So, here we are! Almost five years since the first sketches were penned, the Darkside is now well on the way to becoming a reality.
It takes a fair amount of bravery (or perhaps stupidity?) to throw a concept such as this into the big wide world, particularly as I make no secret of the fact that my background resides firmly outside of automotive circles. Nonetheless, after pondering some fairly existential questions for too many months, I've arrived at the conclusion that now is as good a time as any to take the first steps... global pandemic or not; nothing ventured, nothing gained!
That being said, to say I'm somewhat out of my comfort zone would be an understatement! The majority of my professional experience has been gained in mechanical engineering - firstly as a manual machinist, then a motorcycle mechanic prior to heading to university in Coventry in 2008. Thereafter, I enjoyed roles in race engine development and motorcycle chassis design prior to moving into my current position with Prodrive - one of the world's best known motorsport & advanced technology consultancies.
Along the way I've bolstered my experience with various (largely unsuccessful) attempts at motorcycle racing; an inexplicably addictive activity which has subsequently influenced virtually every life decision for as long as I can remember!
Hence, whilst I can claim a little experience in a lot of areas, I am by no means an expert in any single discipline; least of all in high performance vehicle engineering!
So what makes me think that Darkside will be any more successful than the (many!) other recreational vehicle startups? After all, there are no shortage of examples of similarly brave concepts which struggle to get traction (excuse the pun) and ultimately flounder for years in the oh-so-familiar "valley of death".
Well, there are a handful of key factors which, I believe, set Darkside apart - as will hopefully become clear in the coming months - chief among which is the adoption of the approach made famous by eminent author and speaker Simon Sinek: start with why.
Resisting the urge to go off on any number of potentially challenging tangents, the overly simplistic answer to 'why' is a deeply personal drive to find a recreational vehicle that enthralls, excites and engages in equal measure, and yet which totally smashes the conventional 'cookie cutter' kit car mould. Something which is accessible, engaging, appealing and totally immersive not just to drive, but to own. Something which blends the lunacy of a superbike with the purity of a purpose-built racing car, yet can be enjoyed at a price point that Ariel Atoms and BAC Monos can only dream of. Hell, I'm certainly partial, but I think it's a damn fine thing to aim for!
This borderline obsession with the avoidance of compromise unless absolutely necessary is a curious trait, and one which I have observed in myself for many years. Yet, given the strikingly unconventional configuration of Darkside, it seems slightly at odds with one of the more regular questions that I'm asked: "why so focused, when you'll never be as fast as a four-wheeled vehicle?"
Objectively, that's a 100% true statement - if you want to set a new record up Shelsley Walsh, or around Brands Hatch, or at Santa Pod, I'd bet my house that you will never beat four wheels... physics says so! But, here's the catch: what if it's not about the objective, but the subjective?
Example: everyone loves the idea of a trophy on the mantelpiece... yet obviously to just jump on to eBay and buy one would fundamentally undermine it's worth. The reason we choose to spend our hard-earned money on these things is about the experiences. The engagement. The thrill. And that's where I think Darkside really comes in to it's own. It will never set an outright lap record, but it will (probably!) be the single most immersive driving experience I've ever had. And, if the concept demonstrator lives up to my expectations, I suspect you might say the same, too.
All this being said, clearly I'm on a journey of discovery, which I aim to capture through this blog. Moreso, if it can also serve to explore some of the more challenging questions, or perhaps even excite some like-minded enthusiasts similarly intrigued by the prospect of such a unique a recreational vehicle, then I think we're on to a winner!
Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed this initial collection of thoughts - I'm looking forward to having you along for the ride...
Until next time, stay safe!