Everybody likes routine. Having a latte in your favourite coffee shop, Tuesday night drinks with the girls in the same bar, we even gain some sort of grim satisfaction from routines that we dread; office Christmas parties in a dreary restaurant, yet another do-I-really-know-her-well-enough-to-go hen party in LKF. I see two main reasons for this. Primarily, we don’t like to take the risk of trying something different in case we don’t like it. Secondly, the GPS system in our heads always takes us down the same streets, past the same places, so we never discover anywhere new. But Sideways Driving Club, on Chancery Lane in Central provides a very exciting reason to stray off the beaten path, both literally and metaphorically, and try something different. High speed, Formula 1 racing driving in the middle of Hong Kong.
Don’t let the phrase Driving Club put you off. Yes, Sideways is frequented by professional racing drivers needing to tighten up their driving skills but it also provides so much more than just a training environment. It’s essentially a bar, serving drinks and food, but in place of booths to sit idly in whiling away an evening nursing a Chardonnay, the bar is surrounded by 13 racing simulators. The simulators themselves are pretty impressive — at first they look like toy cars but they’re actually exact replicas of the cockpits of Formula 1 cars. Heavy gear shifters, realistic steering and a responsive braking system mean these simulators convincingly feel like the real thing. But here’s the real selling point. Instead of racing them around a track, with all the nerves, unflattering jump suits and risk of fatal collisions that that entails, each simulator is sedentary, facing its own computer screen displaying the race against your fellow drivers like a computer game. Think of it as a glorified version of your Wii.
I must be honest and admit that, despite the rational side of my brain being fully aware there was zero risk involved in the racing aside from the embarrassment of losing, I was somewhat nervous when stepping into the car. Combined with the fact that I am a terrible go-karter and don’t like to spend my time engaging in competitive activities, I was dubious as to how much I would enjoy the experience. However, as I placed the headphones on, got to grips with ins and outs of driving the competitive demon in me started to emerge.
Racing driving, in an environment serving food and alcohol (two of my favourite things) is very, very fun and exciting. And I’m not just saying that because I came second in the race despite forgetting to use the brake pedal even once. After four races, I left Sideways full of enthusiasm and quiet confidence that I would indeed be the next Coulthard, along with the desperate need to return with some of my friends. Luckily, Sideways have made it very easy for me to do just that. The whole Club can be hired out for groups of up to 40 people, racing in teams and watching the races broadcast in real time on plasma screens whilst sipping on beer and eating pizza. This would be a fantastic option for hen parties, office Christmas parties (the perfect chance to put your arrogant colleague in his place!) or birthday celebrations. But if you just fancy something different to try in a small group or on your lonesome, just phone up and book and you can stop in for anything from a 30 minute session for $200 or, if you really love racing, a 5 hour driving marathon for $1700.
The only thing to keep in mind is that their opening hours are Monday-Friday 11am-7pm and Weekends 11am-6pm, so if you were looking to plan a group trip or evening excursion, you would need to phone in advance to book. My advice would be; ditch the routine, hang up your heels and bring out the inner racer in you – you’ll have a lot more fun than you think you will and be desperate to come back for more.