It’s 6:00 AM and I have just turned off my alarm. After getting ready, I got a 135 Km drive ahead of me, about 83 miles, that is going to take me one hour and half to get there. But it’s all worth the trouble, aside I don’t mind driving, I actually love it.
The Juniper Leisure does lack the military look. A small base, that offers you coffee, tea, biscuits and cake and if you are really hungry a big range of bacon, eggs and sausages rolls. After making my registration, I helped myself with some coffee and food and we were all split into groups, Blue, Red, White and Pink. Me and my colleague Steven got on the Red group and then we were all called to be briefed on Health and Safety. Takes about 15 minutes, where the very nice and funny Nigel, gives us all the instructions so we can safely enjoy our day.
For those who never heard of Juniper Leisure, its a tank company that allows you to drive a few tracked vehicles and a main battle tank, or if you go as a spectator you can ride on them while other people drive. The vehicles you can drive are:
- Chieftain Mk X Main Battle Tank
- FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier
- FV433 Abbot Self-Propelled Gun
- FV4333 Alvis Stormer HVM
The first vehicle our group drove was the Chieftain Mk 10 MBT, a 55t vehicle with an impressive 7.5m length (not including gun), 3.66m wide and 2.9m high. It’s was modified slightly with a ladder attached in one side and the turret roof was removed, so it could accommodate a secure area where people can ride on top of it.
I was one of the last ones to drive it and I can say, its impressive but its not comfortable. The space is tiny, barely had space to fit my legs and I had to be in a very uncomfortable position. While talking with the instructor he said, these tanks weren’t designed for tall people, and they would find people who would fit them, not the other way around. It’s very simple to drive, you got two sticks, to turn right and left, you got a big pedal on your right that is the accelerator, and you got a “bike shifting“ gear pedal on you left, that if you press down it will shift gear once (up to 6 gears) and if you pull it up you sift gear down and then twice to move rear. Once you get “comfortable” and the full brief on how to drive it, the instructor seats next to you outside, and gives you the go ahead. Unfortunately its just driving down the road, stop and reverse all the way back. Still was great fun, its amazing to have in your “hands” such a powerful machine .
While the others are driving, you get on the turret and enjoy the ride and the view. If you take spectators with you, they are offered to ride the Chieftain with a group and they can go as many as they want. Staff is always very friendly and they have no problems on letting anyone go as many times as they want.
Next we got up to the FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier, my personal favourite to drive. It’s smooth, comfortable and easy to drive. Andy was our instructor on this one, not a “petrol head” but an ex-navy military, that now helps out driving the tanks around. As usual he advised on how to drive, two sticks to move left or right and an accelerator, this time no gears needed to be changed, you just move a leaver to automatic and drive away. Got advised at the beginning that a torsion bar had broken that morning, so he would advise me if we had to stop. Once I got instructed and the go ahead, I had to drive up the hill a bit, turn left and bring the vehicle to a stop, to show I learned what I had been instructed. After, I could drive down the hill and around the arena twice. I have to say its was really fun, to learn how and when to turn and to talk over the radio comms with Andy.
Then it came time to drive the FV433 Abbot SPG, very similar to the FV432 but just a bit more cramped. They got another one that has been modified, similar to the Chieftain MBT, so spectators can ride along. Rosie, the instructor, again very friendly. Talking me through what I had to learn, same procedure at the start, then off we went to the arena. What I loved the most is that they keep giving you tips and feedback so you know if you are doing well or not, also they correct you any errors that you might do.
If you’re already a driver, you won’t have much trouble learn and driving these machines, but they did tell us funny stories about people that drove the tanks off the road and even knocked down an electrical post in the area.
Last but not least, got the chance to drive the Alvis Stormer. Its the most modern vehicle they got there, but again, simple to drive where the only difference is that you got a gear pedal, where if you press with your toes you change one gear up, if you press with your heel, change one gear down.
In the end, one of the drivers got to crush a car while driving the Chieftain MBT, I filmed it live in my Twitter account.
Overall I have to admit, it was an amazing day out and I have to thank my boss for offering me the opportunity to do this, and my colleague Steven that took pictures while I was driving around. All the staff was super friendly and always with a smile on their faces.
If you want to have a different day, please do visit www.tank-driving.com and you can email or call to get your booking done. It costs 175£ (205€) per driver and spectators have to pay 10£ (12€). Both drivers and spectators get coffee, tea, biscuits and cakes for free and at the end you got your very own Certificate.
I hope you have enjoyed this article, don’t forget to leave your comment bellow and I will be sharing a video with all the action and fun we had over in Juniper, next week, so don’t miss it.