivers at the same point in their career. After that you just look silly jumping into a racing car.


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