IWOC Listserver Classics - Trackdays

Subject: [iwoc] Brands Hatch - Losing my 'cherry'
From: "Mark Otway"
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000 08:37:36 -0000

Well, suffice to say my first ever trackday was superb. I wasn't driving, but that didn't make it any less fun. :-)

The day was an educational experience in many ways. First, Stef showed me precisely how quick a UK car with an unmodified engine can go, proving that suspension set-up, big brakes and outstanding driving ability make far more difference than outright power. After half a lap it became immediately obvious that I had not even come close to experiencing what these cars can *really* do - despite having owned two of them, and driven more than 50,000 miles under Scoob-power.

Cameron Leask then went about proving that my derogatory comments about the P1 weren't really justified, and after 5 laps I had to admit that the car's setup, ride and grip really were very good. Coming out of Druids onto the back straight I remarked to Cam how the car felt like a BMW; this wasn't an insult, but merely a tribute to the unflustered and relaxed poise even at such extreme speeds. And yes, for the record, I have to admit that the car is, overall, extremely nice. (Even if it does look an awful lot like my STI Type-R ;-).

Next came Charles Mallion in his 22B, and again, a nice demonstration of how far the car could be pushed without any unnecessary drama. A slight tendency to be tail-happy merely added to the excitement - I don't know whether Charles had a chance to play with the diff-lock, which would have certainly tightened things up at the back. Having said that, I'm not sure as to whether that would have increased or abated the fun he was having...

Robin (from the Scottish contingent) then took me out for 6 or 7 laps in his Elise - my first time in one of the little beasties. Wow! An engine that sounds like a biplane, and performance to match! The grip was solid, and the involvement (even for the passenger) intense. For 5 laps we were all over the back of the STI in front, only losing ground to it on the main straight (probably something to do with the extra 150bhp in the imported Impreza...). I'd love one for the weekend.

Lee Christie took me out for a spin in the afternoon (although not literally - unlike the ride he gave his wife, Lisa, earlier on in the day ;-). Another superb demonstration of driving skill, perhaps more accomplished by account of the fact that the standard suspension and 'crap' tyres (his words, not mine) meant that the sideways drift was apparent even on parts of the straights. ;-)

And finally, just before 'closing time', Pete Croney strapped me into his rally-spec RA and took me out to show me just how fast these cars really can go. As we set out he mentioned that although we'd probably be going faster than anyone else, it'd feel less exciting, and to a certain extent he was right. The car is, to be honest, incredible - the board-stiff suspension setup meaning that there isn't any roll at all, and the power is just phenomenal (a result of the gearing, short enough to make my Type-R feel like a motorway cruiser). Even when drifting sideways, the car feels more stable than my car on a dry road!! It was a great experience, and gave me some insight into how Burns, McRae et al manage to do such amazing things with their cars.

Afterwards we headed back to Harrietsham (my neck of the wooods) and 22 of us gobbled down a monster curry and plenty of beers (the latter only possible due to some generous offers of lifts by those who volunteered to drive).

Basically, a superb day - marred only by the unfortunate experience of the over-zealous Exige which finally ran out of grip 5 minutes before the end of the last session. :-( I hope it's sorted out with minimal financial pain.

I am now cursing myself for not making it to a trackday earlier, and will endeavour to get my own car out on the circuit next year. But thanks to all those who whetted my appetite by taking me out in their cars. :-)



PS: There are 3 pictures (!) and a little poor-quality video from Friday here.

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