Motorcycling hero James Toseland wows spectators in ex-Ayrton Senna NSX Former WSBK Champion waxes lyrical about ‘amazing’ experience‘My First Licence’ a huge hit amongst young festival-goers
If CarFest is the realisation of Chris Evans’ dream of the perfect family festival, then Honda made some more dreams come true at Oulton Park last weekend – with an array of crowd-pleasing activities and displays as well as demo runs by a former bike racing world champion in an iconic supercar once driven by a Formula One legend.The brainchild of radio DJ and TV personality Evans, CarFest raises vital funds for BBC Children In Need via a family-oriented blend of fast and exotic cars, celebrity cameos and live music from some of the hottest acts around.Honda’s ‘Power of Dreams’ ethos was in evidence both on and off-track at CarFest North, held at picturesque Cheshire circuit Oulton Park and playing host to record crowds of more than 55,000.Some 260 young festival-goers were captivated by ‘My First Licence’, a mini-motorbike taster session that introduced 5-to-11-year-old non-riders to the exciting world of motorcycling in a safe and controlled environment. Participants received guidance and tuition from trained instructors on how to master two-wheeled riding on a restricted 50cc Honda CRF50 bike around a specially-designed course.Continuing the fun yet educational theme, an ATV Experience on Honda’s TRX420 taught almost 300 older teens the inside line on throttle control, slaloming, overcoming obstacles and balance, whilst 284 intrepid adventurers tried out Honda’s brace of sit-on Lawn Mowers, generating hilarious head-to-head racing around a timed course through a garden where lane control and garbage-grabbing were the orders of the day.All of Honda’s activities were centred around a vast air structure – designed to replicate an engine – and included a product experience area, car and motorbike displays and the innovative and interactive ‘Power of Lean’ demonstration to simulate Superbike-style knee-down riding.Two-time World Superbike Champion and erstwhile MotoGP ace James Toseland – a rider who made his name in motorcycling circles with Honda and went on to clinch his second WSBK crown with the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team in 2007 – got behind the wheel of a 1990 first-generation Honda NSX that was once driven by none other than Ayrton Senna. The Yorkshireman was palpably thrilled by the opportunity.“It's been amazing!” he enthused. “I was supposedly just coming up for a gig on Friday night, and it turned into a whole weekend of having fun in Ayrton Senna’s NSX – a big thanks to Honda for inviting me and giving me the chance to do it.“I actually drove an NSX when I was 17-years-old. I probably shouldn’t have been driving it, but it was on a private road where the Honda bike team was testing. It was Aaron Slight’s car – he was a famous rider for Honda in Superbikes. He lent me the keys to just go around the block, so this brings back some great memories.“It was also really special to play with my band in front of thousands of people on Friday night; I cheekily asked Chris Evans if we could have a gig when I was on his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show – and he agreed. We’re playing CarFest South as well, and I’m so looking forward to that now that I know what these events are like. “The weather hasn’t been that good, but the crowd wasn’t bothered – they’re here in festival spirits. There are thousands of people just checking all the cars out and I’ve been doing the same – walking around drooling at all the expensive machines. It’s been a great show.”Another automotive attraction that clearly impressed Toseland was Honda’s fearsome, 109bhp Mean Mower – the world’s fastest lawn tractor. Built in only five weeks by Ben Coles from Team Dynamics – Honda’s partner in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – it achieved a new world record of 116mph earlier this year, and delighted and astonished spectators as Coles drove it around Oulton at jaw-dropping speeds.Current Pata Honda World Superbike title contender Jonathan Rea was a similarly popular draw as he lapped the circuit aboard the HM Plant Fireblade on which Steve Plater won the Senior Isle of Man TT race in 2009, whilst the brand’s range of family-friendly off-track entertainment for all ages ensured visitors never had the opportunity to get bored.Honda will again feature right at the heart of the high-octane action at the sold-out CarFest South, to be held at ex-Formula One World Champion Jody Scheckter’s Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire (22-24 August).