FANCY yourself as the next Lewis Hamilton?

Now anyone can live out their Formula 1 Championship fantasies thanks to a racing car simulator centre which is opening its doors on Friday.

Century Sim Racing – the first of its type in the north west – can be found at Bank Quay Trading Estate in Slutchers Lane and will use the latest in gaming technology, including virtual reality (VR), to put visitors in the driving seat.

It is the brainchild of James Whitehouse and Chris Stapleton, who met while working at the neighbouring Team Sport Go Karting.

And I was invited to meet them during a sneak peek of the centre and its eight simulator pods.

It is probably safe to say I should stick to writing after my attempts in the driving seat (and it is a driving seat complete with steering wheels and pedals) saw me frequently skidding off the road, crashing or completely losing control and spinning around in circles.

But even at entry level, the experience offers an unparalleled level of immersion and fun – even if bracing for a crash does feel a little peculiar at first. It is a far cry from the arcade days of Ridge Racer.

James and Chris first put me in a Formula 4 car, a racing category intended for junior drivers, to ease me in gently.

Warrington Guardian:

Three screens give an authentic feel of being behind the windscreen. Then at the other end of the spectrum, I got to try a Lamborghini in VR.

You get even more of a sense of really being behind the wheel with this 360 degree immersion and there was a definite and defined difference between the two ‘cars’ in how they felt to control and how they responded.

The immersion is not just what you can see either – you can also feel the resistance in the steering wheel and the vibration in the seat.

And after each race, James and Chris collect stats that they can run through with you such as your steering angle and braking patterns. So those who want to come regularly can be given pointers and their improvements can be measured.

For example, my braking was too late and my steering was a bit choppy so on any future visit I know what to concentrate on.

When Century Centre launches on Friday, players will be able to choose between around 12 tracks and 30 cars – including the F1 car which has a top speed of more than 215mph – but new iconic racing tracks and cars will be added on a regular basis.

James said: “We’ve invested in some really awesome technology that will get people as close as possible to a real racing experience – without having to worry about crashing!

“As an avid sim-racing fan, we’ve worked incredibly hard to deliver an authentic experience that truly is like nothing else. This is as close to the real deal as it gets and from pro gamers to novice drivers, absolutely anyone can have a go.

“Throughout our planning, we were really keen to capture the community element of e-gaming, so there’ll be an interactive leaderboard on our website for visitors to keep track of their progress.”

The centre can also cater for large groups and parties, and an annual membership is on offer.

Prices at Century Sim Racing start from £16 for a half hour session. There is no age limit, but height restrictions apply.