A blind man has posted a top five lap time on the Top Gear test track, with the expert help of a man who started his career as an SNJ photographer before becoming an established performance driving instructor.

Dr Amit Patel set a time of 1:46 seconds in one of the Toyota GT86s used by Top Gear for its Star in a Reasonably Fast Car laps. In doing so he beat the likes of actor James McAvoy, rapper Tinie Tempah and comedian Dara O'Briain.

To guide him through his track laps Toyota enlisted the help of professional supercar driving instructor Mark Watkins who worked on the paper until 2003 but spent the last decade in the passenger seat of some of the world’s fastest cars.

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Former first responder Dr Amit Patel was instructed by former SNJ photographer and supercar expert Mark Watkins

The whole challenge was arranged by Toyota as part of a global campaign called Start Your Impossible which encourages people to overcome their hurdles to mobility and personal achievement.

Mark explained the enormity of the challenge: “I loved the idea as soon as I heard it, Amit is an incredible man and we bonded the minute we met," Mark said.

“But if you put it on paper in front of you – we’re going to take some of your cars and put a blind guy in the driver seat - you’d say that’s never going to happen.”

As a first-response medic for the NHS, Amit was skilled in safe, fast driving in emergency situations until his career was cut short by sudden and complete sight loss.

But despite suddenly losing his sight Amit proved he still has an instinct for rapid, precision driving when he powered around a Surrey circuit used to test cars in the world’s most famous TV car show.

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Over two days Mark and Amit worked together to achieve an unbelievable top five position on the fabled Top Gear track

Mark acted as Amit’s eyes and coached him in a Yaris away from Dunsfold Aerodrome, the home of the Top Gear test track, before booking in for timed laps at the world-famous venue.

Amit described the experience as 'insane': “It’s been six years or so since I’ve been behind the wheel of a car, but it’s funny how things come back to you – the sound of the engine, the gear changes, the clutch and the brake. But then driving, and not knowing where you’re driving, that’s the insane part.

“I focused on the instructions, concentrating on what Mark was saying. I tend to forget that I can’t see, it was crazy just to think that I was actually doing this. Being on the test track, driving the GT86, it was a dream come true.”

Supercar driving expert Mark said that working with Amit had been the best experience of this career.

“Some people I’ve instructed in the past turn up with all the gear but you question whether they even notice when a corner is coming up. But Amit was a natural behind the wheel," Mark said.

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During the experience Mark and Amit formed a tight bond - with Mark saying it was like getting into a car with his 'best mate'

After completing about two and a half hours on a test track in a GT86 Amit and Mark were reunited a few months later at Dunsfold, Mark was very conscious of the challenge in front of him.

“We had three or four massive spins with Amit where he wanted to push and we had to find the limit. There was only one moment that made me panic. We went backwards across the grass and I could see the fire engine and ambulance moving. Amit said ‘that felt fun’ while I was like ‘hmm, yeah…’”.

Even with all his experience, Mark was left astounded, “not by what he was doing but how he was hearing road surface changes and how he was adjusting his line. It was like another sense coming into it, from him getting dialled in to what I was about to say when the road changed.”

“To get to that final lap and see the stopwatch stopping in the mid 1m 46s was incredible. I was ecstatic, he was ecstatic. It was way beyond any expectation; I’d have been happy with 2m 30s and leaving the track with the car in one piece.”

In ten years of instructing, those two days were up there with probably the best two days I’ve ever done,” reflects Mark. I was driving all the way home absolutely buzzing from what we’d done over those two days.

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Former SNJ photographer Mark described the experience as the highlight of his career

Mark left the experience knowing he’d been part of something special, and he continues to stay in touch with Amit since that astounding lap. “When we were in the car together it was like having my best mate sat next to me,” he says.

Reflecting on his achievement, Amit paid tribute to the support of his wife and young son. He said: “Blindness is always going to be in my life, but I don’t wake up in the morning and dwell on it; I just get on with it. That’s easy to say now, but five years ago it wasn’t. I have a wonderful wife who helped me out when I needed it and gave me the motivation, and we have an amazing two-and-a-half-year-old son. In my head I can see a smile on his face and I’m hoping that he’s proud of what his dad’s achieved.”

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Mark with Amit and his wife Seema, and guide dog Kika

Watch the brilliant video of the duo 'achieving the impossible' below: